I was 15 years old the first time I can accurately recall hearing an R.E.M. song. I used to listen to 105.9 WHCN in Hartford on this cheap Emerson brand AM/FM clock radio while I got dressed and ready for school in the morning. And there it was – “Fall on Me.” It had an immediate impact. I went out and bought Life’s Rich Pageant later in the week and R.E.M. and I went from there. R.E.M. became one of THOSE bands. One of those bands was always with me while I growing up during high school and starting to figure out who I was during college.
It helped that back then, they had a new album out every year. Document became one of my favorite albums of all time. I purchased Green the first day came out. ((Bought it on tape actually. Which I partially blame for not liking it the album so much)). Out of Time became the album of the summer of ‘91 ((Summer of ‘91 was when I moved into my first off-campus house in Burlington, VT)) and dancing to “Shiny Happy People” was a great way to meet girls during that time. ((But the more interesting girls knew that “Me in Honey” was the best song on the album.)) Monster came out right when I was moving across the country and I listened to it continuously on some long days of driving.
But then R.E.M. started to fade for me. It was one of those cases of just not being able to maintain the high level of musical excellence they set early on. Pretty much every album after Out of Time frustrated me to some degree, regardless of how much I wanted to like the album. “Everybody Hurts” may be a great song, but I still hate it. To me, it was a sign of the edgy college radio band I loved completely losing it. The Michael Stipe started showing up places I could care less for him to show up in. Like that show Iconoclasts on the Sundance Channel. ((And by the way, I’m not overly happy about Eddie Vedder being on that show either)) In fact, in the last 15 years my favorite R.E.M. memory is the time Keturah and I went to see a Patti Smith concert in Seattle and Peter Buck joined in to play a few songs.
R.E.M. will always be part of my youth. And now that they’ve broken up, perhaps its time to for me to forget about how disappointed I am in what they became and recall how great they once were.