REM – Talk About The Passion

During my break from blogging, I was listening to everything from arena rock, to alternative rock, to newer rock music. The Replacements and R.E.M were high on my alternative list. I like the early R.E.M. songs that don’t get as much attention nowadays because of the big hits that came later.

This was the second single from R.E.M.’s debut album, Murmur. The first single was Radio Free Europe released in 1983. The guitar melody/solo in this song actually comes from multiple acoustic guitars played by Mike Mills, Peter Buck, and producers Mitch Easter and Don Dixon.

The album was rated number eight on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s. In 2003, the TV network VH1 named Murmur the 92nd greatest album of all time.

The 1988 video, directed by Jem A. Cohen, expounds on the lyrics’ references to hunger by placing images of homeless people with a multi-million dollar warship.

Michael Stipe: “I had taken a French course at college, which I dutifully flunked out of, and Linda Hopper and I thought that the phrase, ‘combien de temps,’ that is, roughly, ‘how much time?’ was deeply meaningful and beautiful. I did sing it that way and it works here, if only here. We were 22 at the time after all.”

The song is credited to Berry, Buck, Mills, and Stipe as were most of their songs except for a few covers they did. This was a smart thing they did and probably is the reason for the longevity of the band and the continued friendship they have now. Many bands break up because one or two songwriters get all the publishing rights and make much more money.

Mike Mills on Bill Berry’s contributions: He would generally come up with several ideas for each record, and he would also be a really good editor for us. He was always very much about keeping them short, getting to the hook. He didn’t want to waste a lot of time and people’s attention noodling around.

Talk About The Passion

Empty prayer, empty mouths combien reaction
Empty prayer, empty mouths talk about the passion
Not everyone can carry the weight of the world
Not everyone can carry the weight of the world

Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion

Empty prayer, empty mouths combien reaction
Empty prayer, empty mouths talk about the passion
Combien, combien, combien de temps?

Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion

Not everyone can carry the weight of the world
Not everyone can carry the weight of the world
Combien, combien, combien de temps?

Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion
Talk about the passion

REM – So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)

I’ll be back posting this coming Friday, September 2. Thanks for stopping by!

Love this song from Peter Bucks jangling intro to the song’s melody. The origin of this song came on June 11, 1983. REM was opening up for the Human League in Los Angelos and heard about bad rainstorms in south Georgia where they were from. They were trying to call their families but the phones were down because of the torrential rain.

Harborcoat by R.E.M. from the album Reckoning

The song was on their Reckoning album released in 1984. It peaked at #27 on the Billboard Album Charts, #23 in New Zealand, and #91 in the UK in 1984. REM. avoided the sophomore slump with Reckoning. It’s hard to beat this song as the first single off the album. I always thought So. Central Rain stands as one of the group’s most melodic songs.

The band chose to work with Murmur producers Don Dixon and Mitch Easter. They recorded the album in just a few weeks. Peter Buck told Rolling Stone magazine:  “We were going through this streak where we were writing two good songs a week, We just wanted to do it; whenever we had a new batch of songs, it was time to record!”

The cover art to the album came from Stipe.  The drawing of a two-headed snake which he gave to artist Howard Finster to fill in as a painting. A Georgian artist and Baptist minister, Finster claimed to be inspired by God to spread the gospel through the design of his swampy land into Paradise Garden, a folk and art sculpture garden in his native state which can also be seen in the video for Radio Free Europe.

The song peaked at #85 on the Billboard 100 and #43 on the Mainstream Rock Charts.

REM performed this song on The David Letterman Show in October of 1983 before it had a title. It was their first national TV appearance.

Michael Stipe: “They were all really nice to us, we were so green. The producers told us before the show that Dave would come over and talk to one band member after the song, and so Peter was chosen to represent us all. We made it through the song fine, but when Dave came over to talk I sat down on the floor monitor, and from that moment on, forever and ever, I was dubbed ‘enigmatic.’ What a crackup. Meh!”

They played two songs…this one is at the 7:10 mark.

