On this day in 1980 R.E.M played their first gig under that moniker in Athens, Georgia. Only a reported 150 people turned up, but still, it’s the perfect excuse to have a rummage through their history.
After 31 years in the game and fifteen albums, it probably wasn’t a massive surprise that they decided to chuck in their respective towels, but before the cries of ‘they should have quit’ 15 years before start – it’s important to remember that they were still more than capable of cranking out a good tune when it suited them.
They were also massively, massively influential: without them, two of the biggest bands in the world – namely Radiohead and Coldplay – wouldn’t exist.
It’s hard to choose ten of their best moments – this list could easily be five times as long – but here’s how I’m going to start off remembering Buck, Mills, Berry and Stipe.
Long before it was a go-to track for shameless heart-string tuggers on The X Factor, ‘Everybody Hurts’ was just about the most affecting song released in the 1990s. We dare you not to weep buckets after a single play.
‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’
A cover of the Everly Brothers’ 1958 doo-wop lullaby, REM’s version of ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ sees the band at their most tender and – going by the footage below – their most adorable. Seriously, how cute is Michael Stipe here in with his dodgy bleach job and backwards postboy cap?
‘Losing My Religion’
A phenomenal song with one of the most iconic videos of all time. However, we’d like to direct you to this great live MTV version from 1991, not least because of the bizarre intro from Kim Basinger, that makes her seem more like she’s selling shampoo than rock’n’roll.
A live force to be reckoned with, as well as thrilling bombast, R.E.M. could do intimate ‘it’s-just-you-and-me-in-the-room-alone’ style shows which had fans trembling with joy. You can get a feel for their deft way with a cosy slowburner on this flawless performance from Later With… Jools Holland.
‘Man On The Moon’
Heading up the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival 2003, ‘Man On The Moon’ was a stand-out track in a set packed to brim with stand-out tracks.
‘What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?’
Proof that the band weren’t just about maudlin ballads and introspective gloom, ‘What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?’ – reportedly inspired by the story of a US news presenter, who had the phrase screamed at him during a random attack – showed the band in full on guitar hero mode.
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‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’
Funny, fatalistic and fast-talking, this MTV acoustic version of the genius ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’, might see Michael Stipe having to resort to using a lyric sheet, but it’s no less fabulous for it.
Considered by many to be a return to form, this year’s ‘Collapse Into Now’ featured some sterling singles, amongst them ‘Überlin’, which was accompanied by this short film made by artist Sam Taylor Wood, featuring her fella Aaron Johnson busting out some snazzy/disturbing
A kicking pop song with surf guitar and its very own dance routine? Why not. For a while there, back in 1989, R.E.M. could get away just about anything they damn well liked.
‘Radio Free Europe’
Their first ever single and their first ever TV appearance – on David Letterman’s talk show – this super-kinetic performance appearance might not be a blatant clue to their eventual immensity, but it certainly hints at the possibility.