Friday, 18 August 2017

The hidden world of R.E.M. #20

This might be the last post in the series. It might not. The future of the blog has been up in the air for some time now. I'm running very short of ideas and I'm feeling less and less inspired, less and less motivated and less and less excited about the whole thing. This series should have enthused me, but while it started out strong, it has frustrated me a few times and as it has gone on I've found it harder to continue. To be frank - it's all becoming a bit of a chore and, perhaps worse, a bit of a bore also. Yeah yeah, I know, I've said this all before. I'll probably find another second wind from somewhere and get back to business as usual...

So here's what's happening: after today, there's going to be a bit of a hiatus while MrsRobster and I enjoy a late summer break. The Reggae Wednesday series will continue as I have the last few instalments already written and prepared. In September I'll think again. I have loads of great things to share which would keep this series going up to Christmas at least, it's just whether I can be arsed to write about them. The blog needs a new focus if it's to continue, something that I enjoy doing. I don't really know what that is at the moment though, so we'll see.

In the meantime, to bring the series to a (maybe temporary, maybe permanent) close, we're going back to where we started - that very early Tyrone's gig from October 1980 that to date remains the earliest known recording of R.E.M. in circulation. Three songs all with very different futures ahead of them. Dangerous Times was a favourite of R.E.M.'s early live sets and may have been demoed once or twice, but it didn't survive long once the band's songwriting had moved on. As far as their earliest material goes, Dangerous Times isn't bad but it's hardly up there with Gardening At Night.

All The Right Friends did make it onto record. Although credited to Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe, it was actually written by Buck and Stipe before they'd even met Mills and Berry. The song was originally recorded for 'Murmur' but not used. That version later appeared on the European reissue of 'Dead Letter Office' a decade later. During the 'Reckoning' sessions, the band gave it another go but again it was discarded. A third attempt was made for 'Lifes Rich Pageant' and once more it was passed over. The 25th Anniversary reissue of 'LRP' contains that one. Finally, in 2001, one final attempt was made, more than 21 years after it was written. Having been asked at very short notice to provide a song for the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky, the band recorded All The Right Friends (with new lyrics) and deemed it good enough to issue. What you're getting here though is possibly the earliest known version of the song.

To round off, a song that was not only recorded, but ended up on an album and released as a single. (Don't Go Back To) Rockville was penned by Mike Mills as a plea to his then girlfriend not to leave town. In fact it's Mills who often sang lead vocal in the band's late era, the song remaining in the live set right to the end. You can hear how fast the original was played, "kind of like how Buddy Holly would've played it" as Peter Buck once recalled. It enjoyed a country-style makeover for its eventual release on 'Reckoning' four years later, but very little else was done to it.

See you in a few weeks. Maybe.


  1. My first thought was "No! Another good blog is about to go" and then I was going to launch straight into my standard "don't stop blogging" spiel. Too many good blogs have bitten the dust in the last couple of years. I blame Twitter, but anyway...

    The reason I haven't launched straight in is this. Your blog is excellent and I, and many others, would miss it if it were not here. But, and it's a big but, here's something I eventually realised after having multiple "why am I still doing this blogging nonsense" crises myself. I don't blog for other people, not really. I blog for myself, because I have something to say. If other people get something out of it, great, really great, but the main purpose of my blogging activity is to give myself a channel to say what I want to say, in a way I want to say it. When I don't want to say anything else, or saying something becomes a chore, I'll stop.

    The purpose of, and motivation behind, your blog may be different to mine, but I reckon you can still apply the same logic. To paraphrase Yoda (sorry), blog or blog not. If you've still got things to say, say them. If it's a chore, put it aside. It'll still be there when you get back :)

    Whatever you decide, cheers and good luck.

    P.S. I, for one, have loved this series. Thank you.

  2. Have a break, recharge your batteries, come back to it when it suits.

  3. As Martin and Adam said
    Enjoy your well earned break and take it from there when you get back

  4. Martin has taken the words right out of my mouth. Have a splendid break with MrsRobster, recharge those batteries and see how you feel on your return. We'll still be here.
    The REM series has been something of a revelation to me. A band who I thought I knew quite a bit about, though week after week you've proved otherwise. Terrific stuff.

  5. Sorry to hear the fun has gone, Rob. Not much more that I can say that the other chaps haven't already done. Of course, we'd miss you if you decide to stop or take a break, but once it becomes a chore to write, then what's the point? What I can categorically confirm from experience, is that taking a break for a while definitely helps; the people who love what you do will still be there when you come back, and that in itself is fairly inspiring. Plus, I can a guarantee that as soon as you decide to put the blog on ice, you'll think of loads of things you want to write about. So, do whatever you want to do buddy. Cymerwch hi'n hawdd (as Google translate probably gets wrong), Jez

  6. On the subject of blogging, I hear you, brother. As the R.E.M. goes, these are a real treat. I haven't heard the fellas in 1980 too often. Thanks, Robster. Enjoy a nice breather.

  7. Honest mate....I didn't see this when I penned something similar many months later.

    I'd have been angry ay myself if I'd missed your departure....the very least I could have done was sign your card!!!

    At least I can type this knowing that you did come back....let me know if you ever need guest contributions to any ideas you come up with from here on in.