Posts Tagged ‘Mike Mills’

We’re pleased to announce the vinyl reissue of In Time: The Best of R.E.M.1988-2003. Spanning 1988’s “Green” to 2001’s “Reveal”, plus two previously unreleased tracks, the album charts the evolution of one of America’s most critically and popularly acclaimed rock bands. In addition to the wide reissue of In Time, a special translucent blue version of the 2-LP set will be available exclusively at Barnes & Noble.

Originally released in late 2003, In Time serves as an opportunity to reflect on the astonishing creative and cultural influence that R.E.M. offered during the height of their 30-year run together. One of the most revered groups to emerge from the American underground, singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry—who amicably retired from the band in 1997—helped originate college rock during the post-punk scene of the ’80s, and went on to become one of most popular and critically acclaimed bands in the world; their idiosyncratic blend of brash tunefulness, poetic lyrics, chiming guitars and evocative vocals served as a soundtrack to the cultural tide of the late ’80s and ’90s.

Available for the first time on vinyl in over 15 years, the album includes 18 hits, Out June 14th.

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Happy 8th birthday to R.E.M.’s farewell de force ‘Collapse Into Now’, released on this day in the US on 8th March 2011.

Sessions for Collapse Into Now started back in early 2009 with songs worked up with interesting titles such as ‘After Ski At Timberline Lodge’, ‘Rusty In Orchestraland’, ‘Victim Of Psychic Surgery’ & ‘Sounds Of The Big Racers’..., (the guys certainly having fun) eventually changing to more. For Collapse Into Now, R.E.M., which is singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, and bassist Mike Mills, re-teamed with Grammy Award-winning producer Jacknife Lee, who produced the band’s acclaimed previous album Accelerate. Lee is also noted for his work on albums by U2, Snow Patrol, The Hives, and indie stalwarts Kasabian, Editors, Aqualung, and Bloc Party. R.E.M. and Lee recorded the album in New Orleans at the Music Shed and in Berlin at the famed Hansa Studios, where several legendary albums, including David Bowie’s Heroes, U2’s Achtung Baby, and Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, were made. Additional recording and mixing was done at the venerable Blackbird Studio in Nashville.

The band has also revealed that Collapse Into Now features some very special guests: Patti Smith, guitarist Lenny Kaye, Peaches, Eddie Vedder, and The Hidden Cameras frontman Joel Gibb.

“I guess a three-legged dog is still a dog,” said Michael Stipe when drummer Bill Berry quit R.E.M. in 1997. True, but a three-legged dog never triumphed at Crufts or the racetrack. Even so, the R.E.M. that recorded 1998’s Up (experimental, frequently beautiful), 2001’s Reveal (lush, frequently beautiful) only started listing badly on 2004’s Around the Sun, where a mystifyingly insipid production and sluggish mood got in the way of frequent bouts of beauty. Stung into action, they tore through 2008’s frequently thrilling Accelerate – but can an R.E.M. album ever feel like an event again?

The clock is indeed ticking for the band, this being their 15th album on their 30th anniversary. But Radiohead should be so lucky at this stage. Even if a lyric sheet on a R.E.M. album doesn’t feel right, Stipe’s words are alluring, enigmatic and provocative, free of rhetoric (the Hurricane Katrina aftermath of Oh My Heart notwithstanding). Unlike Accelerate, Collapse into Now is also free of a planned response to a predecessor. It’s as varied and deep as previous R.E.M. classics. It’s not epochal like Automatic for the People, but it can’t be. These are different times.

On that basis, the album kicks off like Accelerate Part Two, with Discoverer and All the Best incorporating that sinewy and keening R.E.M. rock thrust of old. There are also passages that are, yes, frequently beautiful. All five ballads get the tense, urgent delivery they deserve, and at best, Walk It Back show as they get older, R.E.M. are even better at gravitas, Oh My Heart’s accordion/mandolin undertow is an immediate earworm and Every Day Is Yours to Win is the kind of wistful lullaby often reserved for an album finale.

The closing track here is more in line with You from 1994’s Monster: Peter Buck’s guitar is drenched in fuzz, Country Feedback-style; Stipe’s spoken word diatribe and Patti Smith’s solemn incantation equally fire; and a surprise coda returns to Discoverer’s exuberant chorus. Before then, though, we’ve heard the first (non-session) guest men on an R.E.M. album. Every Day… features Eddie Vedder and The Hidden Cameras’ Joel Gibb on valiant backing vocals and Patti’s faithful guitar foil Lenny Kaye transforms Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter into something that’s virtually hard rock (Peaches adds lascivious vocal back-ups). Fun, maybe, but also overblown. Consider it the album’s only misjudgement. Fortunately, That Someone Is You follows in a more dutifully golden, Byrds-ian rush.

