It's spring. The ground is thawed, the flowers are blooming, it's time to get out and about, particularly with headphones.
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1 ) Catapult – Stephen Hague Demo
When R.E.M. were checking on the services of possible producers, there was the suggestion from Jay Boberg, the head of IRS that Stephen Hague might be the appropriate producer for the band. Fortunately, for the band they did not go this route.
For one, Hague’s expertise was in the synth sound that was just beginning to hit in the early 80’s. From the finished product, you can hear that make it’s way into this recording and to be god honest with you, it is pretty comical.
Second, Hague attempted to inject a certain style on Bill Berry, which made the process just that much more frustrating and also added a certain level of distrust in the recording process since Hague added the synths afterwards.
It is still a very telling artifact of how the band pushed against the machine and made the album that they wanted to make a classic in Murmur.
2) Lotus -11/06/98, Orpheum, Vienna, Austria
With the glam rock of Monster to progressing to Hi Fi, a more straightforward record, at least in my opinion, Up feels like waking up and reminiscing about the previous nights festivities.
This particular track was taken from the Up Promo Tour and I still remember the day that these shows came in the mail way back in November of 1998. They were the first time that I had received copies of CD-Rs in the mail (Getting this and the Hamburg shows). It was only a matter of time that I went out and purchased my own CDR Burner and began an obsession that lasted years.
3) Aftermath (Faster Version)
There is a lot to be said about the failures of Around the Sun. In retrospect, I still believe that there was a good album in there somewhere but it just never felt like they pinned down what they wanted to do. This early version is faster and more abbreviated but gives the song a little bit more energy.
4) King of Birds 9/15/89 – Great Woods Amphitheater, Mansfield, MA
In the midst of a fiery Document, the band still can change the tempo and pull out an instant classic. As much as you could discuss the bands ability to write catchy pop songs, it was also this era that came out with some slower ballads that for fans like myself felt hopeful rather than corny.
5) Angel – CMJ Awards, Beacon Theatre, New York, NY
This came from a unique show, the CMJ awards where the band started off playing an acoustic set playing some covers as well as originals. Angel was originally written by the The Neats, who actually had opened for the band on several dates in both Fall of 1985 as well as Spring of 1985.
6) Jazz Lips (This is Jazz Blow Nose) (Demo, October 15, 1981)
A nice little interlude of a little ditty which shows off the bands ability to write a great pop song. Actually it just seemed like the perfect “Intermission”.
7) Old Man Kensey – 10/12/84 Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ
Finding a good copy of Old Man Kensey on shows at times was somewhat difficult as it always seemed as if tapers would cut the song short. While this version does not include a story that Stipe would often recite before the song about something crazy that Kensey would pull, it’s still as it would appear on the album.
It is not often that you can combine the idea of songwriting and folklore and create an album’s worth of material, not just a song about “Rocky Raccoon,” and in that sense this is often forgotten about this album. I love the fact that the album is not clean sounding rather feeling a little cold and dense but yet very familiar. I would also be hard pressed to find an album that carries these same unique qualities.
8) Sweetness Follows – 7/6/1999, Stravinski Auditorium, Montreaux, Switzerland
If ‘Country Feedback’ was the standout moment for the Monster tour, Sweetness Follows played that role for the Up Tour. Admittedly, it is not the first song that you think about on Automatic For the People with such hits as Drive, Everybody Hurts and Man on the Moon as well as fan favorites like Find the River and Nightswimming. Listening to the album version you get a sense of the haunting nature of the song mixed with that droning guitar sound. The live album replaces that with organ work in the background that gives it an even more ethereal approach as well as expanding the number out a couple minutes.
9) You Aint Goin Nowhere - 03/15/91, Borderline Club, London, UK
A song about the mongrels.
10) Auctioneer (Another Engine) – 10/01/1986, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA
Stipe would often make up a story about Caroline before they would launch into a powerful version of the song. This story is much more straightforward, with Stipe thanking Dr. Seuss among others. These stories kept on adding to the mystique of Michael Stipe the lead singer.
11) Life and How to Live It – 10/29/2003, Avalon Hollywood Theatre, Hollywood, CA
I realized that after getting to this point that there are three Fables tracks in this ‘cast and suffice to say they just sorta fit. Live and how to Live It is a song that, as the years have progressed, I have found more enlightening, such that our society has often looked at life through two different viewpoints rather than looking at the context and complexities of life.
12) It’s The End of the World As We Know It/People Have the Power – 10/23/2001 - Crocodile Café, Seattle WA
A powerful version from the Crocodile Café, in Seattle Washingtion, Peter Buck’s home base in 2001. The song features Eddie Vedder as well who was in attendance and performed on a couple of tracks during the show.