Trivia / R.E.M.


  • Ascended Fanboy:
    • They recorded Green at Ardent Studios in Memphis, the studios where their idols Big Star recorded.
    • They were also enormous fans of The Troggs, with "I Can't Control Myself" among the very first songs they performed as a band in 1980, and a cover of "Love Is All Around" with Mike Mills on lead vocals being a popular live staple in the early-'90s. Then in 1992, the group got the chance to actually work with them, on their comeback album Athens Andover.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: The song "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" was named after the phrase that an attacker of news anchor Dan Rather repeatedly screamed while attacking him. However, what the attacker (later identified to be William Tager, who thought that the media were beaming signals into his mind and that if he could find the right frequency he could block the signals) actually said was "Kenneth, what is the frequency?" according to Dan Rather himself.
  • Black Sheep Hit: See the note on Creator Backlash and "Shiny Happy People" below.
  • Breakthrough Hit: "The One I Love".
  • Creator Backlash: The band (especially Stipe) all hate "Shiny Happy People" and refuse to play it in concerts. They originally refused to add it to compilation albums. However, the song was announced to be a part of the track list of their career-spanning greatest hits release, Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 19822011, most likely being the "Part Garbage" mentioned in the title.
    • Though in the booklet that accompanied Part Lies..., Peter Buck mentions that, despite how much the other members regret the song, as well as how dumb and silly he thinks the song is, he has come to appreciate it. Just below Buck's comment, Stipe mentions that despite his feelings about the song, he does realize that the fans do enjoy it which ultimately led to him finally including it in a compilation album. Mike Mills has said that it is a happy song, which is not representative of their usual music.
    • They also have a low opinion of their album Around the Sun.
  • Creator Breakdown:
    • Fables of the Reconstruction and Up were recorded on two separate occasions that the band was on the verge of breaking up — the former because of intolerable conditions in Britain general in 1985; the latter because of the fallout from Bill Berry's retirement.
    • Around The Sun was recorded when the band were depressed about 9/11 and the Iraq War, and exhausted from touring; they almost broke up then. Their utter boredom is evident in most of the songs. However, they were so disappointed in Around The Sun that they did not want it to be their last album, and so stayed together to return to their rock roots and gave us that epic Crowning Moment of Awesome that is Accelerate.
  • Development Hell: Surprisingly common due to the group's songwriting being very prolific in their early days.
    • "Just A Touch", the first song the band ever wrote (from early 1980), was played live regularly and attempted for Reckoning, though didn't get released until Lifes Rich Pageant in 1986. The main reason it appeared on Pageant was that the group needed filler and revisited several older songs. The producer Don Gehman annoyed Michael Stipe so much with his demands that Michael gave a very pissed off rendition in one take that was a perfect capturing of the song's live energy.
    • "All the Right Friends" was one of the band's earliest songs, performed as early as 1980. The band tried recording it in 1983 for Murmur, but this version would not be released until 1993 when it appeared as a bonus track on the I.R.S. Years CD re-release of Dead Letter Office. The band ended up rerecording it in 2001 due to the producer of Vanilla Sky wanting an old style R.E.M. track, and the band having revisited it live around that time.
    • "Permanent Vacation" was from their 1980 days and revisited live in the 2000s, and received its first commercial release when they recorded a Live In-Studio version for their iTunes Session. Peter did mention the group toyed with revisiting the song as a joke around the time of Aerosmith's 1987 album also titled "Permanent Vacation", though decided not to.
    • "Mystery To Me", "Wait", "That Beat" and "Narrator" originated from the group's 1980 days too. "That Beat" was recorded for Reckoning though not used, "Mystery To Me" and "Wait" were recorded for "Lifes Rich Pageant" but not used, and "Narrator" was recorded with Warren Zevon as a Hindu Love Gods single.
    • "Get On Their Way" was written near the end of 1980, but would not appear on an album until Lifes Rich Pageant, under the title "What If We Give it Away?", in 1986. Apparently, the group were suggested to rerecord the song by an associate who liked it from their early days, but after its release, felt the song was unmemorable and wondered why they included it.
    • "Pretty Persuasion" and "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" both originate from 1980 but would not appear on an album until 1984's Reckoning.
    • "Burning Down" was one of the group's earliest songs, performed for a while in 1980/1981, dropped, reworked into the similar "Ages Of You" (which itself was intended for but missed out on appearing on "Chronic Town" and "Murmur") before both songs were reattempted in the "Reckoning" sessions, only for their release to be delayed until b-sides were needed for Fables era single "Wendell Gee" in 1985, for which the tracks had reverb added. They later appeared on Dead Letter Office.
    • The fan-titled "Ha (We Still Get Paid For It)", from 1980-1981, was never officially released. Parts of it were turned into "Burning Hell" and "Old Man Kensey" in 1984 (the former found on Dead Letter Office; the latter on Fables), and the other half formed the basis for Document's "Oddfellows Local 151" in 1987.
    • "White Tornado" is from the original Cassette Set demo tape and from the same sessions the Hib-Tone recordings of "Radio Free Europe" and Sitting Still, but the track did not see a commercial release till "Superman" single in 1986, and later "Dead Letter Office". Unlike a lot of examples, it is the same 1981 recording. The group did later record a Live In Studio version for Reckoning, though decided they preferred the earlier one.