So Central Rain (I’m Sorry)

Did you never call? I waited for your call
These rivers of suggestion are driving me away
The trees will bend, the cities wash away
The city on the river there is a girl without a dream
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry

Eastern to Mountain, third party call, the lines are down
The wise man built his words upon the rocks
But I’m not bound to follow suit
The trees will bend, the conversation’s dimmed
Go build yourself another home, this choice isn’t mine
I’m sorry, I’m sorry

Did you never call? I waited for your call
These rivers of suggestion are driving me away
The ocean sang, the conversation’s dimmed
Go build yourself another dream, this choice isn’t mine
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry

REM – Everybody Hurts

When I heard this song in the 90s…I knew then it was one of those songs that would become an instant classic.

Most of this song was written by R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry. It is an anti-suicide song. Berry wanted to reach out to people who felt they had no hope. He quit the band in 1997 shortly before recording their album Up after an aneurysm. After that album, the band almost broke up, but decided to continue as a trio.

While he wrote this, he did not actually play on it. They used a Univox drum machine. R.E.M. bass player Mike Mills claims he bought Univox drum machine for $20, but it was perfect for the song’s metronome-ish feel.

It was on the album Automatic For The People, considered by some as the best album they ever released. The album peaked at #2 in the Billboard Album Charts, #1 in the UK, #4 in Canada, and #1 in New Zealand.

The album title was inspired by Weaver D’s soul food diner in Athens, Georgia. They had a sign that said “Delicious Fine Foods – Automatic For The People.”

The song peaked at #29 in the Billboard 100, #8 in Canada, #7 in the UK, and #12 in New Zealand in 1993.  I’m shocked now that it wasn’t in the top 10 in Billboard.

The string arrangement was done by no other than Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones.

Michael Stipe: “It saved a few. People have told me. And I love hearing that. That’s for me, that’s my Oscar, that’s my gold on a shelf right there… that something we did impacted someone’s life in such a profound way. That’s a beautiful thing.”

Mike Mills: Mike (Stipe) and I cut it live with this dumb drum machine which is just as wooden as you can get. We wanted to get this flow around that: human and non-human at the same time.”

Peter Buck: The reason the lyrics are so atypically straightforward is because it was aimed at teenagers.

From Songfacts

On many R.E.M. songs, Michael Stipe purposefully sings indecipherably. He sang very clearly on this one though, because he didn’t want his message getting lost. “I don’t remember singing it,” he noted in Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011, “but I still kind of can’t believe my voice is on this recording. It’s very pure. This song instantly belonged to everyone except us, and that honestly means the world to me.”

The Nevada legislature commended R.E.M. for “encouraging the prevention of teen suicides,” noting this song as an example (Nevada has a high rate of teen suicide).

The music video was directed by Jake Scott, son of movie director Ridley Scott, famous for movies like Blade Runner (1982) and Gladiator (2000). Filmed on Interstate 10 in San Antonio, Texas, the clip is set during a traffic jam where people’s thoughts are revealed through subtitles.

The video won four MTV Video Music Awards: Breakthrough Video, Best Direction, Best Editing and Best Cinematography. When it won for Best Direction, Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, who were nominated for “Sabotage,” got to the podium before Michael Stipe. Dressed in character as his Swiss alter ego Nathanial Hornblower, he went on a rant, calling it a “farce” before being ushered off.

Disrupting an award for such a somber song is in poor taste, but it was hard to take this awards show seriously. Hosted by Roseanne Barr, it is best remembered for a cringe-worthy kiss between newlyweds Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley. MTV didn’t harbor any resentment: they gave the Beastie Boys the Video Vanguard award in 1998.

This was used on an episode of The Simpsons when Marge is walking in a thunderstorm and thinks she has no friends. 

In February 2010 a charity cover was recorded by a collection of artists, Helping Haiti, to raise money for the victims of the earthquake that devastated the country. It sold over 200,000 copies in its first two days making it one of the quickest selling singles of the 21st century in the United Kingdom. Joseph Kahn directed a music video for the cover that features cameos from the performers and footage from the earthquake’s aftermath. Kahn is known for directing clips for the likes of Eminem, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Taylor Swift.

This topped a poll compiled by PRS For Music, which collects and pays royalties to musicians in the UK, of the songs most likely to make a grown man cry. Second in the list came Eric Clapton’s “Tears In Heaven” followed by Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” PRS chairman Ellis Rich said: “From this chart, it is clear that a well-written tear-jerker is one that people can relate to and empathise with. It is this lyrical connection that can reach deep down emotionally and move even the strongest of men.”

