Posts Tagged ‘Automatic For The People’

There was only one show performed in support of the 1992 release of “Automatic For The People”, that was on 19th November at the group’s old haunt, the 40 Watt Club in Athens GA. (almost 25 years to the day) Here is the recently discovered complete film of this performance. Special thanks to Dan Aguar & Todd Ploharsky for film restoration. The audio is available on all versions of the new 25th Anniversary Reissue of Automatic For The People. The Set includes four tunes from their recently released album including “Drive” (which was played twice), “Man on the Moon,” “Everybody Hurts” and “Monty Got a Raw Deal,” proving it wasn’t always bad to hear “and now here’s a new song.”


01 – Drive (0:00) 02 – Monty Got A Raw Deal (4:35) 03 – Everybody Hurts (8:49) 04 – [Greenpeace Speech] (14:42) 05 – Man On The Moon (16:07) 06 – [‘Oh Life’ Story] (21:25) 07 – Losing My Religion (22:35) 08 – Country Feedback (27:56) 09 – Begin The Begin (33:04) 10 – Fall On Me (37:05) 11 – Me In Honey (41:39) 12 – Finest Worksong (46:00) 13 – Drive (54:34) 14 – Love Is All Around (1:00:20) 15 – Funtime (1:04:47) 16 – Radio Free Europe (1:07:26)

There’s a famous quote from a movie. The movie was The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and the often-repeated line was, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Legend vs. fact. Reality and the silver screen. What goes on behind closed doors compared to what the public perceives. These are some of the themes of “Monty Got a Raw Deal,” the seventh track on R.E.M.’s 1992 album, Automatic for the People. In 1992, as R.E.M. were starting to record their eighth studio album, guitarist Peter Buck began to fiddle with a Greek stringed instrument called a bouzouki. Buck had already become enamored with mandolins, employing them on the band’s two previous LPs (1988’s Green and 1991’s Out of Time) before he began playing the bouzouki, which has a similarly stinging – but fuller, deeper – sound when plucked. He used the instrument to come up with a new tune.

“I wrote the main riff on my bouzouki in the hotel room in New Orleans,” said Buck, recalling that it happened in the middle of the night when a particularly affectionate couple were conducting business one room over. “I don’t know what the couple next door were doing,” he added. “It sounded like an orgy.”

The legend is that Buck came up with “Monty Got a Raw Deal” and, the very next day, R.E.M. recorded the basic foundation for it at Daniel Lanois’ Kingsway Studio in the French Quarter. But the facts appear to diverge from Buck’s memory.

R.E.M. Automatic For the People reissue

R.E.M. made Automatic in a number of far-flung locales and one of them was the Crescent City. But the band made its way to New Orleans in March, a couple of weeks after they had already demoed a huge batch of tracks in their hometown of Athens, Ga. – at a local haunt, John Keane Studios. And back in Athens, R.E.M. had already tracked an instrumental called “Bazouki Song” (sic) that would turn into “Monty Got a Raw Deal.”

Now, it’s possible that Buck further fleshed out an already existing idea in New Orleans or that his passionate neighbors helped him distill the song’s dark sound. But his story just sounds better. Print the legend.

“I was up late, couldn’t sleep,” Buck repeated in 1992. “We put it down in one take and [singer] Michael [Stipe] said, ‘Oh, that’s my favorite song.’”

It was only fitting that when Stipe created lyrics for the instrumental track that he’d do his own mythmaking – in this instance, regarding the movie business. He was inspired to write about Montgomery Clift after a photographer who had worked with the late film actor visited R.E.M. during the band’s creative process.

“The Montgomery Clift thing came because there was someone who was a photographer on the set of The Misfits who came by the studio,” Buck said. “He had photos from it and he was talking about it. … We saw those pictures and, while we were recording it, Michael was talking about it.”

The Misfits, released in 1961, featured one of Clift’s last film roles (and the final screen appearances of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable). It followed the Clift’s fall from grace. In the late ’40s and early ’50s, the Nebraska native had become one of Hollywood’s young stars, emerging at the same time as fellow method actors Marlon Brando and James Dean. Film studios began to market the good-looking, but brooding, star as a sex symbol – an identity further enhanced by his role opposite Elizabeth Taylor in 1951’s A Place in the Sun.

The gossip mongers spread rumors that Clift and Taylor were an item off-screen too. But the two Hollywood hotshots were just very close friends. After all, Taylor revealed later, Clift was more interested in romantic relationships with men. But being openly gay – or bisexual, as people close to the actor have claimed – in ’50s public life was not a viable option. Like many others, Montgomery Clift concealed his sexuality.

That was only one of the tragedies of Clift’s relatively short life. In 1956, he fell asleep while driving, crashed into a telephone pole in Beverly Hills and smashed up his face. Although he underwent plastic surgery, Clift’s looks were forever changed (part of his face was immobile) and he entered a depression. He coped with the pain with alcohol and pills, became an addict and began a long, slow decline that ultimately ended with his substance abuse-related death in 1966. He was 45.

R.E.M. weren’t the first band to write about Montgomery Clift in a rock song. The Clash depicted the disaster of the actor’s final years in “The Right Profile” on London Calling. But Stipe took a more empathetic approach with his lyrics, finding obvious parallels between his present life as a bisexual rock star and Clift’s time as a closeted film star. Each had endured the harsh light of celebrity.

“Monty Got a Raw Deal” doesn’t dispute the power of the movies or the allure of fame, even if he regards the latter with a jaundiced eye. “The movies had that movie thing / but nonsense has a welcome ring,” Stipe sings, before warning, “and heroes don’t come easy.” Perhaps the idea is that you can’t be a hero unless you suppress a part of yourself to live up to what the popular notions of a hero might be.

The song goes from film noir (“mischief knocked me in the knees”) to European expressionism, as he sees Clift lynched in a tree and buried in the sand – conjuring images of From Here to Eternity – even if that was Burt Lancaster, not Clift, rolling on the beach with Deborah Kerr. Our narrator is implored to stay mum, leading the chorus: “Don’t you waste your breath for the silver screen.” As the song continues, “Monty” becomes both tragic and mythical. The character becomes bigger, more representative of the marginalized, seemingly surviving torture, death and being outed. “Raw deal,” indeed.

