Thursday, September 22, 2011

knowing when it's time to leave

REM announced yesterday that after 30+ years together, the band has "broken-up".  Michael Stipe had this to say, 
“A wise man once said—‘the skill in attending a party is knowing when it’s time to leave.’ We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we’re going to walk away from it. I hope our fans realize this wasn’t an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way. We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It’s been amazing.”
I know, I know, probably not the biggest news of your day. (I think more people were talking about the new Facebook layout!) Yet, it's still a strange notion, for me at least.  I clearly remember listening to REM for the first time.  I was not quite 20 years old. My friend Martin had bought their album Murmur (yes, album... as in vinyl) and put it on a cassette tape for me. I almost wore that tape out.

I felt as if I was listening to musical poetry... arguably obscure, but beautiful nonetheless.  After listening to years of synthpop and new wave music, REM's quiet, introspective sound was exhilarating. They quickly became my favorite group and have remained one ever since.

I only got to see them play live once.  It was early on, probably 1986 or 1987, in a small art deco theater in Cleveland.  I sat the whole evening mesmerized.  (Countrymouse was less than impressed with the show. Stipe still had some issues (shyness? agoraphobia?) when performing then and had his back to the audience most of the evening.)  I remember "Superman" being one of the highlights of the evening.

To mark this end of a musical era, I offer two songs.  The first, "Radio Free Europe"... the song that started it all...the first track off their first full-length album, Murmur (as well as their first single).  This video also marks their first television performance.

The second, "Find the River", their final track off what is generally considered to be their greatest work, Automatic For the People.  A fitting song to say goodbye to a group of musicians that have been with me throughout my entire adult life.

Me, my thoughts are flower strewn
Ocean storm, bayberry moon
I have got to leave to find my way
Watch the road and memorize
This life that pass before my eyes
Nothing is going my way


  1. I have fond memories of REM songs too. At least it was a respectable break... you know what I mean.

  2. Oh the memories of their songs ...
    is nothing sacred anymore, altho going out before touring as old men is quite dignified - unlike some ;)


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