Monday, 26 February 2018

The hidden world of R.E.M. #23

A year after their first ever show, R.E.M. were fast becoming one of Athens' favourite bands. Not only that, but they had played numerous shows around the southern states of Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. In a couple of months they would play dates in New York with Gang Of Four, so it's safe to say their stock was rising at some rate. But on 10th April 1981, they were back at one of their favourite hometown venues - Tyrone's.

This show has graced many bootlegs. The one I have is a single vinyl record called 'So Much Younger Then', one of the most highly-rated recordings of those early shows. While later boots would include the full set, this one only includes some of it, omitting many of the songs the band would later record in the studio (Radio Free Europe, Pretty Persuasion, Rockville, etc). What we do get, however, is a wonderful insight into those early gigs and some of the band's earliest material. The sound quality is excellent too.

Body Count was a popular song in those early days. It also could be the band's first to have a political subtext - it references Vietnam and "dancing off to war"; "military metaphors are metaphors no more" etc. It's a song that I think had promise, but it never made it onto tape in the studio. Wait, on the other hand, was demoed. It's one of the band's poppiest early moments, like the Stand of its day perhaps? Here, Michael Stipe's sisters Lynda and Cyndy join the band to yell "WAIT!" in the choruses.

Mystery To Me is a fine example of R.E.M.'s fast, garagey sound of the early years. While they didn't seem to have a regular set-closer, this one did end a few shows around this time. On this occasion, the band returned to the stage for a one-song encore - White Tornado. It's unclear if Stipe joined his bandmates onstage.

Later in the week, the band would enter Mitch Easter's Drive-In Studio in North Carolina to lay down their first demo. It yielded the tracks that would, in remixed form, make up their first single later in the year. Maybe, if you ask really nicely, I'll post something from this demo tape. But only if you're good.


  1. Faacinating. Not sure I have ever heard anything from ‘81 outside of the Hib-Tone version of Radio Free Europe. Cool find.

  2. Can't say a big enough thank you for these.