Each Friday, I post Flashback Friday, where I use St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Examen as a guide and usually ask the following questions: For what are you least grateful this past week? For what are you most grateful this past week?
Unlike with U2, I came to discover R.E.M. several albums after their first few albums. It wasn’t really until Sept. 17, 1989 that I fell head over heels in love with their music. It was on that date that I saw them at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia with a group of friends from college, and I never went back to not being a fan of their work, purchasing almost every album they put out…up until at least 2000.
As I recall, they didn’t use a lot of smoke or pyrotechnics, if any. The music was front and center, well for the most part…except, of course, naturally Michael Stipe was front and center…again for the most part. Actually he was all over the place – a dancing fool.
The music was straight ahead “college music,” whatever that meant and still means but it fit what R.E.M. was. (For the complete setlist, see here.) Appropriately, The Throwing Muses, an obscure band known mostly to white suburban college kids, were their opening band since R.E.M.’s lyrics were obscure too, except to the initiated — and even they weren’t always sure what Michael was ranting against except it was “the establishment” and that was cool with them — and with me at that time.
Not that every song was a rant. Some were actually love songs but the majority weren’t and that in part is what set R.E.M. apart from most pop music in the 1980s and into the 1990s.
On Wednesday of this week, the band announced it was disbanding after 31 years and I remembered not only that concert in 1989 that I saw them but also the time that my wife and I saw them on the Vote for Change Tour in 2004 along with Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band, Bright Eyes, John Fogerty. That concert was Oct. 1 (complete setlist here). Stipe was still a dancing fool and the music again was mostly front and center (of course, with the message not to vote for that douchebag). They still had it then…I haven’t seen them since so I don’t know if they lost it or not, but on my proverbial turntable and on most of the CDs I own by them, they always will still have it…whatever “it” is…and for that, I’ll be forever grateful even if I’m not as grateful that they decided to “call it a day” as they termed it in their announcement on Wednesday.
I’ll leave you with videos of a handful of my favorite songs over the past 31 years, starting with one from the Green album since that’s where I started with them:
and from my favorite album, Life’s Rich Pageant:
So for what are you least grateful and most grateful this past week?