Bassist/keyboardist Mike Mills is unsure whether the title of “Monty Got a Raw Deal” is an accidental double reference to Monty Clift and Monty Hall (who hosted the game show Let’s Make a Deal) or a particularly wry joke by Michael Stipe. Mills is more confident speaking to his role in the song, strengthening the recording’s noir-ish feel with the Carter Burwell-like wheeze of a melodica and a lumbering bass part.

“The bass is actually an old Guild electric bass that’s only about two feet long. The strings are rubber surgical tubing. When you play it, you get sort of a sound like an upright bass,” Mills has said. “For me, that’s what I think of when I think of that song. It looks like a lap steel with surgical tubing on it. It’s very strange.”

It wasn’t the only offbeat, but effective, choice made when recording and doing overdubs for the song. In addition to Bill Berry’s steady, sharp drums, “Monty Got a Raw Deal” features intermittent industrial crashes – startling bursts of background stomping that suggest the hazards of Clift’s story, Stipe’s experience or other tragedies.

“How much of the song is real, how much of it is about Montgomery Clift and how much is about home?” Buck asked in 1992. “I couldn’t tell you.”

A record that began with a message to the kids about control (“Drive”) ends with a song suggesting that we’re all powerless in the face of mortality. Time doesn’t stop. “The ocean is the river’s goal.” The only thing that’s truly “automatic for the people” is that every one of us has an end date. Even Andy Kaufman.

Maybe that’s gloomy – and there are plenty who think that the whole of R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People is pretty gloomy ­– but just because “Find the River” deals in death doesn’t mean it’s depressing. The finale gurgles with humanity, celebrating the path we’re all on, reminding the younger generations from the precipice of death: “All of this is coming your way.” Singer Michael Stipe’s goal doesn’t seem to be to inspire fear in the hearts of listeners, but acceptance. Enjoy your float downstream.

The resigned beauty isn’t just in the gently intoned words, but in the warm instrumentation. Most of it can be credited to the multi-talented Mike Mills, who played steady bass, soothing organ, Nashville piano, lots of acoustic guitars and that memorable melodica line on the track. With Bill Berry on drums, Mills recorded the song under the working title “10K Minimal” while R.E.M. were tracking demos in February 1992 at John Keane Studios in Athens, Ga. But because the demo was so fully realized, there was (10K) minimal work to be done when the “real” sessions began at Bearsville Sound Studios in Woodstock, New York.

Mills did it in about 30 minutes, and it had such a great feel because it was all of a piece,” guitarist Peter Buck, who doesn’t appear on the song, “I refused to try to redo that.”

In addition to all of his instrumentation, Mills had the idea to do something unusual with the backing vocals. The motivation, it turned out, came from a song from R.E.M.’s second album.

“‘Harborcoat’ from Reckoning has got me and Michael and Bill all doing completely unrelated things, and yet it works together,”said Mills . “We tried it again on ‘Find the River.’ I had the idea that Bill and I would go in and do some harmonies without listening to each other. It’s great because mine is this incredibly angst-ridden emotional thing, and Bill’s is this really low-key sort of ambling part. They’re two opposite ends of the spectrum but they’re both on there, and it’s a beautiful thing.”

R.E.M. Automatic For the People reissue

Because Stipe’s lead part, which was recorded at Miami’s Criteria Studios, is often understated, the other vocals become more prominent. Soaring and digging in the background, Mills’ and Berry’s differing approaches represent conflicting emotions about the impending fade-out. Stipe keeps it at ground level, even as he gets poetic with names of herbs and fruits to symbolize a return to nature. Although one of the herbs the frontman references – the mysterious “rose of hay” – isn’t an actual thing.

“I made it up because I needed, and could not find, something that rhymed with ‘way’ and ‘naiveté’,” Stipe revealed in 2008.

“Find the River” closes out Automatic for the People and it was the last single from R.E.M.’s eighth album. Released more than a year after its parent record had hit stores, the sixth single from Automatic came out on October. 21st, 1993. It proved to be the least successful, commercially, of the bunch, failing to chart in the U.S. and only getting to No. 54 in the U.K. It was one of only three R.E.M. singles released in the ’90s (out of a total of 24) to not make the Top 40 in Britain.

Due to the single’s lack of popularity, its relatively staid music video, directed by Jodi Wille, wasn’t widely viewed. In fact, when R.E.M. appeared on MTV in the U.K. in 2001, Mills requested that they show the “Find the River” video because he couldn’t remember having ever seen it.

R.E.M. didn’t perform the song much during their first post-Automatic tour (1995’s mega-tour for Monster), but took to playing “Find the River” in later tours, featuring the elegiac number heavily in 1999 and 2003. It’s fitting that the band included it in their last full concert in Mexico City in 2008. It was a worthwhile component of their live swan song.

After all, as Peter Buck noted in 1992, “It’s a great way to end the record.”

R.E.M. at Stravinski Auditorium, Montreux, Switzerland on July 6th, 1999

When the overarching themes of R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People are discussed, the first two things that come up are death and youth. There are songs that feature a woman on her deathbed (“Try Not to Breathe”), a mourning family (“Sweetness Follows”), a dead movie star (“Monty Got a Raw Deal”) and a person nearing the end of existence (“Find the River”). And then there are messages for the kids (“Drive,” “Everybody Hurts”) and lyrics wrapped in notions of childhood (“The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite,” “Man on the Moon”).

“Nightswimming,” Automatic’s penultimate track, exists near where these two themes meet – not quite at the intersection, but maybe a few blocks over. That’s because the song doesn’t deal in death exactly; it focuses on loss – the passing of youth. R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe doesn’t sing from the perspective of a teenager (as opposed to the similar “Perfect Circle”), but the vantage point of an adult. He employs the only known way to time-travel: Memories. His DeLorean is a “photograph on the dashboard.”

This song, so wrapped in memory, appears to inspire conflicting recollections among R.E.M.’s members. There are some things on which they agree — such as, in an instance that ran counter to the band’s usual workflow, Stipe had the lyrics for “Nightswimming” written before the sessions for the previous record, Out of Time. While the singer usually wrote words to demos made by guitarist Peter Buck, bassist/keyboardist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry, this time the process was reversed. This time, he asked Buck and Mills for music that fit his lyrics.

