When I was 13, you couldn’t get me to listen to anything other than rap and r&b. It just wasn’t possible. I like many people was completely closed minded to anything that didn’t have a heavy bass or a rhythmic melody. If it wasn’t Run D.M.C or Karyn White or After 7, etc. I wanted no part of it.
Then a mandolin changed everything.
I remember being in my parents’ basement watching MTV (back when MTV USED to show videos) and that’s when I saw it. A video of a skinny man with whaling arms and another man playing what I thought was just a “teeny guitar.” C’mon. I was 13. What did I know? I was instantly hooked. The melody, the delivery, even the odd video (and let’s face it. It was a bit out there for the time). I wanted more of this music and I wanted it now. I asked my folks for the cassette (look it up youngsters, they did exist before mp3s) for Christmas. It was my first foray into a band called R.E.M. The lyrics of that song, “Oh life, it’s bigger
It’s bigger than you and you are not me. The lengths that I will go to…That’s me in the corner. That’s me in the spotlight. Losing my religion..Trying to keep a view..And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much..I haven’t said enough. ” The lyrics hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s one of my favorite songs of all time and definitely Out of Time is in my top 5 of best albums. At 13, you start to question the rules and regulation about church, which was what I was doing. The things I was instilled in believing, like the bible was the truth, women shouldn’t be priests, suicide was a one way ticket to hell, questioning God was a one way ticket to hell, waiting for marriage before sex, gay was wrong, yada yada yada.. You get the point. And this song just said what was on my mind.. “I haven’t said enough..” At a time when you’re taught NOT to question the beliefs, this song made me think it was ok to question. It was ok to just think that the bible wasn’t right ALLLLLLL the time. And so began my dedication to this band.
Of course with my being so young, I had no idea who R.E.M. was. I thought it was a new band. Ohhh silly me. Little did I know that this band had been around since I was in diapers. I loved Out of Time so much. I loved every song from beginning to end. From Radio Song, to Near Wild Heaven, well.. I loved it. And I also made it a dedication to acquire anything R.E.M. recorded. Green was my second purchase. Then Life’s Rich Pagent. I was just floored with this band’s musicianship. Mike Mills’ bass playing with Peter Buck’s amazing strumming made me crack the volume. And Michael Stipe’s lyrics were just really profound. They brought to light everything from problems with the environment, to racism, to activism. They wanted to make a stand in music and in true form they did. I was hooked. Case closed. Just. Hooked.
Fast forward a few years later. I’m in high school and Automatic for the People is released…Drive, Man on the Moon, Ignoreland, Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite.. I mean just when I thought I couldn’t live them more… then in college Monster was released. The pinnacle. This band could do no wrong. If you haven’t listened to Monster, PICK IT UP.
Now this isn’t to say they didn’t have some duds. Ask any real R.E.M. fan. I guarantee you the albums Reveal, Up Up Up, and Around the Sun? Man, hard pills to swallow. In that time they lost their drummer, Bill Berry, and some say, the band was never the same. And they weren’t. Those albums were a testament to that theory lol. But we stayed with them anyway. Because they were R.E.M. and they were passionate about music. And passionate with life. It’s a win, win. R.E.M. continued with a trio and Accelerate was their return to form. Crunchy guitars, stellar drumming. It was a rock album. Pure and simple. And finally an album I could listen to again and again and again. I hadn’t been THAT giddy about an album in quite a while. It’s still on rotation in my pod. See videos below. Their final album, Collapse Into Now, was a gem. A true gem. It was combination of Accelerate and Out of Time combined. Folks, they were NOT messing around. And we ate it up as fans.
They released 15 full length albums, countless live cds, greatest hits, and so on.. I could go on about this band, but I won’t. The love is and always will still be there.
Fast forward to today. I get the news the band is no more. I know nothing is permanent, but I do feel a sense of loss, and a sense of the wind knocked out of my sail. And so will music in general. It just won’t be the same to not hear anything new come from this band from Athens, Georgia. They have achieved a lot. A lot of success. A lot of money. A lot of love. A lot of fans. And a lot of respect. They went out while they were still on top. And for that I salute them. And I thank them for everything, good and bad. You all will always be in my heart.
Forever grateful. Thanks gentlemen.