Oh how things have changed. Really great interview from the Murmur era describing some of the feelings that Michael has in regards to lyrics, politics, and emotion.
R.E.M. Shadows and Murmurs
Jim Sullivan, Record
Boston - Talk about rock 'n' roll bands-their public images and their music-and certain adjectives jump up and wave their hands in the air. Say the Clash and pretty quickly you the to "political." Mention the Cramps and "voodoo rockabilly" comes tagging along.
Talk about R.E.M., yet another fine band from Athens, Georgia, and these sort of words sift to the forefront: Oblique. Hazy. Vague. Look at their cover tof their debut LP, Murmur- a dark, murky, monochromatic shot of dried kudzu, a vine indigenous to ht south. Listen to the music and think of what you remember from the songs-you come up with these gorgeous, hook-laden, minor key melody lines sticking in your brain accompanied by lyrical snippets (and responses) like these-"Talk about the passion" (Which passion? Where?); "Boxcars, pulling out of town" (Why? Where are they going? Why is this important?); "Gardening at night" (a rock song about gardening?! At night?!!)
"House in order . . .wolves at the door" (Oh.) Fragments, shadows, murmurs.
This is confusing
"Good", says R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe, with a pleased, mission accomplished tone.
This is really classic early Stipe here. Slightly arrogant but not too bad. It gets worse as the years go on.
I enjoy what is said in regards to being in a Pop Band. Stipe throws that around a lot currently and I would like to hear what he has to say now compared to then about Pop Bands.
I also think that his comments about Lyric Sheets as this is something that is included with the albums now. Personally, I think it has to do with being very self-conscious of what he was saying back then and putting his lyrics down on sheets is like taking naked photos of yourself. When you are wearing clothes others can get an idea but nakedness is much different.
I think it is important to remember that people change their feelings but I would love to do an interview with Stipe referencing quotes of what he said years ago to just see the reaction he would have to his words on paper. I would never think it is fair to hold someone to their statements 20+ years ago.
Alternative America Interview (1983)
By Blake Gumprecht
This is not one of those interviews with any fireworks but interesting nonetheless. It also seems that Mike and Bill were always doing something else and that Peter was the main guy doing interviews. It's engaging listening to Peter selling these reviewers about what R.E.M. is all about, selling himself like a dirty whore to these rock critics. He knows their language and I bet charges them 2.99 a minute to listen to him go off on the music biz, radio, etc.
And then of course Michael sits in the corner and makes a quip every once in awhile that doesn’t make any sense or have any rhyme or reason to it. Well maybe not that much here but that point will become more obvious as the interviews roll on.
This interview looks like from their first European trip after Murmur had been released. It's nice and long and Mr. Fletcher had written a book about R.E.M., so there is a genuine fan talking about him. I like this because it is probably his first article about them and you can hear his growing admiration for the band.
(Late 1983) R.E.M. interview with Tony Fletcher
Without doubt, one of the finest albums of 1983 was R.E.M.'s debut 'Murmur'. Surprisingly successful in their American homeland (going top 40), it eventually picked up some worthy attention here when the band visited these shores in November. With a name standing for Rapid Eye Movement (the effect of dreaming) it is not surprising to find their music warm and emotional, a trance-like collection of hidden moments and memories. Using the simplicity of jangling guitars, a bright piano and Michael Stripe's* almost Morrison-esque voice, R.E.M. managed to put together an album that grows on the listener like no other I've ever encountered - on the first hearing its good but by the fifty-first it's a classic.
Reviews of Murmur
Steve Pond, Rolling Stone
R.E.M's "Chronic Town" EP was one of last year's more invigorating, tuneful surprises: a record from an Athens, Georgia, band that cared not a whit for the fashionable quirks of that town's dance-rock outfits like the B-52's or Pylon. R.E.M. fashioned its own smart, propulsive sound out of bright pop melodies, a murky, neopsychedelic atmosphere and a host of late-Sixties pop-rock touches. The execution wasn't always up to the ideas - instrumentally the band was still stumbling at times - but "Chronic Town" served notice that R.E.M. was an outfit to watch. "Murmur" is the record on which they trade that potential for results: an intelligent, enigmatic, deeply involving album, it reveals a depth and cohesiveness to R.E.M. that the EP could only suggest.
"Murmur" is a darker record than "Chronic Town," but this band's darkness is shot through with flashes of bright light. Vocalist Michael Stipe's nasal snarl, Mike Mills' rumbling bass and Bill Berry's often sharp, slashing drums cast a cloudy, postpunk aura that is lightened by Peter Buck's folk-flavored guitar playing. Many of the songs have vague, ominous settings, a trait that's becoming an R.E.M. trademark. But not only is there a sense of detachment on the record - these guys, as one song title says, "Talk About the Passion" more often than they experience it - but the tunes relentlessly resist easy scanning. There's no lyric sheet, Stipe slurs his lies, and they even pick a typeface that's hard to read. But beyond the elusiveness is a restless, nervous record full of false starts and images of movement, pilgrimage, transit.