“Being competitive bastards that we are, Mike and I started auditioning chord changes and tunes for Michael,” Buck wrote in the liner notes for In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003. “The two tunes of mine that Michael rejected eventually became ‘Drive’ and ‘Try Not to Breathe.’ Mike had a piano instrumental that he played to Michael. He listened once, nodded his head to hear it again, and on the second pass he sang the lyrics. It was ‘Nightswimming,’ exactly like the record we would record a year later. I was standing in the corner dumbfounded.”

While everyone seems to agree that this is what happened, Buck and Mills don’t align on where this took place. Mike remembers demonstrating his “circular” piano piece in February 1992 at John Keane’s studio in R.E.M.’s hometown of Athens, Georgia. But Peter thinks all of this happened a bit earlier, in late 1990 as the band were completing work on Out of Time at Prince’s Paisley Park Studios outside Minneapolis. Other sources appear to back up Buck’s story.

But even assuming that “Nightswimming” – or “Night Swim” as it was originally titled – did first come together at the Minnesota studio, there is a discrepancy regarding if the song might have been considered, even briefly, for inclusion on Out of Time. At times, Buck has said that R.E.M. weren’t thinking about adding to their seventh LP, only recording ideas for future B-sides or album tracks. But he also has remembered that others including Scott Litt – who produced both Out of Time and Automatic for the People – were open to finding room for “Nightswimming” on the former.

“That one was finished,” said Buck in 2011. “Scott Litt and everyone’s like, ‘Gosh, should we put this on the record?’ But the record felt done. So we just kind of went, ‘Well, this is a good place to start with the next one.’”

So “Nightswimming,” along with early versions of “Drive” and “Try Not to Breathe,” laid the foundation for the Automatic sessions. But again, memories complicate the truth. R.E.M. told multiple writers, both journalists and authors, that the final rendition of the song that appears on Automatic used the demo that Stipe and Mills initially recorded.

But Buck (as mentioned above), remembers recording the song again “a year later” – after the final Out of Time sessions. Mills recalls a key detail that, if his memory is correct, would suggest the album version was tracked in May 1992 at Criteria Studios in Miami – one of several locations R.E.M. visited to make Automatic. Mills memory sticks out, because he recalls recording “Nightswimming” on the same piano that Derek and the Dominos used for the epic coda to “Layla.”

“It was tricky. It’s a great-sounding piano, but it’s, uh, not in the best shape of any piano I’ve ever seen,” Mills said  “But it had the provenance that you like in an instrument, and it was a thrill to play it.”

No matter if it was made in R.E.M.’s hometown, or in Prince’s studio or on the “Layla” piano, “Nightswimming” went from a simple piano-and-vocals composition to something grander when the band decided to adorn the recording with some orchestration. To do so, the guys got in touch with Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, who agreed to arrange symphonic parts for the song (in addition to “Drive,” “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite” and “Everybody Hurts”). At the end of May, Jones and R.E.M. met in Atlanta, where the accoutrements were performed by members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Deborah Workman played the oboe solo that comes in near the end.

The recording was completed, then mixed at Bad Animals in Seattle, and released as the 11th track on R.E.M.’s eighth studio album in October 1992. As Automatic for the People received an enthusiastic reception from fans and glowing notes from critics, journalists asked the band about the inspiration for these songs – specifically if “Nightswimming” was rooted in truth. Buck and Mills, who did not write the lyrics, felt that the song was based on the band members’ youthful indiscretions.

“We used to go swimming at night after rock ’n’ roll shows in Athens,” Stipe said. “We’d all go see Pylon or the Method Actors, then pile into a bunch of cars and go swimming in this pond. I think it was on private property, but we never really got into any trouble. It was all very innocent; we were only 19 or 20 years old.”

But Stipe, who penned the words, has contradicted himself a few times over about how personal “Nightswimming” truly is. In Reveal: The Story of R.E.M., he claimed that most of the song was “made up.” Yet in the liner notes for Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011, he wrote, “There’s a fairly autobiographical narrative to this one, and the part about the windshield really happened.”

And that’s not even taking into account Stipe’s 2001 claim that the song was first called “Night Watchman” and about a real man, but the singer changed it because he didn’t want to be sued. Caveat emptor: That same article carried a preface warning that half of the piece was made up.

If “Nightswimming” is – to paraphrase the title of an R.E.M. compilation – part lies and part truth, that’s all the better for a song about memories. “It describes something that I touched on a lot later on the record Reveal,” Stipe said, “which was kind of the summer as an eternity, and kind of an innocence that’s either kind of desperately clung onto or obviously lost.” In this song, the situation falls into the latter category. “These things they go away,” Stipe croons, “replaced by everyday.”

This bittersweet view of the past seemed to resonate with a wide range of R.E.M. fans, both casual and die-hard. Although the piano ballad wasn’t a big hit when it was released as Automatic’s fifth single in July 1993 (it did rise to No. 27 in the U.K.), it steadily built a reputation as one of R.E.M.’s most beloved works. “Nightswimming” has appeared on both of R.E.M.’s best-of collections that feature their Warner Bros. era work – nudging out fellow Automatic tracks that were, technically, bigger hits – showing the affection that the band and the fans share for this song.

Memories might not be perfect, but – many R.E.M. devotees would argue – “Nightswimming” is.

Automatic For The People [25th Anniversary Edition]

“Sweetness Follows” is the centerpiece of R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People, filling that role both logistically (it’s the sixth track of 12) and thematically. Rock writers, reacting to the album’s release in 1992 and in the decades after, have noted how the song might best represent the whole: gloomy with some rough edges, and mournful lyrics that appear to be about death or, more significantly, loss.

The grief comes in a steady torrent, right from the opening line, in which Michael Stipe sings, “Readying to bury your father and your mother.” Deep bends of cello jab alongside equally cutting introspection, concerning matters in a family that was anything but tight-knit (“Distanced from one / Blind to the other”). No matter if the song’s siblings are actually preparing to attend their parents’ funeral, or simply saying farewell to a broken relationship with their mother and father, the aftermath is the title phrase. “Ohhhh,” Stipe warbles in a drawn-out howl, “sweetness follows.”

