"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

R.I.P. R.E.M.

Instead of anything relevant, or entertainingly personal, here's something... else.

The band R.E.M. announced that they're officially calling it quits. They were my favorite band from 1983-1987, and the end was a long time in coming. Fave songs? "Nightswimming," "So. Central Rain," "Fall On Me," "Everybody Hurts," "Rockville;" well, the list goes on for quite a while.

Admitting I'm a Stupid Weirdo
I once earned $1000 by holding my breath underwater in a fish tank full of ice for the duration of "It's the End of the World As We Know It," which takes about 5 1/2 minutes. Broke my previous record by over a minute; the emergency room visit ended up costing me... $1000.

I don't drink that much any more.

Beatles or Stones?

A question that crops up occasionally and which was relevant about 1966 is whether one prefers the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. It's really a question of pop music versus rock and roll (and I got reminded of it because the Stones also lasted decades too long) and sometimes you want one, sometimes the other. The Beatles were genius pop, once they ditched the early Buddy Holly covers. The Stones were best early when the delta blues and R&B records they grw up on were still evident in their sound - before they tried to emulate "Magical Mystery Tour" with "Their Satanic Majesties Request" - really early.

A better question is: R.E.M. or U2? I was never a big fan of U2; one compilation CD heavy on The Joshua Tree would suffice. Here, the question becomes more diffuse: brit-pop filtered through southern roots music or the reverse? Early on, U2 was a mediocre bar band ("Boy" and the second album are unlistenable, except for "40"), and R.E.M. was part of the ultra-weird Athens, GA scene that included bands like the B-52's.

I'd listen to R.E.M. and laugh my head off trying to sing along, not knowing what any of the mumbled lyrics were (I just spent an hour trying to rediscover what song I thought had "Did you eat my car keys?" ... to no avail). I was never sure what it was I didn't like about U2 until I heard John Lydon (Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols) singing along to one of their hits on his brief show "Have a Rotten Day" - pompous gits.

Bono and The Edge: take the hint. The time to quit was long ago.

By the album "Green," one had to wonder wether the R.E.M. sell-out was tongue-in-cheek or not. "Pop Song" took self-parody to a new level. They made millions of dollars, but they were done as a band, making appearances on Sesame Street. And then Bill had health problems. It still took 20 years to quit.

And now to feel old

I recently had a date with a woman who thinks Nirvana is an oldies band that plays on the classic rock station her father likes. She's not listening to my i-pod anytime soon.


Xenia said...

Jesus Christ, are you dating fetuses now?!

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Bono: Saddling Third World Countries with odious debt is immoral and all people of conscience should oppose it!

SteveQ: Don't tell me what to think!

Johnny Rotten: Bono is a pompous git!

SteveQ: Thank you for telling me what to think, untalented former-member of a group that was rock's biggest fraud since the Archies! You have clarified things for me!

John Lydon (... OOPS! I mean, "Johnny Rotten"): No problem! Remember my motto: "I am an anti-Christ! I am an anarchist!" are not the words of a pompous git.

Hahahahaha! I'd've paid more attention to your U2-bashing if you'd been swayed by, say, Joe Strummer or someone else from the Clash - you know, a genuine punk group with actual talent ...

A couple things: MMT and TSMR both were released on December 8, 1967. The latter was not a pale imitation of the former; MMT wasn't even conceived as an album or released as one in the UK till 1976. Magical Mystery Tour was a double ep in the UK. Capitol records decided they could make it into an album by creating a side two with all of the Beatles' 1967 singles (A and B sides) on it; which is all side two is: S.F. 4ever, Pen. Lane, Hello Goodbye, Baby You're a Rich Man, I Am Teh Walrus. This is the kind of shit Capitol pulled with ALL Beatles albums, which, some claim, is why the Beatles' 1966 US-only Yesterday ... and Today LP had the infamous (and quickly recalled) Butchers Cover on it - the Beatles' were protesting Capitol Records' butchering of their albums - or so some have claimed (not, incidentally, me, btw). (I'd link to a pic of the Butchers cover, but I know it wouldn't work for you; for everyone else, yes. But you? No.)

TSMR was The Rolling Stones' Sgt Pepper - a transparent rip-off up to and including the elaborate cover. (They tried to outdo the Beatles' cover by giving theirs that stupid hologram).

Surprisingly, some of the Rolling Stones' overtly Summer-of-Love songs are not bad. "She's a Rainbow" happens to be a favorite of mine. Also "Ruby Tuesday" (the latter is not on Majesties, of course, but still good).

