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.
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 1982–2011, 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.
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.
"Just A Touch", the first song the band ever wrote, turned up on their fourth album.
"Romance" was written and performed before the band's first album and recorded for it but would not be released until the Made In Heaven soundtrack in 1987.
"All The Right Friends" was one of the band's earliest songs and was performed as early as 1980 and recorded in 1983 for their first album, but would not be released until 1993 when it appeared as a bonus track on the CD version of Dead Letter Office. However, the band rerecorded 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. So the old version was remastered a few years later.
"Pretty Persuasion" and "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville" both originate from 1980 but would not appear on an album until their second in 1984.
"Get On Their Way" (AKA "What If We Give It Away?") was performed in 1981 but would not appear on an album until their fourth in 1986.
The fan-titled "Ha (We Still Get Paid For It)" from 1981 would not be developed until a full song until part of it turned into "Burning Hell" in 1984 and the other half formed the basis for "Oddfellows Local 151" in 1987.
"Hyaena" was recorded for the band's second and third albums but wasn't released till it appeared on their fourth.
"When We Were Young" (aka "Throw Those Trolls Away") was recorded for the band's third album, and the title was even written on the inner sleeve. It was performed live around the time. The band decided not to include it at the last minute. It was reworked into "I Believe" which was recorded for their fourth album.
The band's cover of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" was recorded in studio 10 years after they had started performing it live.
"Bad Day", which was recorded in 1986 but not released because Michael Stipe thought it was too personal. (Instead, they wrote "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" around it.) They eventually rerecorded it in 2003 and only after that was the original version released.
Kate Pierson performed the back up vocals for "Shiny Happy People" and "Me In Honey".
Q-Tip performs a rap at the end of "The Outsiders".
On Collapse Into Now, Peaches shares lead vocals on "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter", Patti Smith sings on "Blue" and "Discoverer", Eddie Vedder and Joel Gibb of The Hidden Cameras harmonize on "It Happened Today".
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 directs 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.
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.
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.
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 the Unfortunate Implications were present enough that Bill Berry requested it be changed (the line in the finished product reads "Hang your freedom higher").