Is R.E.M.’s frontman being sincere or sarcastic? The lyrics are cryptic enough to be read multiple ways, and the listener’s interpretation can fill the hollowed-out relationships of “Sweetness Follows.” Whatever their explanations, fans can rest assured that they’re probably getting it wrong. When asked in 2008 about which R.E.M. songs have been given the most surprising fan interpretation, Stipe listed “Sweetness Follows” first – even before the more famously misunderstood “The One I Love.”

Before Stipe added lyrics to the composition, “Sweetness Follows” entered the world as a demo by guitarist Peter Buck (with the working title “Cello Scud” by the time R.E.M. were gathering the Automatic demos in February 1992 at John Keane’s studio in Athens, Ga.). In the end, Buck thinks he’s the only R.E.M. member who played an instrument on the album version, finalized with producer Scott Litt at Bearsville Sound Studios in Woodstock, N. Y.

Peter wrote the bulk of it,” bassist/keyboardist Mike Mills said. “Actually, it’s mostly a demo. There’s no bass on it at all. It’s all cello, played through an amp.”

The cello part came courtesy of Knox Chandler, the one-time Psychedelic Furs collaborator who had worked with Buck on a side project. As Mills said, Chandler sawed away at the instrument, which was distorted through an amplifier. In addition, Buck contributed waves of guitar feedback, which he said “fills the space and pushes the song to a different level.”

“I did that a lot on the record, putting weird, harsh things underneath which undercut the song,” he said in 1992. “‘Sweetness Follows’ would be too saccharine if it didn’t have that discordant cello back there.”

Harsh things, discordant cello, an absence of drums and an abundance of difficult emotions meant that “Sweetness Follows” wasn’t an obvious choice for a single. However, the Automatic album track drew the attention of film director – and former rock journalist – Cameron Crowe, who chose to include the song in 2001’s Vanilla Sky. (The Tom Cruise vehicle also featured a re-recording of the R.E.M. leftover “All the Right Friends.”)

Not long before the movie entered production – but seven years after Automatic for the People was released ­– R.E.M. began performing “Sweetness Follows” in concert. The surging cello part was played on electric bass on the band’s 1999 tour, the first without drummer Bill Berry, who didn’t play on the original track.

That same year, when R.E.M. played Glastonbury, Stipe dedicated their performance of the song to Jean Eavis, the recently deceased wife of festival founder Michael Eavis (which, one would assume, means “Sweetness Follows” is not to be perceived as sarcastic at all). After playing the song regularly when promoting Up, the band would return to “Sweetness Follows” on subsequent tours through 2008, but only when the mood struck them.

“We play it occasionally,” Mills commented in 2007. “There are a lot of songs that we really enjoy, but you don’t want to play them every night.”

When talking about R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People, bassist/keyboardist Mike Mills claimed that the band recorded their 1992 album “in the four corners of the U.S.” While that statement might contain a slight misunderstanding of geography, it’s true that R.E.M. seemed to approach their new record like a progressive dinner. Recordings were done in Athens, Ga.; Woodstock, N.Y.; Miami, Atlanta, Seattle and New Orleans.

In March of ’92, they spent a little more than a week in the Crescent City, setting up camp at Daniel Lanois’ Kingsway Studio in the French Quarter. R.E.M. had already tracked a bunch of demos in their hometown of Athens, so the idea was to possibly create or refine a few more, while conjuring whatever strange sounds seemed to manifest.

Kingsway “is an old, haunted mansion – supposedly haunted – and filled with kind of neat, old antiques, neat instruments,” guitarist Peter Buck said in a 1992 promotional video. “And [we] did demos there, some of which ended up on the record.”

The band recorded much of Drive – vocals, guitar, bass and drums – by playing live-to-tape at the studio. Impressed with the results, R.E.M. decided to push further.

“It was two in the morning. There were a couple of bottles of wine around,” Buck said. “Then Daniel said, ‘Why don’t you just write some songs here? I sat down with a bottle of wine and wrote three things.”

One of them turned out to be the efficiently titled “New Orleans Instrumental No. 1.” The moody little number featured little more than quivering electric piano, thick-cut bass and an ear-catching foghorn guitar. You could almost hear the smoke billowing in a late-night club.

“That’s a groovy little thing. Peter had a volume pedal or some sort of weird guitar that made those noises,” Mills recalled . “We were just messing around making sounds, and decided to throw that song together. That came out of the sound of that guitar – that’s what got that song going.” Although a longer version exists, the two-minute, 13-second edit of the instrumental composition became the fifth track on Automatic. It’s more than a palette-cleanser between “Everybody Hurts” and “Sweetness Follows”; “New Orleans” seems to mirror the deeply felt emotions strung throughout the album.

Meanwhile, another song from those Kingsway sessions – named “New Orleans Instrumental No. 2,” of course – became the B-side to the single release of “Man on the Moon.” That track had a totally different feel, described by Buck as sounding like a “deranged piña colada commercial.”

Unlike Out of Time’s “Endgame” – the first instrumental to make a proper R.E.M. studio disc – “New Orleans Instrumental No. 1” was never performed by the band in concert. One of the lower-profile songs to grace an R.E.M. album, the tune recently got its time in the sun (or, more appropriately, the dark). The instrumental popped up in director Edgar Wright’s 2017 feature film Baby Driver, which was filmed, partially, in New Orleans.

“I would never claim to say that we captured any of New Orleans,” Buck confessed. “But I really wanted to conspicuously try and get a late-night horn feel, that muted trumpet thing.”

R.E.M. named their eighth studio album, 1992’s Automatic for the People, after a slogan employed by Weaver D’s, a joint in their hometown of Athens, Ga., that specialized in soul food. But the musicians didn’t just enjoy soul food, they were fans of soul music – an influence that got obscured by the music press’ constant references to the Byrds and New York punks.

But R.E.M. loved R&B records. They goofily covered Archie Bell and the Drells’ “Tighten Up” in the ’80s and some soul aficionados compared Bill Berry’s drumming to that of Booker T. and the MG’s member Al Jackson Jr.