In a rare authorized comedic use of this song, Mayim Bialik’s character on The Big Bang Theory plays this on the harp when she is upset over being left behind by her two girlfriends, who are shopping for bridesmaids dresses. Her “boyfriend,” played by Jim Parsons, comes by to cheer her up, resulting in an awkward cuddle scene.

Peter Buck likens the vibe of this song to Otis Redding’s “Pain in My Heart.” He wrote in the liner notes for Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011: “I’m not sure if Michael would have copped that reference, but to a lot of our fans it was a Staxxy-type thing.”

This was used in the 1992 film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, starring Kristy Swanson, Luke Perry and Rutger Hauer. Speaking of the subsequent TV series, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Peter Buck said: “I’ve never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the idea that high school is a portal to hell seems pretty realistic to me.”

Pink and Kelly Clarkson sang this to open the 2017 American Music Awards. They were introduced by Jamie Foxx, who said the purpose was to “pay respect to all those affected by the events of the past year,” meaning the hurricanes, shootings and hate rallies that took place.

Another comedic use was on The Office in the season 2 episode “The Fire,” where Dwight retreats to his car and blasts the song after Michael takes Ryan’s side in a business discussion.

Everybody Hurts

When your day is long
And the night
The night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life
Well hang on
Don’t let yourself go
‘Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes

Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it’s time to sing along
When your day is night alone (hold on)
(Hold on) if you feel like letting go (hold on)
If you think you’ve had too much
Of this life
Well, hang on

‘Cause everybody hurts
Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts
Don’t throw your hand
Oh, no
Don’t throw your hand
If you feel like you’re alone
No, no, no, you’re not alone

If you’re on your own
In this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you’ve had too much
Of this life
To hang on

Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes
So, hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on

Everybody hurts

You are not alone

Let’s Active – Every Word Means No…. Power Pop Friday

This is great 1980s college radio power pop. Everything is there you want…the jangle and the jangly hook.

Let’s Active was formed in 1981 by Mitch Easter, a guitarist and songwriter best known as a record producer, with Faye Hunter on bass. Drummer Sara Romweber, then 17 years old, joined to form the original trio two weeks before their first live performance. Their first performance was opening for R.E.M. in Atlanta, Georgia in 1981.

Let’s Active was critically praised but like their peers did not sell a ton a records. This song was on the 1983 EP Afoot and they would go on to release three more LPs in all before breaking up in 1990.

Mitch produced REM on their Chronic Town EP, Murmur, and Reckoning. Easter also produced Marshall Crenshaw, Suzanne Vega, and bunches of indie acts. He also took a trip to Memphis in 1978 with members of the dB’s to meet two members of Big Star.

Romweber quit the band in 1984 after the release of the Afoot EP and their debut full-length, Cypress. Later, she co-founded the group Snatches of Pink and performed with her brother as the Dex Romweber Duo. In 2014, she reunited with Mitch Easter as Let’s Active for a benefit show. She would die of a brain tumor in 2019. Bassist Faye Hunter died in 2013.

Mitch Easter:

“I could not imagine myself singing in a Johnny Winter-style voice about ‘I just wanna make love to you,’ but the new goofball lyrics were something I could pull off,’ “I read an article with Andy Partridge of XTC back then where he was saying at no other time in history would he have been allowed to be the singer in a band. And I felt just like that, you know.

“I had this weird voice, but now maybe I could be allowed to sing without suffering some hopeless comparison to Gregg Allman.’

Every Word Means No

Watching for a sound to lead me to where ever you are
I can’t help it I will always love you

It used to be no words could come between us
Any time was right for secret meetings
It’s different now and when you speak
Every word means no
Every word means no

I’m thinking, of things that never come to life
You’re going through some things so shallow
There’s nothing to fight

It used to be no words could come between us
Any time was right for secret meetings
It’s different now and when you speak and
Every word means no
Every word means no

And it’s just anathema
I haven’t lost my way
I’m looking around in directions
‘Cause all I ever thought about was you
I never noticed anything but you
Predicting, puts me down on shaky ground
I keep on thinking your looking at me
Do you want me around

It used to be no words could come between us
Any time was right for secret meetings
Now and then I forget the rules have changed
You always remind me
That every word means no, every word means no

dB’s – Black and White ….Power Pop Friday

The Db’s were a great unknown power pop band…who would influence many bands but not sale many records. The band members were Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey, Will Rigby, and Gene Holder.