    • The band's cover of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" was recorded in studio 10 years after they had started performing it live, for the sole coincidence that it was the b-side of "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite".
    • "Romance" was written and performed before Murmur and recorded for it, but it would not be released until the Made in Heaven soundtrack in 1987.
    • "Hyena" was the first song written after Reckonings release and was played on its tour well before any other songs were written. It was attempted for Fables, but was discarded due to the band feeling they had played it too quickly. When they rerecorded it for Lifes Rich Pageant, they decided their judgement was wrong and played it even faster.
    • "When We Were Young" (aka "Throw Those Trolls Away") had been performed live on the band's 1984 tour for Reckoning and was recorded for Fables, with the title even written on the inner sleeve. The band decided not to include it at the last minute. It was reworked into "I Believe", which appeared on Lifes Rich Pageant.
    • "Bad Day", which was recorded in 1986 but not released because Michael Stipe thought it was too personal. Parts of the song ended up being reworked and used in "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)", though the band ended up re-recording it for the 2003 greatest hits album In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003.
    • "Nightswimming" was written by Mike Mills during the Out Of Time sessions, though was not seriously considered for the album at the time.
    • "Photograph" was written in the Automatic For The People sessions but not finished till it was reworked into a duet with Natalie Merchant 1993.
    • "Low Desert" originated during the Monster sessions, under the name of "Swamp", but it wouldn't be released until the following album, New Adventures in Hi-Fi.
    • "Daysleeper" started out as a demo during the New Adventures in Hi-Fi sessions, but just barely missed being on the album. It eventually became the Black Sheep Hit of the album Up, in 1998.
    • "Until the Day Is Done" started life as an untitled instrumental demo recorded in 2003, during the Around the Sun sessions. It would eventually be released on Accelerate five years later.
    • "Magnetic North" was recorded for Around the Sun, but ultimately was never finished. It appeared on the band's 2007 Christmas Fan Club single.
    • The two-disc Live at the Olympia set, chronicling the band's 2007 "live rehearsals" in Dublin, saw the first official releases of "Staring Down the Barrel of the Middle Distance" and "On the Fly", both of which were written for, but ultimately left off of, Accelerate.
  • Name's the Same:
    • No, "Time After Time (Annelise)" is not a cover of the Cyndi Lauper song. Mike Mills has (facetiously) expressed disdain at this coincidence in interviews.
    • Mike Mills the R.E.M. bassist/multi-instrumentalist is not to be confused with Mike Mills the director and graphic designer. The latter frequently direct music videos and designs album artwork, and played guitar in the short-lived band Butter 08.
    • Also, one might think the (French ambient group) Air song "Mike Mills" is named for R.E.M.'s bassist. Nope, it's really named for the composer named Mike Mills, who is one of Air's biggest influences.
    • Peter Buck did not co-found the restaurant chain Subway prior to being the guitarist in R.E.M.
  • No Export for You: Chronic Town was not released in the UK at the time, despite getting a release in The Netherlands. Though some tracks were released as B-sides, the UK wouldn't get the whole EP until the CD release of Dead Letter Office in 1987.
    • IRS only released the 1991 Best of R.E.M. compilation album in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Brazil.
  • Retroactive Recognition: The cinematographer for the music video to "The One I Love" was Alton Brown, who later went on to make the groundbreaking cooking show Good Eats.
  • Screwed by the Network: One of the reasons the band moved to Warner Bros. was that I.R.S. had poor distribution overseas.
  • Throw It In: Listen carefully to the end of "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?", and you might notice the song slows down near the end. It wasn't intentional; Mike Mills was taken ill from appendicitis and slowed down involuntarily, and the rest of the band slowed down to match his pace. They never bothered to re-record the song.
    • Early live performances saw Michael Stipe changing up the lyrics on an almost-regular basis during certain songs, often using them to quote passages, give Shout Outs, and various other things. "Radio Free Europe" was a particular target of this.
  • Troubled Production: Fables of the Reconstruction and Up. See Creator Breakdown.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • The release of In Time delayed the band's work on Around The Sun, and by the time they got round to recording it they were burned out, plus they had contributed two of the best tracks to the compilation. Had it not been for this, the album might have been better, though it's not as though the compilation was a waste of time.
    • A line in "Welcome to the Occupation", off Document, originally read "Hang your freedom fighters." Stipe had intended for it to have two meanings — "hang" as in "lynch" and "hang" as in "frame on a wall like a picture" — but Bill Berry requested it be changed due to the unfortunate implications it would have had (the line in the finished product reads "Hang your freedom higher").
    • Had the band not broken up, the three "new" songs on their 2011 retrospective Part Lies Part Heart Part Truth Part Garbage — "A Month of Saturdays", "We All Go Back to Where We Belong", and "Hallelujah" — would instead have been released on a potential sixteenth studio album. Since Collapse Into Now completed their five-album contract with Warner Bros., the album would've instead been released independently.
    • When the band were signed to IRS Records in 1982, the label paired them with producer Stephen Hague, who would later become known for producing arty British new wave bands like New Order, Pet Shop Boys and Erasure. The band recorded just one song with him, "Catapult", as a demo for him recording their debut album. The band hated this version of the song and especially Hague's additions such as guitar reverb, vocal echo and synth hits on the pre-chorus. The label relented after hearing the band's complaints, and let Mitch Easter, who had produced their Chronic Town EP and first single, produce what became Murmur.

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