Sunday, 27 June 2021

An R.E.M. Summer: The Imaginary 7"s - part 4

#7: An Imaginary 7" from 'Green' (1988)

In spite of the major label signing, the choice of singles from 'Green' was still a little odd. Warners were convinced Stand would be a massive hit - so much so they released it twice! It flopped twice. Orange Crush did make the top 30 though, R.E.M.'s first big UK hit. But that was it for 'Green'. An opportunity missed, I reckon. So let's address that.

In the States, both Get Up and Pop Song 89 were released as singles. They were obvious choices, Get Up especially. While they were not UK singles, 7"s do exist as imports (I have them) so they're out of the running. I also have a 7" of Turn You Inside-Out as it was released as a promo in Spain. A big shout-out to JC for this one. He knows why.

You Are The Everything is a quite stunning song and the first we heard of what would become quite a familiar R.E.M. sound over the next few years. But I'm not sure it's really single material. Which brings me to our final contender which, to be honest, was always the front-runner. World Leader Pretend is not only my favourite song off 'Green', but one of my very favourite R.E.M. songs full-stop. It doesn't sound like anything they'd released up to that point, yet it sounds so much like where R.E.M. were coming from at that point in time. There's no question in my mind that this is the single that should've been.

For the b-side, I've reached for some unreleased demos. None of the 'Green' demos have ever been released, but I have pretty much the complete set. As well as the songs from the album, there were a few other instrumental pieces that remained unfinished. The one I've picked here is a bit of an in-joke. Before the band started work on 'Green', Michael Stipe asked his bandmates not to write "any more R.E.M. songs", feeling that they were in danger of repeating themselves. The Last R.E.M. Song, therefore, is what the band felt was too-typical of them, so they gave it a tongue-in-cheek title and promptly ditched it.

As for the artwork - I riffed on the orange theme of 'Green' (which makes more sense than it sounds). I doctored a detail of a photo of some ferns, then overlaid the text which is in a very similar font to the one used for the original album artwork (though not the actual font which I'd have had to pay for - I used a free one instead).

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

A: World Leader Pretend [edit]
The Last R.E.M. Song

side A: from the album 'Green'
side B: previously unreleased demo

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

I wasn't going to post the Tourfilm video of this, but then I remembered seeing R.E.M. on the Green Tour in 1989 in London. World Leader Pretend was probably my highlight that night with Stipe striking a drumstick on a chair and introducing the song with an acapella verse of Gang of Four's We Live As We Dream Alone. The Tourfilm video captured so much of what made that tour so very special, so here's World Leader Pretend live on the Green Tour. Absolutely phenomenal!

#8: An Imaginary 7" from 'Out Of Time' (1991)

After an album a year since 1983, we had to wait almost three years between their 6th and 7th albums. But 'Out Of Time' was a completely different beast. Well, kind of. The acoustic instruments that came to the fore in a few of 'Green''s songs became front-and-centre on 'Out Of Time'. For the first time, four singles were released from an R.E.M. album in the UK, but once again a trick was missed.

In hindsight, no one can argue about Losing My Religion being the first single. It has taken on a life of its own, even though the record label wasn't sold on it initially. And while the band and most fans hate Shiny Happy People, it's such an obvious single from that album. The other two singles - Near Wild Heaven and Radio Song - are not quite up to scratch though. So what should they have been?

While Country Feedback is my #1 R.E.M. song ever, it's the most un-singleworthy track you'll ever hear. Which means it would probably be the perfect R.E.M. single actually, but I'd rather keep it as a deep cut. I also love Belong which, along with Low, I first heard played on the Green Tour two years earlier. Again though, not a single really. Me In Honey, on the other hand, has all the right ingredients - a catchy melody, an infectious, almost irritating bassline, and vocals from Kate Pierson. What's not to like? But... I've gone for a song that is a longstanding fave of both band and fans alike. It's one I've grown even more fond of over the years, and I don't think there will be many arguments about this one. It's got to be the beautiful Half A World Away, hasn't it? (What's that Martin? Too obvious? Perhaps, but its great though, isn't it?)

The b-side is a demo from the 'Out Of Time' sessions. It was not included on the set of demos with the 25th Anniversary edition, so remains unreleased. I posted a couple of other ultra-rare demos from the same sessions waaaaay back here, but not this one. It's called Night Swim and has nothing to do with the similarly-titled song that appeared on the next album. The artwork is pretty simple. Two of 'Out Of Time''s actual singles featured Michael Stipe on the cover, so I decided this one would too.

An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #8
'Half A World Away'

A: Half A World Away
B: Night Swim

side A: from the album 'Out Of Time'
side B: previously unreleased demo

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

And here's the official video:

Next week, imaginary singles from the two albums that contained 11 real singles between them. What's left for us?


  1. You'll get no argument from me about "World Leader Pretend". It's one of their finest (although a band like REM have LOTS of finest!)As for "Half A World Away", Im amazed that you didn't go for "Texarkana" with more great Mike Mills vocals. No, maybe you're right. As for the next two albums - Plenty left. Singles? I'll look forward to that.

  2. WLP is a good choice, no arguing with that. Can't quite figure out what from AFTP could have been a single that wasn't released as one. Try Not To Breathe I guess although the dark ominous sound of Monty Got A Raw Deal would be good. if unlikely to bother daytime radio much.

  3. middle aged man27 June 2021 at 21:34

    I was lucky enough to see the 'Green' tour at De Montford hall in Leicester and can only agree with you , 'with Stipe striking a drumstick on a chair and introducing the song with an acapella verse of Gang of Four's We Live As We Dream Alone' was the standout moment of one of the best gigs I've been to. And is probably why its my favourite album.

  4. From AFTP, I'd like to see Star Me Kitten get the nod but it's not very single-like, is it? So I guess it would be Ignoreland.

    As for Monster, Star 69 would make a decent single, again recognising the fact that all the more obvious choices were singles.

    Here's a thought, after looking at REM's discography on Wikipedia - do you think REM were more successful in the UK than in the US at this point? Certainly there were more singles from these albums in the UK than Stateside, and they charted higher too...

  5. I really love Sweetness Follows from AFTP, though is it single material? Does it really matter at this point? I don't know. Ignoreland seems the only other obvious selection, if it wasn't officially released anywhere in the world at the time. Star 69 from Monster?
    Another brilliant post Robster.