I do so love a list! Indeed I do.
This list however, is from a guest writer rather than myself.
Amf Armstrong is to R.E.M. what I am to Bon Jovi, so I asked him to write a post detailing how, when and why he got so into the band, along with his 20 favourite tracks from their extensive back catalogue.
So without further ado I give you Amf Armstrong on R.E.M. in his own words.
"Unlike most bands, REM's sound moved with the times,
Why I Love R.E.M. and My 20 Favourite R.E.M. Songs
By Anthony Armstrong
Most people know REM in some way or form, usually through masterpieces such as “Everybody Hurts”, “Man on the Moon” or “Shiny Happy People”. Indeed, this is where I started, but for me it really kicked off in pre-internet 1994, where all new music was found on the Radio or on ‘Top of the Pops’.
I was sat in my room playing Sensible Soccer on my Atari ST, when over the radio came this track that hooked me from the first guitar chord. It was “What's the frequency Kenneth” from the album ‘Monster’. I was surprised, as it sounded completely different to anything I had heard before.
Christmas was approaching and my sister Jackie asked what I wanted, so I asked for ‘Monster’ on cassette. In the meantime my friend's mother had a copied version of ‘Automatic for the People’ (the album that “Everybody Hurts” comes from). I copied the copied version and realized that REM was so much more than the famous tracks that everyone knows.
Ironically, on this copied version, the best song on the album was cut off at the end. That song is “Find the River”. That track to me is the stand out track from the album and possibly one of the best songs ever penned.
Christmas finally arrived; I got my hands on ‘Monster’ and played it to death. It was the best thing I had ever heard! From the voice and sometimes-incomprehensible lyrics of Michael Stipe, to Mike Mill's bass and Bill Berry's drums, to Peter Buck's guitar riffs.
Next I bought ‘The Best Of’, which was another surprise, as it took me back to 1982 and another completely new sound.
Unlike most bands, REM's sound moved with the times, and sometimes they were ahead of their time. Other big bands such as U2 and, dare I say it, Bon Jovi, have stayed or never strayed far from the same sound. This in its self is not a bad thing, it just differentiates REM from the rest, and that’s something they never really got the credit for.
"Personally, I tend to skip past them. Its not that I don't like them, far from it, its just you hear them so much on TV and radio."
Finding out about the band members, the one that stood out to me was Bill Berry, the drummer. A very underrated musician, he was much more than just the drummer in REM. He played most instruments, sung backing vocals and is responsible for writing some of REM’s greatest hits. In 1995 he suffered a double brain aneurysm on stage in Lausanne, Switzerland whilst touring the monster album. He went on to make a full recovery but only made one more album with the band before making the difficult decision of leaving in 1997. I found this out at my local Tesco on a cover of NME. Needless to say I was gutted. REM continued without him after initially saying they wouldn't, which was a relief, but the sound changed drastically as the Berry influence wasn't there. My love for REM never dimmed, but after Berry left they never quite recaptured the magic of the earlier albums, which I feel define them. Having saying that, my list does contain two non-Berry songs.
It somewhat irritates me that REM are remembered for a handful of big hits. Personally, I tend to skip past them. Its not that I don't like them, far from it, its just you hear them so much on TV and radio. There are, dare I say, some songs that I hate. Ok maybe not hate…strongly dislike. Not many, but there are a few. Of course there are more than a few songs that still to this day give me goose bumps. Their last album ‘Collapse Into Now’ is a masterpiece, mixing the old and the new as a farewell to the fans that kept them going for 31 years.
I know they called it a day at the right time, but a band with such an extensive back catalogue will surely end up releasing plenty of post-retirement collections. There have been many anniversary editions and re issues with alternate versions already, some of which I prefer to the originals. Two of the four members do the social media thing, so they are still in the limelight and there are rumours that Michael Stipe will be releasing solo material at some point…I wait with bated breath.
Scroll down for Amf's 20 Favourite R.E.M. songs
In no particular order…My 20 Favourite REM Songs
Amf Armstrong is the creator of the artwork for White River, Anonymous Wonderland and Forever Somewhere Else as well as Rob Phillimore's go to guy for photo shoots and other promotional materials. Check him out on:
Facebook - Amfs Quiz Page
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