R.E.M.‘s announcement earlier today that they’re “calling it a day as a band” after 31 years together hit the VH1 offices even harder than that earthquake did a few weeks back. As a means of aiding everyone accelerate through their own personal Kübler-Ross grief cycle, we reached out to a number of VH1 staffers and asked them to share their favorite R.E.M. memories. We sincerely hope that this feature is as instrumental in helping you reach your own personal Acceptance stage as it was for us. And if you have your own memories, please share them below in our comments section; we’d love to hear them!
“BEGIN THE BEGIN” (LIFE’S RICH PAGEANT, 1986) by TOM CALDERONE, PRESIDENT (@tomcalderone)
I was the program director of my college radio station, Buffalo State College’s WBNY, when Murmur came out. “Radio Free Europe” was the single, and R.E.M. was opening for the English Beat and Squeeze; that’s kind of what the pecking order was for them at the time. One day, their label called and said, “Hey, we’re selling a lot of records in Buffalo, and you’re the only radio station playing them, we want to have them come play Buffalo.” We said “Great!” So they played this place called the Lackawanna Sky Room. They told us, “We don’t really have much to play, we could use an opening act.” So we offered to help. At the time, the Goo Goo Dolls were so metal that it wasn’t the right call, but there was this other little band from Jamestown called the 10,000 Maniacs. We suggested them, explaining to them that this Natalie Merchant girl, she’s great, and the band’s really cool, and you guys will get along. That’s how the friendship between the bands began, back at the Lackawanna Sky Room. They were the nicest guys, incredibly giving to the college radio stations all across the country.
My favorite song by R.E.M. is “Strange,” which is actually a Wire cover. Of their originals, “Begin The Begin” is my probably my fave. It had a really cool edge to it, and sounded a little bit different than what they normally had done. It recently came to life to me again, about a year and a half or so ago, when The Decemberists did it live with Peter Buck on stage. I thought to myself, ‘I forgot how good that song was!’, so I revisited it again. Of their later material, “Crush With Eyeliner” was my favorite.
“EVERYBODY HURTS” (AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE, 1992) by SANDY ALOUETE, SVP MUSIC & TALENT RELATIONS
One of my former boyfriends was hellbent on buying the identical neon star from the cover of Automatic For The People, and he finally tracked one down outside of an abandoned motel in upstate NY. I loaned him the money to have it professionally cut down, I housed it for him in my parents’ garage until he could clear out enough space in his Greenpoint apartment/recording studio, and then not long after he got the star, we broke up. Did I ever get the money back? Nope. Shouldn’t I by rights take the neon star for my very own? Yep. EVERYBODY HURTS.