Sunday, 25 July 2021

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

For the mere handful of you who are still with me, this final installment is going to cover three singles. "Why?" I hear you ask. "There are four albums left." You're right of course, but for one of those albums, there's only one track on the table, and for another there's nothing - nada, nil, nowt - even worth considering. The only time for debate is for R.E.M.'s final two. So, we're starting off with a simple one:

#13: An Imaginary 7" from 'Reveal' (2001)

'Reveal' is so terrible, it doesn't warrant even discussing here. At least it wouldn't if there wasn't one single track that delights. And there is. Just the one. And it wasn't put out as a single which means I get to talk about it a bit.

I've Been High is a delicate love song featuring little more than a keyboard drone, a drum machine and Stipe's fragile, almost vulnerable vocal. It sits nicely next to Hope as an example of where R.E.M. could - and perhaps should - have gone. It's the one song from 'Reveal' I would put on an R.E.M. mixtape/playlist without hesitation.

As a treat, you get two b-sides today. Well, sort of. Free Form Jazz Jam was included in the original tracklisting of 'Reveal' but was ditched very late on. I doubt it was for the purposes of running time - it is only 18 seconds long after all. Still better than at least 10 of the tracks on the album though. Your b-side 'proper' is a version of Cuyahoga recorded live in Cologne, Germany in 2001. This was definitely a period of the band's career when you needed to be reminded of how great they once were, and this song always does it!

The artwork depicts a rough sketch of a bird. Because birds can get high, right? I don't just throw this stuff together with no thought, you know!

An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #13

A: I've Been High
Free Form Jazz Jam
B2: Cuyahoga [live]

side A: from the album 'Reveal'
side B: both tracks previously unreleased

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

#14: An Imaginary 7" from 'Around The Sun' (2004)

Ha! Just kidding...


#14: An Imaginary 7" from 'Accelerate' (2008)

Yes, a quick sidestep, avoiding the record that should never have been made to one that still sparks joy in me. I love 'Accelerate', particularly coming as it did off the back of two total duds. It had four singles released from it, including a couple on good old-fashioned 7" vinyl, but there were a couple more that could have been put out.

I'm Gonna DJ dates back to 2004 when it was played as the set closer during the 'Around The Sun' tour, which is ironic as it is so resolutely anti-'Around The Sun'. It's quite a silly song sharing a similar sentiment to an old classic. Stipe is stating that come the apocalypse we're all going to have one big party and he's taking control of the decks. "Death is pretty final/I'm collecting vinyl/I'm gonna DJ at the end of the world." Yeah, I know - hardly profound, but that's the point. The world is ending. What good is philosophy and deep thinking when we're all about to snuff it in a big mushroom cloud? It's the end of the world as we know it - and we feel fine!

But while I'm Gonna DJ is the fun option, I simply cannot overlook the opening track on 'Accelerate'. Now I know I've rejected songs as singles during this series owing to them already being featured as official b-sides, but I'm making an exception for this one. Living Well Is The Best Revenge is without a doubt the R.E.M. single that got away. It deserved far more attention than it got, and was their best and most impactful album opener since Finest Worksong some 21 years earlier. The live version on the Man-Sized Wreath single (titled Living Well Jesus Dog) is great, but the album version is my imaginary 7" as I'll never forgive myself if it isn't.

The b-side is a track written for 'Accelerate' and played live during the Dublin residency the year before (as later released on 'Live At The Olympia'). On The Fly didn't make the album and to date no studio version seems to be available. However, here's a live acoustic version recorded at Michael Stipe's house by film-maker Vincent Moon for La Blogotheque's brilliant Take-Away Sessions. If you've never visited La Blogotheque before, get yourself over there. It really is one of the best places on the Internet.

The artwork is pieced together from logos and fonts from the 'Accelerate' theme and a city skyline drawing.

An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #14
'Living Well Is The Best Revenge'

A: Living Well Is The Best Revenge
B: On The Fly [Take-Away Session]

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

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

There's no video for the album version of Living Well, so instead, here's the Vincent Moon version for La Blogotheque. This was filmed in Michael Stipe's Volvo (driven by the late Bill Rieflin) around Athens, GA. in 2007.

#15: An Imaginary 7" from 'Collapse Into Now' (2011)

And finally... I wondered how I could finish this series. The thing with 'Collapse Into Now' is it had a range of moods and sounds so this one could have gone anywhere. I thought about a slow ballad like the band's actual farewell single, which means Everyday Is Yours To Win was in for a shout. I really love Discoverer though and would love to have that as a 7". But it was an official single in the UK (albeit digital only) so sadly that's been ruled out.

I decided in the end to finish on a high, a good strong track like we started with. 'Collapse Into Now' does have a couple of good loud rockers. The aforementioned Discoverer, or the track that follows it on the album All The Best. But in the end I went for the fastest, hardest song on the record.

Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter features vocals by Peaches, an artist who I'm aware of but whose music has passed me by. She has albums called 'Fatherfucker' and 'Impeach My Bush', and songs called Lovertits and Dick In The Air. Thankfully here, she behaves herself and turns in a more than decent vocal performance. Essentially, Alligator... is a punk song, a good one. I can't tell you what it's about (which in many ways makes it like some of the band's earliest work), but to me it sounds like the protagonist is conflicted, feeling anger and frustration but wanting to remain peaceful and conciliatory. Whatever it all means, it's a great way to finish.

The b-side is a version of Mine Smell Like Honey, one of 'Collapse Into Now''s real singles, recorded live at Hansa Studios in Berlin in front of family, friends and associates. It was the very last time Buck, Mills and Stipe played together as R.E.M. Some of the other tracks they performed that day have been put out as bonus tracks on various versions of the album, but as far as I can tell, this one remains unreleased. For the artwork I've tried to incorporate the visual feel of the album, while making the lettering bold and in-yer-face like the song itself.

An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #15

A: Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter (ft. Peaches)
B: Mine Smell Like Honey [live in the studio]

side A: from the album 'Collapse Into Now'
side B: previously unreleased

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

There's an official video for this one. Stipe is seen in a myriad of, erm, interesting(?) costumes, while Peaches looks like she stepped off the set of Barbarella. Or something.

That's it then. Fifteen R.E.M. singles that weren't R.E.M. singles but should have been. Coming up next week and throughout August, more R.E.M., this time focussing on some albums. I'll also be welcoming a very, very special guest. I wonder who it could be...???


  1. I have enjoyed this series so much, Robster, from the song selection to the rare B-sides to the custom-designed covers. More importantly, they've been every much an enjoyable read as the original series over at The Vinyl Villain. I'll be listening to these final singles today and very much looking forward to the albums series next week.

  2. A very enjoyable series Robster, this last instalment particularly fascinating for someone who had drifted from the fold somewhat by this point. Looking forward to what comes next.

  3. Really excellent work, not just here but across the series. Thank you.

  4. Great choices Robster. Not just the selections you made but the ones you didn't - can we all just pretend that "Around the Sun" doesn't exist?

  5. As all above said, sterling work Robster. I've said it before but the emotional link I have to the albums and songs on their IRS albums and through to Green/ Out of Time/ Automatic is enormous and your posts here and at TVV have reminded me how hard those songs hit me. At some point, probably just after New Adventures, they became something else to me- just another band- and their post- Bill albums don't have anywhere near the same impact on me. But reading this post and the ones at TVV gave me more insight into their later work. As for Around The Sun, I don't believe I've heard it all the way through.

  6. Excellent work these past weeks, Robster. So happy to read you're keeping this thing going.

  7. middle aged man26 July 2021 at 06:37

    Thank you