It was Berry who came up with the rough idea for R.E.M.’s most soulful original song, “Everybody Hurts.” In mid-1991, Berry, guitarist Peter Buck and bassist/keyboardist Mike Mills met up to begin working on music for the band’s follow-up to Out of Time. (Singer Michael Stipe would enter the creative process later, which was standard operating procedure for R.E.M.) One day, the drummer, who also played other instruments, brought in a new idea. “Bill wrote most of it,” Mills has said. “He came in with the chords on guitar. We were actually playing with Bill on guitar, Peter on bass and me on drums. It sounded terrible. We thought, ‘This sucks. Let’s demo it playing our own instruments, play it right.’”

Buck described the initial version of the song, which had no chorus or bridge, as a country-ish ballad. As R.E.M.’s instrumental trio kept at it, the song began to develop a more soulful feeling.

“We went through about four different ideas and how to approach it and eventually came to that Stax, Otis Redding, ‘Pain in My Heart’ kind of vibe,” Buck recalled, “I’m not sure if Michael would have copped that reference, but to a lot of our fans it was a Staxxy-type thing,”

With Mills playing Booker T. Jones to Buck’s Steve Cropper, “Everybody Hurts” became something of a soul ballad. It had the some of the trademarks of a Stax ballad, including an arpeggiated guitar part, electric piano and 12/8 time signature.

“But then it’s shuffled through us. Like the bridge is in a way-weird different key,” Buck said in 1992. “We’re not Otis Redding. But given that, we took some of the influence, that music we loved for years.”

Berry, Buck and Mills didn’t think that Stipe would respond to their slow and simple approach, and that this track would be consigned to the b-sides and rarities bin. But the singer ended up taking to “Everybody Hurts,” which displayed a much different approach – both in lyrics and performance – to early R.E.M. While Stipe would play fast and loose with enunciation on songs such as “Gardening at Night” and “9-9,” that habit had slowly faded with R.E.M.’s rise to rock prominence. “Everybody Hurts” took one more step forward in being clear and direct. “There’s a time for obfuscation,”said Mills . “But this wasn’t it.”

Many times since the release of Automatic, R.E.M.’s members have discussed the lyrical ideas of “Everybody Hurts,” explaining that the anti-suicide sentiments of the song were directed at teenagers – or anyone, really – who might need to be reminded that so many people share pain, sadness and dark thoughts. The band had written political songs before (and elsewhere on this album), but this was R.E.M.’s first “message song.” And the message was, “You’re not alone.”

In an ironic twist, the man who was most responsible for the song ended up barely playing on it. Instead of Berry’s drumming, the majority of the track features a metronome-like beat created by a $20 Univox drum machine, although Bill was the one who programmed it.

Stipe “and I cut it live with this dumb drum machine which is just as wooden as you can get,” said the drummer  in 1992. “We wanted to get this flow around that: Human and non-human at the same time.”

Berry’s normal drums show up for the song’s bridge, and again at the end, when his crisp pounding helps bring “Everybody Hurts” to a soaring conclusion – aided in no small part by full complement of strings. The orchestration was the work members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, supervised by John Paul Jones. Via producer Scott Litt, R.E.M. had asked the Led Zeppelin bassist about arranging strings for “Everybody Hurts” and three other Automatic songs. He agreed and collaborated on the overdubs in the spring of ’92.

“John Paul Jones was great to work with,” Buck said in Reveal: The Story of R.E.M. “He knows his way backwards and forwards on just about every instrument. He’s a great arranger and a super sweet guy.”

“Everybody Hurts” became the fourth track on Automatic for the People, which came out in October 1992, as well as the fourth single R.E.M. released from the album. The song became a smash overseas, hitting No. 7 in the U.K., No. 4 in the Netherlands and No. 6 in Australia, where it remains the highest-charting hit of the band’s career. “Everybody Hurts” also went over well in R.E.M.’s home country, going to No. 29 on the charts, The commercial success was helped, maybe even overshadowed, by the song’s music video.

In one of R.E.M.’s most iconic clips, the band finds themselves in the middle of a traffic jam (shot by Jake Scott on a freeway in San Antonio). Subtitles flutter between song lyrics and – in a Fellini-esque touch – the unheard thoughts of R.E.M.’s fellow motorists, in snippets that are funny, strange and devastating. The band gets out of their car, Stipe starts to sing and everyone is moved to just get out and walk.

Michael is probably the best artist I’ve worked with in terms of understanding his performance, even though he’s so insecure all the time,” Scott, who is the son of big-time film director Ridley Scott said in 1995. “In ‘Everybody Hurts,’ he felt exposed and agoraphobic and I think that worked for the video. It’s rare that somebody has the confidence and awareness to look awkward and quite afraid in front of the camera.”

MTV agreed, playing the video early and often and awarding it multiple Moonmen at 1993’s Video Music Awards, at which R.E.M. performed the song for only the second time in public. (As with Out of Time, the band had again chosen to forgo a tour to promote Automatic.) But in the following years, “Everybody Hurts” became a frequent part of R.E.M.’s set and was featured at the band’s final full performance in 2008 in Mexico City. It’s been part of each best-of collection that includes the group’s Warner Bros. years.

“Everybody Hurts” also became bigger than just one of R.E.M.’s hits. In Nevada, a state that has a high rate of teen suicide, the legislature celebrated the song for its message. A U.K. counselling service based an ad campaign around the hit, hoping to help more young people who were contemplating suicide. And, in 2010, R.E.M. gave their permission for the song’s use (sans royalties) for an all-star charity single that sought to raise money for the people of Haiti after that year’s earthquake.

If the song has been perceived as too square, maudlin or basic by some music fans, Mills thinks that’s due to the song’s overexposure on the airwaves. But it’s clear that the members of R.E.M. take pride in it, especially Stipe.

“I don’t remember singing it, but I still kind of can’t believe my voice is on this recording,” he wrote in Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011. “It’s very pure. This song instantly belonged to everyone except us, and that honestly means the world to me.”

As R.E.M. were completing work on their eighth studio album, Automatic for the People, in the late spring of 1992, the quartet’s members grew concerned about the final track listing. For the most part, this was a batch of dark songs about difficult subjects. Perhaps a bit of levity, in the form of the buoyant “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite,” would be welcome in the running order.

“We included this song on Automatic in order to break the prevailing mood of the album,” guitarist Peter Buck wrote in the liner notes for In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003. “Given that the record dealt with mortality, the passage of time, suicide and family, we felt that a light spot was needed. In retrospect, the consensus amongst the band is that this might be a little too lightweight.”

