R.E.M. Contest: Unlike Anyone
REM played by their own rules from the very beginning. They sounded like no one else. In 1983 when Michael Jacksons Thriller and the Police synchronicity dominated the airwaves, rem’s album Murmur was chosen as album of the year and best new band of the year by rolling stone and by village voice.
wait a second, REM was signed to a labe IRS by the polices drummer brother….Ian Copeland, who ran IRS, and they got to open for the Police, which were the biggest band in the world…that helped an awful lot for exposure. And though they only opened a handful of stadium shows for the police and hated every single minute of it, the buzz had already been created. The coolest thing is that they had their very own sound. they sounded like no one else. ALl of the early 80s pop disco/electronica that was out was completely different than the rem sound. The albums were recorded totally different. the rem albums were recorded extremely old school, almost in a primitive fashion. The lack of keyboards in these two albums is a testament to rem not going with the norm at all. EVERYTHING at that time was electronica keyboard drenched. REM was your typical bass, guitar, drums and vocal band. There music was extremeley southern, extremely different, extremely original. Jangle rock, alt rock, college rock, as they called it, drowning in southern themes and overtones, yet NOTHING like lynyrd skynrd or the allman brothers or ANYTHING that had “crawled from the south”. The lyrics were absolutely undecipherable, they did it that way. Everyone tried to change it, get Michael to annuncite, print lyrics, etc. NO NO NO. “9-9” is a testament to all of this. Absolutely unintelligable, recorded that way on purpose, with the only lyric you can make out being “conversation fear” ..which was rem being true unto itself, as Michael Stipe was terrified of people and speaking to people and a very shy guy. REM went against the norm and put out murmur at 5.98 as opposed to 7.98..thats grass roots all the way, making it affordable to everyone. Instead of enduring the “misery” they were experiencing opening for the police, they opted to travel the country by van and play anywhere and everywhere they could. Yes, they were signed to a label, IRS, but they did NOTHING IRS wanted them to do. They did things exactly they way THEY wanted to do things, to the record companies disapproval. They blanketed the USA, playing all over the south and then all over the USA and into europe, playing everything from college campuses to “holes in the wall with 4 people and a three legged dog”..and yes, at those gigs, they played anyway. They would show up for gigs and be told they will not be paid, and they would play anyway. They had all this “critical acclaim” from the media and yet stayed true to themselves, playing for beer and a place to crash sometimes in the early days. REM turned down an opening spot for U2 during the years that Murmur and Reckoning were recorded and released. Talk about not jumping on the “Bandwagon”. The refusal to lipsync, the extremely odd, against the norm videos. all a testament to being indie and doing it your own way. The absolute absence of guitar solos…against the norm….the rawness of the records…against the norm…the subject matter. SUBJECT MATTER. So much about the south, no one knew what they were even talking about…(FILL IN ANDREA)…the music….the songs were NOT about catchy lyrics, they were about the music..you had no idea what he was singing about anyway, and much of the time the words made no sense whatsoever. The ARTWORK..from the grass roots front and back cover of Murmur, the kudzu and vines so typical of Athens GA, to the old trestle bridge on the back of it, located just down the street in the city they hailed in. To howard finsters (a southern folk artists) painting on the front of reckoning.. To the establishment of the fan club at ten dollars a year. Its still that way today, a testament to an indie attitude and a grasss roots campaign. REM established themselves as a democracy, all band members made the same amount of money, all band members were credit equally with each of the songs. REM toured and toured and toured and toured 250 shows a year at that time. they never stopped, they toured relentlessly. continuosly, constantly. thats grass roots. They wanted to open for NO one. Only themselves. they stayed true to their friends from the beginning., (fan club people) Bertis Downs, Jeffereson Holt up until the scandal. Talk about INDIE…who did rem dress like? No one! Absolutely no one! They had their own style, which was absolutely uncategorizeable. Peters guitar was uncategorizable. Michaels lyrics and persona were also. Millsy worked the nerd look., Bill wore tshirts with the arms cut off of them. They kinda taught the world to be INDEpendent and do what you want and be true to yourselves and to do things on your own terms. dress as you want, wirte what you want, fuck the establishment. They enjoyed being a band and being true to themselves and from the south. etc….