This week R.E.M. release the 25th Anniversary Edition of their punctually-deficient fourth album, Lifes Rich Paegant. The album, produced by Don Gehman and released in 1986, features the hit "Fall On Me," a cover of the Clique's "Superman" and is best known as yet another album where the singing of Michael Stipe becomes disturbingly clearer.
Let's do ten facts everyone needs to know about R.E.M.
10) R.E.M. Began As A Riddle: When they began, Michael Stipe sang with marbles in his mouth and had lots of hair. They liked things that were out of focus and song titles that gave you little idea what they were thinking. Nobody figured these shy boys would end up playing arenas unless they locked it before anyone got in.
8) R.E.M. Are Athens, Georgia's Second Best Band: Pylon broke up the first time in 1983. When R.E.M. were declared America's Best Rock Band, they didn't agree. The title belonged to this other Athens, Georgia band. They covered Pylon songs to make the band a little money. Since who bought Pylon albums? db's fans?
Mike Mills Is Their Secret Weapon: Stipe is the singer. Peter Buck plays with every musician he can find. Bill Berry retired. But anyone carefully listening to R.E.M. records knows the architect behind all their best stuff is the quiet, mild-mannered, un-rock-looking bassist, Mike Mills, who adds harmonies and works out the arrangements like he's John Paul Jones of the Led Zeppelin.
6) R.E.M. Signed a Record $80 Million Contract in 1996: Like Derek Jeter, R.E.M. were given a huge contract that paid them for past performance. It was the largest contract at that time. It ensured that no member of R.E.M. would ever work as a valet.
Pearl Jam have had how many drummers?
4) R.E.M. Created The Morally Responsible Rock Star: There are still mumbled allegations that the band could be pretty wild on tour, but when you think R.E.M., you think, "recycle your garbage."
Eric Clapton, you never take a positive review of a post-1994 R.E.M. too seriously. Too much money and too much reputation rides on these fellas for anyone in power to voice concerns that they ain't what they used to be. If you meet someone who tells you Around the Sun is "just as good" as Chronic Town, figure they work for Rolling Stone or management.
2) R.E.M. Changed People's Lives: It's all about your age. It may seem silly to older people who had their lives altered by Presley or the Beatles or Lothar and the Hand People or Uriah Heep or the Pet Shop Boys... Everyone is young at a different moment and learns things at their own pace. Many people are not affected by music. I don't know those people. R.E.M. were never my band, but they were for many people of "my g-g-g-generation."