Sunday, 13 June 2021

An R.E.M. Summer: The Imaginary 7"s - part 2

Thanks to everyone for leaving your comments and suggestions last week. I should point out, for the most part these pieces were written some time in advance, so I've already made my mind up as to what tracks are chosen. However, don't let that put you off suggesting them. It confirms whether or not I've made the right choices. On which note, let's see what you think of these...

#3: An Imaginary 7" from 'Reckoning' (1984)

'Reckoning' is a strange record for me. Side 1 is exceptional, side 2 not so much. It's not one of my Top 5 R.E.M. albums but it is the one most other fans will put in their top 3. Nevertheless, there are some very singleworthy songs that were overlooked. Harborcoat is a fantastic opening track with one of the album's strongest melodies. Pretty Persuasion is another really strong contender, cited by many as the second-best track on 'Reckoning' (after the eternally brilliant So. Central Rain, of course). It actually dates back to early 1981 and became a live staple despite being passed over for both 'Chronic Town' and 'Murmur'. I've also long had affection for Time After Time, but while that's a great album track, it's really not a single.

I struggled, really struggled, to decide on 'Reckoning''s imaginary single. I kept flip-flopping between Harborcoat and Pretty Persuasion. Both are equally worthy. I toyed with the idea of making them a double-A side, but that's cheating isn't it? So I tossed a coin (yes, I really did) and it landed on tails. Pretty Persuasion it is then! I wish I could make every decision that way.

The b-side is a live version of Old Man Kensey, a brand new song which would end up on R.E.M.'s next album. The performance captured here is from an appearance on MTV's Rock Influences show in 1984. While the full show is available on numerous bootlegs, it has never been officially released.

The band's friend Jim Herbert made an artsy, surreal film for the first side of 'Reckoning'. The two sides of the LP were labelled 'L' and 'R' - 'Left' and 'Right'. Thus the film's title was 'Left Of Reckoning'. I've included the Pretty Persuasion segment of the film as your video for this week, and I've also used a still from the Harborcoat section for the sleeve art.

An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #3

A: Pretty Persuasion
B: Old Man Kensey [live]

side A: from the album 'Reckoning'
side B: previously unreleased

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

#4: An Imaginary 7" from 'Fables Of The Reconstruction' (1985)

'Fables...' is one of my favourite R.E.M. albums. It saw the band move into Southern folk storytelling territory and contains some really wonderful songs. The problem I've had is deciding on an original idea for a single. In the UK, Can't Get There From Here and Wendell Gee were released, while in the US, Driver 8 was the commercial single. So while I'm catering for the UK here, I'm ruling out Driver 8 as it isn't really an Imaginary single as one actually exists (I have a copy), albeit only as an import over here.

I know there's a lot of love for Feeling Gravity's Pull, and for good reason. It's an extraordinary track and one of the band's finest album openers without doubt. But it really isn't single material, is it.

Therefore I've considered my other two favourite songs from the album. Maps And Legends has some lovely vocals in it from Messrs Stipe, Mills and Berry, but if I'm being honest, Life And How To Live It was always my fave. It's based on an apparently true story of a man who split his house in two and would spend some time living in one half, then move to the other half for a while and so on. He wrote a book, published it and kept every copy for himself. The book was titled 'Life And How To Live It'.

The reason I wasn't completely sure about it being here though is because it was put out as a 12" promo in the States with the same b-sides as we got with Can't Get There From Here. But to hell with it! It wasn't released commercially and there was no 7". I've used the text elements and colour scheme from the promo sleeve for my artwork, and added a tweaked still from the Jim Herbert video for the track.

For the b-side, it's a cover of a Creedence Clearwater Revival song. The band was playing Belgium's premier music festival Rock Werchter when the heavens opened. They subsequently played So. Central Rain and Have You Ever Seen The Rain? during the downpour. It's the latter you get here from a bootleg I have.

Oh, and by the way, the edit to the a-side simply removes the opening seconds of the intro to bring it under 4 minutes.

An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #4
'Life And How To Live It'

A: Life And How To Live It [edit]
B: Have You Ever Seen The Rain? [live]

side A: from the album 'Fables Of The Reconstruction'
side B: previously unreleased

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

Next week, imaginary singles from 'Lifes Rich Pageant' and 'Document'. Make your suggestions below!


  1. Can't argue with any of that and thanks for the dl of Have You Ever Seen The Rain, something long lost from round here

  2. middle aged man13 June 2021 at 18:24

    I followed the singles thread at the Vinyl Villain and yet I still have to check if a song was released as single before making a suggestion, maybe because at the time I was only buying albums but it does feel as though there was a deliberate policy of not issuing the best songs as singles - I completely agree with your choice of Pretty Persuasion. Looking forward- from Life's Rich Pageant- it must be 'Begin the Begin' to my ears their best ever opening track

  3. 'Harborcoat' Vs 'Pretty Persuasion', an awfully tough decision, but if pushed I'd say you made the right one, however it was reached! I'm with you on 'Life And How To Live It' too. As for next week, I reckon there'll quite rightly be a lot of love for 'Cuyahoga' from 'Lifes Rich Pageant', but I've always really loved 'I Believe' too. I also really love 'King of Birds' from 'Document', though it doesn't really scream single material, so I'll plump for 'Disturbance at the Heron House'.

  4. 'Begin the Begin' - Bloody hell, how could I forget that one? I'm glad I'm not the one having to make these decisions TheRobster!

  5. As mentioned 20 years ago at the start of the REM series over at JC's place, Americans weren't that into buying singles. If we were, we were buying import singles from the UK. Even though I loved REM from the start and bought all their albums up through Green, I never once bought an REM single. That said, I was as surprised as everyone else at the choices picked for singles as recounted in the series. And today's post is a perfect example why. Pretty Persuasion is an OBVIOUS choice for a single. Can't figure how no one made that call at the time.

  6. Great choices both. The question remains, do we go for the BEST tracks off each album as a single (highly subjective I know, but it gives a rationale) or the one that might have given the band greater exposure/ success because it was more commercial?
    Of course, if they had released the most commercial tracks and become mega during theIRS years, we would all (well alright, just me then) have complained at how they had "sold out".
    Like with "Fables...". almost anyhting off LRP except "Superman" would make a great single. However, in the interests of keeping them as our own little cult, indie, niche band, I'm going for "Underneath the Bunker".

  7. This has been an outstanding couple of weeks to open up what will be a fascinating series that will certainly cause a bit of debate.

    As ever, the writing is top-notch, and I really love how you go the extra mile in terms of the fresh artwork and the never do things half-hearted, and please don't ever change.

    Thus far, I've no quibbles about what you've come up with....and I'll happily now play the game going forward.

    LRP? I'll suggest 'These Days' as it could have been the sort of 45 that would have offered the opportunity of some crossover into mainstream radio play and maybe got the band a hit way earlier in their career

    Document? 'Disturbance At The Heron House' is probably the obvious one, especially as it has an opening which sounds like 'Born In The USA'. I'd love 'King Of Birds' to have been a 45, just to demonstrate a different side of R.E.M. from those who were getting some familiarity via 'The One I Love' and 'It's The End Of The World.....'

  8. Great selections, Robster, and even greater appreciation for the live B-sides, custom 7" covers and of course the sleeve notes.

  9. Another great post, thank you.

    I'll go with I Believe from LRP, backed with their Aerosmith cover Toys In The Attic, for a bit of fun.

    From Document, I'd cheat with a double A-side of Disturbance at the Heron House and (with a minor edit for the 4 minute rule) King of Birds.