Friday, April 12, 2013


R.E.M. overgrew the underground with the mysterious impressionist mumblings and driving melodic melancholy of this murky masterpiece. After the success of their 'Chronic Town' EP the group began working on their debut album with producer Stephen Hague; but they were unhappy with the results. IRS agreed to let them work with Mitch Easter again after hearing the results of a trial session. Easter co-produced the recording at Reflection Studios in Charlotte, North Carolina with Don Dixon. 'Murmur' features Bill Berry on percussion, drums, backing vocals, bass guitar, and piano; Peter Buck on guitar; Mike Mills on bass guitar, piano, backing vocals, and drums; and Michael Stipe on vocals. 

Buck confesses: "I'd always loved music, and worked in record stores, but I'd never formed a band, because I always thought you had to have some great gift to do it - though I'm living proof you don't! Anyway, I guess the air in Athens at the time was that it was okay to form a band, and Michael talked me into it. We're all pretty unprofessional thought Mike and Bill had played in marching bands at high school and so knew their instruments a bit but I at the time didn't have a clue...Anyway, we started playing and people started offering us money for dates - 50 dollars here, 75 dollars there and without even knowing about it, three or four months after forming, we had 30-40 songs of our own, and we were playing every weekend. Then one day we woke up and thought, 'Hey, we're in a band, maybe we should try a little harder so we started phasing out things that we were bored with, like day jobs and school, and within about six of seven months we managed to go full time.' It wasn't particularly easy, but we worked a lot harder than anyone else, I've ever heard of. We were quite an anomaly in that we were in a bar band that could play pizza parlors and pool halls, and we did that for about a year and a half. We kinda established a circuit of places were no-one else would have played. It certainly wasn't big time, but we were enjoying ourselves - we got to travel, and slept on people's floors, and drank beer twenty-four hours a day...Over the last year the radio stations have been realizing that more and more people have been listening to radio less and less, and they've been going through a real panic situation because they don't know what to play. Then they've been hiring all these guys who also don’t know what they're doing! - to tell them what to do , and they say 'Play new music. So what's new music? They don't know! We sneaked in the back door - 'Oh they've got guitars, they're a bit different, let's put them on!' And it was kinda cool because we'd be stuck in between Def Leppard and the Eurythmics, and I can't imagine people understanding what was going on but it was interesting for us, because we got a foot in the door through all the confusion...Oh sure. There's millions of good bands there, but a lot of them are on real small labels that don't have the clout to get them distributed."

Mills recalls: "Back then, we were living the dream: four guys in a van hitting the road, conquering clubs one night at a time. That's all it is, the gear and a gang. First, you had to prove that you had something to offer, so the early tours were us going out and playing to very, very small crowds. But every time we came back to a town, we had more people. Without fail. We knew we were pretty good; we just didn't know how good. There was a lot of the punk and DIY ethic involved. In our minds, the way you became a good band was going out and playing as often and in as many places as possible. We were doing what we knew bands did."

'Murmur' made it number thirty-six on the US album chart and became one of the most universally acclaimed records of 1983. Stipe considers: "What do they have to think about me? They come to a club, they like the way I move, a and they like the way I sing, they maybe get some feeling out of what we do. What more do they need?...If it makes them sad, fine. If it makes them happy, fine. If it makes them elated, fine...I'm not willing, and the whole band is not willing to throw a diatribe at anybody. Nobody cares, or nobody would care, about where I stand politically or socially or what my love life is like...Who wants to hear it from me? I'm not some great genius...I have no great story to tell: no great anecdotes. None of us do...If you want to talk about politics of your love life or social problems or what it's like to live in 1983, then you should do it somewhere other than on the stage...Emotion: one song might be really sad for me and for a person in the audience. Or for Peter it might be a real uplifting type of song. What's being said doesn't matter that much. It's the feeling, the mood."

"Radio Free Europe"

"Talk About the Passion" 


full album:

All songs written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Michael Stipe, except where noted.

Side one

"Radio Free Europe" – 4:06
"Pilgrimage" – 4:30
"Laughing" – 3:57
"Talk About the Passion" – 3:23
"Moral Kiosk" – 3:31
"Perfect Circle" – 3:29

Side two

"Catapult" – 3:55
"Sitting Still" – 3:17
"9–9" – 3:03
"Shaking Through" – 4:30
"We Walk" – 3:02
"West of the Fields" (Berry, Buck, Mills, Stipe, and Neil Bogan) – 3:17

live 1982

'Murmur' album cover field of kudzu.

No comments:

Post a Comment