R.E.M., Athens most popular band is well on its way to national success with the release of their first I.R.S. Records album, "Murmur." This is an excellent product that is surprisingly bold as is does not attempt to recapture the R.E.M. live sound.
R.E.M. have made their reputation as a major national rock act through their constant touring-presenting a hard charging, rock 'n' roll show second to none. That they would not attempt the probably impossible job of recreating this show is a credit to their artistic integrity and perhaps unplanned but nonetheless shrewd marketing strategy.
R.E.M., along with the B-52's and Pylon have been burdened by the national media as having "the Athens Sound." This meaningless term apparently tries to unite these three disparate groups simply because of their intense dance-ability.
R.E.M. definitely shares a common bond with the Bees and Pylon in this respect and they could rightfully be called the Kings of Athens dance bands.
It was pretty much assumed that when R.E.M. caught up with the Bees and Pylon they would similarly attempt to recreate their dance-party onto vinyl.
Forget it kids. This ain't no party.
"Murmur," presents twelve tunes which slip the dance rhythm into the background, slow up the tempo and push up the melody and vocals.
This bears no resemblance to the sound which attracts 1200 Athenians to each R.E.M. Show. For one thing, the vocals are treated very well here. Michael Stipe does an outstanding job of projecting his somewhat obtuse lyrics with varying of tones and inflections. A live rock format just can't bring this out.
I attached two more articles and attached them together because I thought they really did go together. As if the first time that R.E.M. played with the Brains they were not the better band but they again backed it up the second time.
Of course the questions that you have to ask yourself after reading this was, did Ginger Schulman actually shoot herself and who in the hell would think that R.E.M. Trivia would include R.E.M. taking the place of The Guess Who.
These articles are important for, 1) they built a name for the band early on and 2) could help promote them to anyone that had not seen them. Being described as the best band in Athens 2 months into their inception is quite a statement, especially for the bands that were in Athens at the time. Think about it this way, if some noname band in Seattle was called the best band in the city in 1992 what would you think?
15th May 1980 – The Red and Black
Brains, R.E.M. star tonight in Union’s only spring show
By Bobby Byrd, Entertainment editor
The Brains, a rapidly rising new wave band from Atlanta, and R.E.M., and impressive new rock group from Athens, will appear in concert tonight at Legion Field, in a show sponsored by the University Union. Showtime is 7 p.m., and admission is free.
Tonight’s bill is the same pairing that played Tyrone’s O.C. on May 6 to a packed house. The show replaced the scheduled appearance by The Guess Who.
Nightmare Town, Richard Grabel, New Music Express12/11/1982
A town is chronic because we are fated to revisit it time and time again. A chronic town might also be a carny town, jammed full of colour, with incomprehensible barkers and terrible secrets stowed away behind the tents.
This chronic music revisits us, reminds us of the wonderfully, excitingly familiar but of nothing in particular. There are of course precedents, influences if you like. Ringing and chiming '60s guitars are part of it. Voices and harmonies that are distinctly American, not by being any kind of nostalgic throwback but inherently, deeply, are a part of it; as is a modern English pop sensibility, an openness to the possibilities of what pop music can carry or suggest.
Chronic Town is five songs that spring to life full of immediacy and action and healthy impatience. Songs that won't be denied.
Mystery is a thing that is lacking in run of the mill pop product. Michael Stipe's voice comes close, gets right up next to you, but his mumblings seem to contain secrets. Intimacy and distance. The voice tells of knowledge but doesn't give too much away. The songs have mystery but are in no way fuzzy. No, they have a cinematic vividness, they paint pictures.
In their Athens debut a year ago, The Brains were upstaged by the Wuoggerz, a group of campus radio station amateur musicians, at Memorial Ballroom. Tuesday night, The Brains played their second Athens show at Tyrone’s O.C. and were again upstaged. This time it was by a band that has been in existence for two months, R.E.M.
But wait a minute, The Brains come nowhere near the bumbling droogs their Athens record might indicate. They have produced a bona fide classic single to help set the tone for the 1980s with “Money Changes Everything”. And their newly released Mercury album, The Brains, proves they’re not a one hit band. Maybe they should just be a little more particular with the stage company they keep in the Classic City.
The Brains opened a 40 minute set with “Treason”, an instrumental microcosm of the beauty and desperation that is their trademark. Tom Gray’s pre-sequenced synthesizer fills were stunning. The trouble began when Gray sang, however – the sound mix turned into mush at the mere hint of a vocal. This problem plagued The Brains throughout their 11-song set and encore.
It was more than unfortunate that The Brains should have to wrestle with a defective sound mix. Gray’s lyrics were, for the most part, inscrutable. And the “world premiere” of two Brains songs was totally lost. Slower mood pieces like “In The Night” and “Gold Dust Kids” were an excuse to sit down instead of listen.