Sunday, 4 July 2021

An R.E.M. Summer: The Imaginary 7"s - part 5

#9: An Imaginary 7" from 'Automatic For The People' (1992)

So this is where this little project gets tough. How do you choose a single from an album that's extremely downbeat and gloomy, and that had a ridiculous six songs already put out as singles from it? There's not a lot left to pick from really, is there? What should have been a single from AftP that hadn't already been a hit?

Of the six tracks that didn't make it, we can immediately discount New Orleans Instrumental No. 1 for obvious reasons, the very sweary Star Me Kitten for also obvious reasons, and Sweetness Follows because it's just too dark and maudlin. So that leaves just three songs. I originally thought that, without question, it would be Try Not To Breathe, one of my faves from the record. But on listening to it again, I can't help thinking it's a bit too sparse in its arrangement. Great song, yes, but a hit? No.

Monty Got A Raw Deal is a better choice though, with Buck's little mandolin riff introducing the chorus as Stipe sings: "You don't owe me anything / You don't want this sympathy." But then Ignoreland bursts into life. It's the odd one out on 'Automatic', the sole loud-guitar song, bristling with vitriol and rage against America, or more specifically, America under Reagan and Bush. Meanwhile, Peter Buck drives the song with Neil Young-esque chords played on multiple guitars layered over each other for added dramatic effect. Stipe and Mills have subsequently questioned their decision to include it on the album, and just months after its release, Bill Clinton became the first Democrat president during the band's existence, rendering Ignoreland somewhat irrelevent. But I happen to think it would have made a great single. Today's date also hasn't escaped me...

I've made a radio-friendly edit, removing the swear words and shortening it slightly. For the b-side, a demo of a song that not only didn't make the album, but wasn't even deemed worthy of being a b-side at the time. Mike Mills sings rather trite lyrics over a pretty tune, somewhat rooted in 60s or 70s pop radio. The title says it all, I suppose. It's interesting in that it contrasts greatly against the material that did make the cut. And the artwork? Simple - it's the gruesome twosome.

An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #9

A: Ignoreland [radio edit]
B: Mike's Pop Song

side A: from the album 'Automatic For The People'
side B: demo available on 25th Anniversary edition

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

No video made for this song at the time, but there's this lyric video from 2017 to promote the 25th Anniversary of AftP. Beware of the very fast-moving images if you suffer from epilepsy...

#10: An Imaginary 7" from 'Monster' (1994)

Some people hated 'Monster' when it came out, mostly people who only heard of R.E.M. through Losing My Religion and Shiny Happy People and never realised they'd been around more than a decade before that. But even some critics slated 'Monster'. They were all idiots as 'Monster' was, and still is, a fantastic record.

There were five singles released from it in the UK, and you can't really argue with four of them - only Tongue was a curious choice. There could have been, potentially, a few other songs in the running though. In fact, three different songs were issued as promos in the US. King Of Comedy wasn't, but I did consider it here. I always liked it from the first listen, but it was often singled out - somewhat unfairly - by critics and fans as being one of 'Monster''s weakest tracks.

I Took Your Name is one of my faves but it sounds too much like Crush With Eyeliner which has already been a single. I Don't Sleep, I Dream on the other hand is one of the album's best, most understated songs. Not sure it's quite up to being a single though. Which leaves us with Star 69, another one which kind of feels out of place. It almost sounds unfinished, like a demo, to me. Yet somehow, it might have made for a good single to round the 'Monster' phase off. It was often the last song played at shows on the subsequent tour with Stipe yelling and sustaining the final syllable.

B-sides are in short supply again, so I've gone for another Mike Mills-led demo taken from the album sessions, left unreleased until the 25th Anniversary set a couple years ago. The artwork is easily explained: in the US, *69 is the callback feature on telephone services. Of course, nowadays with mobile phones it has become somewhat redundant, but it does still exist.

An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #10
'Star 69'

A: Star 69
B: Rocker (With Vocal)

side A: from the album 'Monster'
side B: demo available on 25th Anniversary edition

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

A much easier task next week - lots of songs to pick from 'New Adventures' and 'Up'.


  1. 'New Test Leper' was always a favourite of mine from 'New Adventures...', but I suspect you might plump for 'The Wake-Up Bomb' as an imaginary 7". 'Up' was the point where I began drifting away from REM and it's therefore the first album I feel that I don't know intimately. 'Sad Professor' was the first song that came to mind as a potential 7", though on re-listening, I'm by no means certain that it fits the bill. I'll be interested to hear your pick.

  2. From New Adventures, I'd go for Binky the Doormat, thinking that its hard-rocking chorus would play well over the airwaves. Would need quite an edit to get down to four minutes though.

    Harder for Up. I don't think any of the tracks that weren't singles would make very good conventional singles... but would probably go for Walk Unafraid, for its chorus.

  3. Star 69 is probably the most underrated song off of a hugely underrated album. I love it though. The more esoteric it becomes as people forget about landline telephones just adds to the charm. I’m glad it got a video on Parallel.