All that said, I suspect one of your secret purposes for posting this was to goad me into writing a comment much like this very one I'm writing now. I have a hard time believing you could get the chronology of these albums wrong and didn't already know TSMR was the Rolling Stones' Sgt Pepper, not MMT.

So congrats. You got that, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I like U2 much more than R.E.M. However, Nightswimming is the best song either of the two have put out (in my opinion, of course).

joyRuN said...

Nightswimming... swoooon....

Ah, brings back college daze...

REM over U2. Hands down.

Echo X's sentiment, btw.

Ross said...

First off, the Rolling Stones peaked with Beggar's Banquet and Let It Bleed.

However, though as far top albums of the late '60s I would take the Beach Boys Pet Sounds, or even the Kinks Preservation Society over Sgt. Peppers.

You got it right with R.E.M. over U2, however, at least through the '80s - the last time either band was relevant. Fables of the Reconstruction is still one of my all time favorite albums.

And Nirvana IS an oldies band. So are the Foo Fighters for that matter.

And we may as well also ask Blur or Oasis? Clearly, it's Blur for me.

And no, it's not just you, I always sound like an opinionated ass when discussing music.

Jean said...

Steve, did you ever see when members of U2 and R.E.M. merged to form "Automatic Baby"? There was an MTV concert in 1993 where Stipe sang U2's "One" with Mike Mills, Larry Mullen, Jr., and Adam Clayton comprising the rest of the band.

"Automatic for the People" is one of my favorite albums!

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Correction: Side Two of MMT ends with "All You Need Is Lurve", not "I Am the Walrus", which latter was in the film MMT (which was a giant turd of a movie).

The reason the album was finally released in the UK in 1976 is the Brits finally recognized that it worked as an album, even if it hadn't been conceived as one. Capitol Records had accidentally created a coherent work despite the typical Frankenstein approach, the best example of which was the approach they used to create Yesterday ... and Today, released in 1966 (in the US only), just before Revolver. The albums has songs that Capitol left off of the albums Help, Rubber Soul and compiled them along with three as-yet unreleased tracks from Revolver (all mixed slightly differently from the versions on the British album when it came out later in '66) and made an album out of the mish-mash. An eleven-song album. Beatle albums in the UK usually had at least 13, sometimes 14, songs. Capitol would routinely lop off two or three, hang on to them, and make another album out of the deleted songs. They fucked Revolver (with Y ...&T)before it even came out: It was comprised of 14 songs in the UK, but 11 in the US, the first in utero fucking Capitol performed.

No wonder the Beatles tried to use that butcher cover!

Here's the butcher cover. Click gently and it may work for you, Steve.

MMT was the last time Capitol fucked with a Beatles album. (Unless you count Hey Jude, which no one does.)

In closing: U2 Rules! R.E.M ... rules a slightly smaller kingdom because they are also good, just not U2-good.

Also in closing: Why ya gotta be a hatah, SteveQ? Why you gotta put U2 down to put R.E.M. up? They're two different groups, with distinctly different styles, just like the Beatles and the Stones. As with the latter two, it IS possible to like both groups.

Unless you're a hatah.

As Homer, proclaiming American superiority, said to the Brits as they arrested him: "Our Beatles are way better than your precious Rolling Stones!"

SteveQ said...

@Xenia and JoyRuN: The previous one even I called a fetus (4 years younger than current one). I was considering doing a post on how one eases into creepiness - and that sort of leaked into this one.

@GQH: I knew it was Sgt. Pepper. I just wanted to goad you. Wasn't Frank Zappa's version "We're Only In It for the Money?" Excepting that he can't sing, Lydon has a pretty good handle on music (the only one of the Pistols of whom that's true). Trivia extra point: the Butcher cover was available for exactly one day and only in Sears stores.

@Ross: Blur. Definitely Blur. And now I'm staring at a photo of Garbage (oh Shirley, please visit here soon).

@Jean: The horror... the horror.

Diana said...

Seriously, how young do you have to be to think that Nirvana is an oldies band? Maybe you shouldn't answer that one, Steve.

I absolutely love "Nightswimming." I could listen to that song over and over again. Thank goodness my CD player had a replay track button.

Ross said...

Wilco or Radiohead?

SteveQ said...

@Ross: Wilco. I like Radiohead, sporadically, admire them more than like, I guess. I love Wilco, though I can't say why (and they are the ugliest band in person).

Anonymous said...

No way is "It's the End of the World as We Know it (and I Feel Fine)" 5 1/2 minutes long. Unless you got fooled and they played a 45 single on 33 1/3.