Like the majority of the songs on this album, “Sidewinder” first came to life in rehearsal/demo sessions conducted by the instrumentalists in the band: Buck, bassist/keyboardist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry. Following a couple months of promotion for 1991’s Out of Time, the trio holed up in R.E.M.’s hometown of Athens, Ga., and began working on what they had planned to be a big rock record. But the tracks that most intrigued them – and singer Michael Stipe – turned out to be the quieter, acoustic-driven ones, and the melancholy music that would symbolize Automatic for the People started to coalesce.

But amid some of the softer, slower, minor-key stuff was an upbeat boogie, created the same day that the men came up with the music for “Man on the Moon.” Both were melody-forward, but the former seemed to recall R.E.M.’s sunniest moments, such as “Shiny Happy People” and “Stand.” It only became bolder with John Paul Jones’ string arrangement, added after the bulk of the album sessions in Atlanta.

“The other guys gave me this new song that is so beyond ‘Stand’ that it makes ‘Stand’ sound like a dirge,” Stipe has said in 1992, perhaps referring to what would become “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite.” “I mentioned it and they all started laughing. But it sounds like that song ‘The Sound of Philadelphia’ by MFSB. It’s really out there.”

R.E.M’s singer went “really out there” in penning the lyrics to “Sidewinder,” writing lines that list food (“A can of beans or black-eyed peas / Nescafe and ice”) or could be snippets of overheard conversation (“Uou can’t lay a patch by computer design / It’s just a lot of stupid, stupid signs”) or obsess over the tiny details (“There are scratches around the coin slot”).

But that’s not to say that this song isn’t sub-sub-sub-substantial. “Sidewinder” seems to be offering glimpses of a transient lifestyle with the hallmarks of a roadside motel – instant food, strange characters and pay phones. Although Stipe wrote the lyrics, the details may have mirrored aspects of guitarist Buck’s life, seeing as his first marriage was in trouble during the Automatic era.

“I didn’t even have a house,” he revealed in the documentary R.E.M. by MTV. “I was driving around listening to cassettes and staying in $19-a-night motels.”

The “Sidewinder” mentioned in the song’s title is a snake, perhaps a metaphor for the drifting narrator, or maybe it refers to the public phone that is so central to the lyrics. Some old-timey telephones were called sidewinders, because of the coil of cord that wound on the side of the machine.

It’s also possible that in the chorus (where Stipe squeezes nine syllables into the space of four, “callmewhenyoutrytowakeherup”), the “her” that he’s singing about could refer to the phone. If cars, boats and spaceships can be “shes,” why can’t a pay phone be a “her”?

Despite wearing a lighter pallor, “Sidewinder” still ties into one of Automatic’s main themes: youth, or rather, memories of youth. You can hear Stipe laugh as he sings, following the namecheck of Dr. Seuss (because he’s incapable of saying the children’s author’s name as Dr. Zeus). He goes on to sing about the Cat in the Hat and cartoons, in a lyric of which the singer is particular fond.

“Sidewinder” “holds on of my favorite lines ever, in ‘their world has flat backgrounds and little need to sleep but to dream’,” he wrote in the liner notes to Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011. “Cartoon characters never just get sleepy, they always have to have a dream of some floaty kind.”

R.E.M. Automatic For the People reissue

In the recording stage, the song’s working title was “Wake Her Up,” before it was changed to “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite” – a reference to the old Tokens’ doo-wop hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Stipe even cops that song’s “eee-dee-dee-dee” intro in the R.E.M. song’s opening moments. The guys had a genuine love for the song, which they had been covering since R.E.M.’s earliest shows, and decided to clear their nod to the pop classic with its songwriters.

“We actually paid them for that,” Buck revealed in 1992. “We didn’t want some guy, down the road, going, ‘You owe me two million dollars.’ So we called them up and said, ‘We’re calling it “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite” and the singer kind of paraphrases the line.’ In any court of law, we couldn’t have been nailed. Because the song doesn’t have anything to do with it. But you don’t want someone to feel that you’re stealing from them.”

R.E.M. also promised to cover “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” allowing Stipe to squeal with joy on the B-side of the “Sidewinder” single, thus ensuring the songwriters some royalties. Which is what happened when the band put out the song as Automatic’s third single in the winter of 1993, a few months after the album’s release. It kind of flopped in the U.S. (“Sidewinder” fared well on rock radio, but didn’t match the reaction to Drive or “Man on the Moon”), but went to No. 17 in the U.K.

Although “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite” has featured on multiple best-of compilations – including 2003’s In Time and 2011’s career-spanning Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage – R.E.M. never played the song in concert. It is one of only two tracks from Automatic for the People to never make it into a concert (the other being “New Orleans Instrumental No. 1”).

“That’s a song that to this day I’m not really sure what it’s about, but it’s a lot of fun,” Mills said in 2007. “We never do it live, but it’s a good record. It’s just one of those songs that never seemed like it need to be done live. We might’ve messed around with it at sound check a couple of times, but it never felt like something we should really try.”

“Try Not to Breathe” is a pretty bleak command. And, indeed, the second track from R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People is about death. But the song’s title originated with a much more innocuous statement.

During the demo stages for the album, which would come out in October 1992, guitarist Peter Buck was recording the groundwork for a possible new tune on acoustic guitar.

“We were doing the demo, and I had the mic for my guitar right up against my mouth. I was kind of huffing,” Buck said in 1992. “So John [Keane], the engineer, said, ‘You’re making too much noise.’ So I said, ‘OK, take two. I’ll try not to breathe.’ I just meant that I wouldn’t breathe during the take. But Michael [Stipe] heard it and said, ‘Oh, that’s a nice title.’”

Stipe took the idea away and returned with a completed lyric, a scene of someone on their deathbed, told from the perspective of person who is about to shuffle off this mortal coil. The singer came up with a poetic depiction of what this ailing figure would be feeling and thinking. There’s discomfort (“I can hold my head still with my hands at my knees”), but also strength (“The decision is mine”) and acceptance of the end (“I have lived a full life”).

