Friday, September 23, 2011

This One Goes Out To R.E.M.

The news came out recently that seminal '80s band R.E.M. was calling it quits. I guess all good things have to come to an end sometime.

R.E.M. was one of the most relevant bands from the '80s college radio music scene, and in the vanguard of alternative music.

The public at large became well aware of R.E.M. as a presence on the radio after their breakthrough in 1987, with The One I Love off of the album Document (1987). This was soon followed by Green (1988), with songs like Orange Crush and Shiny Happy People. By the end of the '80s, R.E.M. had a strong radio presence, and alternative music was on a roll.

However, its just as important to remember the R.E.M. of college radio, which was a major source of alternative music during the early to mid '80s. R.E.M. always struck me as having a certain Beatnik/Kerouac/Ginsberg quality about them, as if they were made to be listened to in a darkened coffee house over a strong expresso while thumbing through a well-worn copy of Howl. Their music at this time had a jangly style to it in some ways reminiscent of The Byrds. The above clip is their performance on the David Letterman show circa 1983. The song is So. Central Rain off of their album Murmur (1983). 

R.E.M. were actually part of a burgeoning alternative music scene in Athens, Georgia, a college town which became a bohemian mecca during the early and mid '80s, and an epicenter of the larger college radio phenomenon. The clip above is from Athens GA: Inside/Out, a fascinating documentary of this bohemian/alternative scene, and features members of R.E.M., as well as other bands of that scene.

Farewell, R.E.M., and thanks for the wonderful ride.