All of the members are all from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, but the band was formed in New York City in 1978. They never broke through to the masses but they were heard on college radio in the 80s. 

“Black and White,” is the leadoff track to The dB’s debut album Stands for Decibels, and it is pure power pop. The dB’s were signed to the U.K. label Albion, which had trouble licensing the record for American distribution…. and subsequently went un-promoted in radio and only received sporadic play from college radio stations.

The Stands for Decibels album was ranked at number 76 on Pitchforks list of the 100 best albums of the 1980s. The dB’s would released 6 albums in all. The last album was released in 2012 when the members reunited. 

The dB’s broke up in 1988 and Peter Holsapple would go on to be an auxiliary guitarist and keyboardist for REM on the Green tour. He then helped in writing and recording their Out Of Time album. Holsapple subsequently worked with Hootie & the Blowfish as an auxiliary musician.

The dB’s worth checking out. 

Good story on two of the members meeting two Big Star members:

In May of 1978 two members of the dB’s Will Rigby, Peter Holsapple, and future R.E.M producer Mitch Easter made a pilgrimage to Memphis. They were about the only people in America who, while attending high school in the early ’70s, were under the impression that Big Star was a major band.

Their first stop was Danver’s…a restaurant that former Big Star’s Chris Bell worked at and his father owned. They passed a note to the server to talk to Chris and out he came. He was shocked that fans would track him down. It had been 6 years since the Big Star debut album was released.  They were impressed by how nice he was to them.

Bell invited them to join him after work at a ferny bar-café called the Bombay Bicycle Club. Here, while Bell played backgammon with a buddy, the three guys peppered him with questions: What kind of guitar did he play? How did he get those great sounds? 

Bell wondered if the boys were up for maybe checking out a Horslips (local rock band) concert. They instead decided to go over to Sam Phillips Recording Service to visit Alex Chilton, Bell’s former Big Star bandmate, then making his experimental album Like Flies on Sherbert. Bell and Chilton exchanged quiet hellos before Bell went home. 

A few days later Alex Chilton drove Easter and Rigby (Holsapple had already left) around Memphis, showing them the old Sun Studios building (which had a Corvair parked inside it), and taking them up a bluff overlooking the Mississippi. He pulled out a cassette and played a song on a junky little cassette player that took his visitors by surprise.

Chilton played the guys a Chris Bell song. He was raving about it saying it was Chris’s best song and it was the ultimate “Big Star song “…the song was I Am The Cosmos which the public had not heard at this point. 

Chris Bell would die in a car wreck on Decemeber 27, 1978…only 7 months after this happened. 

Chris Stamey on Big Star:“They were my favorite, and as far as I knew they were popular all the way across America. At least for that moment, I forgot about Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.”

Peter Holsapple on meeting Chris Bell and I Am The Cosmos:  “that the person who made all that beautiful music was a right-on kind of guy, too.” “It’s that kind of rife-with-sadness record, but it’s realized with the same imploding beauty that Big Star had. I mean, I Am the Cosmos-it’s just wry enough to make you turn your head and do a double-take, you know, the first sixteen thousand times you listen to it.”

Black and White

I, I never would hurt you
But even if I did you
You never would tell me
Oh, we are finished
As of a long time ago
As of a long time ago
I stop
I don’t enjoy you anymore
Well I guess I just don’t enjoy you anymore
Well I guess it’s all laid out in black and white
You don’t like it at all

Love
Love is the answer
To no question
But thanks for
Oh, the suggestion
I know I don’t care at all
Yeah, I know I don’t know anything at all
But I stop

I don’t enjoy you anymore
Well, I guess I just don’t enjoy you anymore
Well, I guess it’s all laid out in black and white
You don’t like it at all
You don’t like it at all
You don’t like it at all
(In black and white)