In interviews at the time of Automatic’s release, Buck and bassist/keyboardist Mike Mills talked about the subject of “Try Not to Breathe” as a man (probably because Stipe is male). But the frontman later revealed his deeply personal connection to the song. He was writing about his grandmother. He was reflecting his feelings by imagining hers in what appears to be an internal monologue. She conveys love to her family silently, as thoughts run through her head: “I will try not to burden you / I can hold these inside / I will hold my breath until all these shivers subside / Just look in my eyes.”

Some rock critics and fans marveled at the capacity of a rock singer in his early 30s to write so movingly about an elderly woman. But in this, Stipe might have not only been inspired by his grandmother, but by another songwriter who had a gift for embodying people beyond his years in compositions: John Prine. For a couple years, Stipe had been singing Prine’s “Hello in There” at performances with Natalie Merchant and/or Billy Bragg, bringing an earnest empathy to the song’s portrayal of sad and lonely, elderly folks.

Long before it had lyrics, or a title, “Try Not to Breathe” was one of the first tracks conceived for Automatic for the People. During the final days of making Out of Time in 1990, Buck offered it to be the counterpart to Stipe’s “Nightswimming” lyrics. When the singer opted for Mills’s circular piano idea instead, the guitarist got his idea on tape at Prince’s Paisley Park Studios (where R.E.M. were mixing Out of Time).

The waltzing instrumental returned for the 1992 demo and recording sessions for Automatic, some of which took place at Woodstock, N.Y.’s Bearsville Sound Studios. At that point, the song was nicknamed “6/8 Sailor” for its time signature, then was marked “Passion” when the final touches were added at Bad Animals in Seattle.

“Chord structure-wise, it could be some kind of a mountain ballad,” was how Buck described the track that would appear as “Try Not to Breathe” on the final album. “But then it has electronically altered background vocals and feedback in the bridge, to give it an unsettling feel.”

Like Drive before it, this recording crackles in its mix of elements. There’s the roughed-up components (which Buck describes above) and the rattle that seems to be counting down the last moments. But there’s also those long, twangy guitar strains that seem to bend into eternity, drummer Bill Berry’s tasteful tom hits that give just enough to push the song forward, and Mills’ organ overdub, which adds grace to such finality.

If his keyboard playing brings grace to “Try Not to Breathe,” Mills’ backing vocals carry deliverance. Near the middle of the song, R.E.M.’s not-so-secret weapon swoops in to do his best Smokey Robinson. He’s a resplendent echo of the dying woman’s last thoughts: “Something to flyyyyy.” He’s nothing short of an angel, not coming to save the day, but to help make it better. Mills’ vocal performance is what stayed with him, long after he finished work on Automatic.

“A beautiful song, personally one of my favorite backing vocals that I ever did,” he said in 2007. “I felt like John Lennon when I came up with it. It’s very nice to feel like John Lennon even if it’s just for five seconds.”

As the album’s second track, “Try Not to Breathe” establishes the theme of mortality found on half of the 12 songs on Automatic for the People, but it was the first song on the album to deal with death. Musically, it carries over the acoustic foundation and dark sonic aesthetic from “Drive.” It helped define the album as more subdued and pensive, certainly less guitar-forward than much of Green or Document.

“On quiet little songs like ‘Try Not to Breathe’ … the guitar is always there, but it’s a discordant guitar bubbling under the surface,” comments Buck. “Automatic for the People isn’t a real rockin’ album, but I think that’s fine, because there are enough of those around this year as it is!”

Of course, R.E.M. had initially indicated that their follow-up to the blockbuster, but gentle, Out of Time would be a big, rock record. Instead, in the burgeoning era of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, they were offering a death rattle.

“My feeling was – not in a negative way – is that it was kind of a down record with a lot of minor keys,”said Buck in 2017, “and we were at the age when Michael was thinking a lot about mortality, so I didn’t expect it to be a huge hit.”

Yet, Automatic for the People, with the death-focused “Try Not to Breathe” in a prominent position, became a multi-platinum and critical success, displaying R.E.M. at the height of their cultural importance.

Before R.E.M. was finished making Out of Time, they had begun crafting Automatic for the People. They just didn’t know it yet.

In December 1990, they traveled to Prince’s famous Paisley Park Studios outside of Minneapolis to put the finishing touches and create the final mixes for Out of Time, which would come out a few months later. The band recorded a demo version of “Drive” on the final day of mixing for their soon-to-be blockbuster release.

“It wasn’t actually in the running for that album,” guitarist Peter Buck said in 1992. “When we’re mixing or doing overdubs, we all sit around with guitars and just play. I put this thing down on tape and then [bassist/keyboardist] Mike [Mills] added some stuff. We thought it might be a good B-side for that album.”

But “Drive” turned into much more than a B-side. Along with two other tracks that can trace their origins to Paisley Park (“Nightswimming” and “Try Not to Breathe”), the sparse acoustic guitar-propelled song eventually would set the tone for the Automatic for the People sessions. Although Buck, Mills and drummer Bill Berry initially tried to fashion a follow-up out of up-tempo rockers – sort of counter-programming after the delicate, pastoral Out of Time – the faster, harder songs had less appeal, both to the instrumental trio of R.E.M. and the band’s frontman Michael Stipe.

The way the group usually recorded was that Buck, Mills and Berry would first create a slate of instrumental demos, and then Stipe would write lyrics to the ones that most intrigued him. Buck credits the R.E.M. singer for plucking the minor-key “Drive” off the scrap heap.

“I had it on a cassette of demos and I always fast-forwarded through it,” Buck recalled. “I thought it was the most boring thing I’d ever heard. Then, all of a sudden, Michael had these lyrics, which defined the song for me.”

It’s ironic that, on the song that would become Automatic’s first track (and lead single), Stipe helps introduce this ballad-heavy record with the line, “Hey, kids, rock and roll.” The rest of the band loved the idea of having rock and roll in the lyrics, but not necessarily in the music, although Stipe maintained he wasn’t being snarky, but paying tribute to David Essex’s “Rock On” (a similarly spare recording featuring the same phrase).

“There were, before punk, a few songs that resonated with me,” said Stipe  in 2009. “One was David Essex’s ‘Rock On.’ ‘Drive’ is a homage to that.”

But “Drive” was more about telling kids to rock – even “around the clock” in a nod to the dawn of the genre. The lyrics appear to be about control, with “elder statesman” Stipe (he was barely over 30 at the time), reminding a younger generation to think for themselves. Certain lines also suggest a political angle. “Bush-whacked” gives you an idea of what Stipe thought then-President George H.W. Bush was doing to the country. “Ollie, Ollie in come free” might reference disgraced military man Oliver North, while also recalling a childhood game. Lost youth would be a running theme throughout Automatic.

“It’s a subtle, political thing. Michael specifically mentions the term ‘Bush-whacked,’” Buck said. “But if you want to take it like ‘Stand,’ that’s cool too. You like to think that you can appreciate these songs on any level you want to. I have a lot of records I listen to when I’m just doing the dishes.”

With the lyrics mostly in place, in early 1992, R.E.M. recorded a more complete demo version of “Drive” at John Keane Studios, a favorite establishment for the band to work in their hometown of Athens, Ga. Before the bulk of the Automatic sessions were to take place in March and April, the group spent a little more than a week in the Big Easy, playing and recording in Daniel Lanois’ Kingsway Studio.

“We did demos in New Orleans at Daniel Lanois’ studio, which is an old, haunted mansion – supposedly haunted – and filled with kind of neat, old antiques, neat instruments,” Buck said in a promotional video. “And [we] did demos there, some of which ended up on the record. ‘Drive’ is a live take from there. Bass, drums, guitar and vocals – all live.”

The demo recording was so alluring – with spindly acoustic guitar, deep bass, thunder-crack drums and Stipe’s rich vocals, set against a mass of empty space – that it became the foundation for the final track. Again, “Drive” was setting the tone for Automatic and the work that was yet to take place in Woodstock, N.Y.; Miami, Atlanta and Seattle in the spring of ’92.

R.E.M. would add to “Drive” during some of those sessions. An overdubbed melodica  appears at the 45-second mark, bringing some sweet to round out the stark, but also serving as the sort of piercing ring you’d hear in the aftermath of an explosion. But in this case, the explosion happens secondary to the aftermath, when Buck’s overdubbed fuzz guitar (plucked with a nickel for blunt force) crashes in like a fire bomb, setting the emptiness alight.

The emotion is not just carried in Stipe’s cavernous voice, but also in the symphonic strings that pair with the melodica about a minute-and-a-half into the song. According to Berry, the band were in Miami when they decided that strings might benefit some of the Automatic material, including “Drive.” As fans of John Paul Jones’ orchestrations as a member of Led Zeppelin, they contacted the multi-instrumentalist, who agreed to arrange and oversee the additions.

“Doing the string arrangements for that album was a great experience, actually,” said Jones  in 2010. “They sent me the demos of their songs, and we went into a studio in Atlanta, with members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. They were great songs, something you can really get your teeth into as an arranger.”

The strings lift “Drive,” but also swirl around its primary instruments, sometimes tangling with Buck’s fuzzed-up slashes. What began as a relatively subdued, haunting acoustic number turned into something much more vigorous: a track that built and built and built over the course of four-plus minutes, only to set down gently once more. Scott Litt (who had co-produced R.E.M.’s previous three LPs and would work on this one and the next two) thought that the sort of dynamism on display on “Drive” was a result of the band’s love of Queen.

“The arrangement of ‘Drive’ was, in part, inspired by Queen,” Litt said in 1995. “Pete and Mike are big Queen fans. Queen records, for all their bombast, sounded like each player had a personality.”

In the final stages of work, “Drive” was chosen to be the track that would lead off the album. It would also be the first single to be released from the album, on October. 1st, 1992, just a few days before Automatic for the People hit stores. Once more, “Drive” was setting the tone.

As a song without a chorus, “Drive” was a curious choice for the lead single. Perhaps, R.E.M. thought that that after “Losing My Religion” – a tune with a mandolin riff – had become a pop smash, anything was possible. “Drive” didn’t quite reach those heights, although this dark gem went to No. 28  (and did even better in Canada and Europe), became plastered on rock radio and served as the gateway for fans to Automatic.

The song’s video, featured prominently on MTV, also served as a signpost. Directed by frequent collaborator Peter Care (from Stipe’s concept), the black-and-white clip appeared to take its cues from Anton Corbijn’s crisp band photos found in the Automatic CD booklet, but added an element of danger. Strobe lights flash, a crowd of outstretched arms swells like a stormy sea and R.E.M.’s frontman appears to be taking part in one unpleasant crowd-surf or the victim of an angry mob. Cutaways are made to Buck, Mills and Berry, each blasted with a fire hose, in a strange appropriation of civil rights era images.

Automatic’s music videos became more important for the band’s image following R.E.M.’s decision not to promote the album with a tour (which had also happened the year earlier with Out of Time). However, the band did knock out one show in Athens for a Greenpeace benefit. At the concert, R.E.M. played a handful of tunes from the new record, including “Drive,” which featured a dramatically different approach. Instead of beginning with the haunting acoustic intro like on the record, the performance took the song’s name literally, launching with a pile driver of electric guitar and organ. The live version of “Drive” metastasized into herky-jerky funk-rock workout.

Although the live reimagining was recorded and released on 1994’s Alternative NRG (also to benefit Greenpeace) and became a B-side, most fans were introduced to the high-energy “Drive” during R.E.M.’s performance at the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards. It’s continued to be the way the band played the song on their massive Monster tour in ’95.

“We’ve played it a lot, it’s been in virtually every show that we’ve done since we’ve put it out, and after a while, you know, you want to give things a little bit of a different treatment,” said Mills in 2007. “The MTV Awards we did, it was fun to do, that was a chance to surprise a whole lot of people at one time. Music is not immutable, it’s organic, and while there are some songs we never change live, that was one that could do with a little moving around.”

The live version of “Drive” was released on the bonus disc of rarities and B-sides that came with special editions of In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003. Despite “Drive’s” status as a hit single, the original recording was left off the main edition, as well as the career-spanning compilation, Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011 – out-shouldered by Automatic for the People’s other notable singles.

But it remained a live favorite through to the end of R.E.M.’s performing days, and the band eventually reverted to playing “Drive” in a rendition that more closely resembled the original recording. It was one of five Automatic selections the group performed at their final full concert in 2008 in Mexico City. “Drive” was played early in the show, again helping to set the tone.