One of the great final gasps of R.E.M. is this stunning jam that stresses the idea of carpe diem. It’s about embracing the unknown and the changes that come from within. Musically, the whole thing brims with harmonies, hooks, and the kind of woodsy instrumentation that made the Athens outfit so iconic, but we’ll leave it to Stipe to explain the lyrical nature itself: “I wanted to picture an almost blunt outsider’s perspective – the experience of a guy who is walking through a city that is completely new to him and still very unfamiliar. I have combined these two words to express that. I don’t pretend being a German or a Berliner. Not at all. I just tried to figure out the mind of this outsider….” Well, there you are.

Buck reckons no R.E.M. in 20 years has 12 songs as good as this. 1996’s New Adventures in Hi-Fi may have something to say about that, but Collapse into Now genuinely feels like their first post-Bill Berry album to resemble a four-legged dog. And that, folks, is an event.

The Baseball Project ((Steve Wynn, Mike Mills, Scott McCaughey, Linda Pittmon) performed The Kinks ‘Lola’ as part of the Wild Honey Orchestra performing ‘The Kinks Are The Village Green Appreciation Society’ album & other Kinks classics at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, CA, alongside many other guests.

R.E.M. were known to cover Kinks songs such as ‘Tired Of Waiting For You’ back in the day….

Wynn and drummer Linda Pitmon came to Portland for the sessions, by which point they’d written 16 baseball songs between them. That’s when they reached out to R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck. He and McCaughey have shared a lot of history these past few decades.

Buck has been a fairly steady member of McCaughey’s the Minus 5 since 1993. And McCaughey was an R.E.M. sideman from 1994 until the breakup in 2011, playing on every R.E.M. release from “New Adventures in Hi-Fi” to “Collapse into Now.” 

“We drafted Peter because Peter likes to make music,” McCaughey says. “He didn’t care about the baseball thing so much. But he likes to make records, so he got in on it. We didn’t really think it was gonna be a band at that point. We just thought we were making a record about baseball.” That record was the Baseball Project’s first release, “Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails.”

And as McCaughey recalls, “We had such a good time with it, we turned into a band. And we’ve kind of kept going since then with no end in sight, although it’s been a long time since our last record. We’ve been kind of dawdling.”

They’ve recorded three albums and taken on another famous member, R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills.

Mike came in as kind of a pinch hitter because Peter couldn’t do some tours that we had planned,” McCaughey says. “So Mike started playing bass on the live shows and then he just became a full-on band guy so we swelled our ranks to a five-man team.”

The Wild Honey Foundation Presents A benefit for the Autism Think Tank The Wild Honey Orchestra performs The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society.

Last month we highlighted a giant 9-disc R.E.M. boxed set filled with BBC Recordings, and while it’s still not officially announced though it seems we’re close to that happening  It appears the full details and a complete tracklist for the package.

REM grew up with the BBC, and this historic relationship is lovingly celebrated across an incredible collection that beautifully illustrates the career trajectory of one of modern music’s greatest bands. The collection comprises a treasure trove of rare and unreleased live and studio recordings culled from the BBC and band archives. This is a must-have collection for REM fans and an authoritative introduction for newcomers.

Due out October. 19th, R.E.M. at the BBC is now fully listed on Amazon.co.uk, along with a 2LP vinyl set called The Best of R.E.M. at the BBC that’s listed for release that same day. The set now has been officially announced, and we can add that The Best of R.E.M. at the BBC will not only be released as a 2LP vinyl set, but a 2CD edition as well.

So what’s in this thing?, here’s a quick rundown of the set, which includes live material recorded both in concert and in the studio for the BBC between 1984 and 2008.

Disc 1: A round-up of BBC in-studio sessions, including six songs recorded in 1991, plus a 1998 session with the legendary John Peel and more songs recorded in 2003 and 2008.

Disc 2: A 12-song performance recorded at the BBC Radio Theatre in London in 1998.

Disc 3: Perhaps the most exciting to longtime fans, this is a 16-song set recorded at Rock City in Nottingham, England, in 1984 during the Reckoning tour.

Discs 4 and 5: A complete 25-song Monster tour set recorded at Milton Keynes in 1995.

Discs 6 and 7: The band’s Glastonbury festival appearance in 1999 following the release of Up.

Disc 8: An 11-song, invite-only performance at St. James’s Church in London in 2004.

Disc 9: A DVD featuring the “Accelerating Backwards” film plus a “Later… with Jools Holland” appearance filmed in 1998, and a few other assorted performances.

As for the 2LP and 2CD “best of” editions, they’re described as offering “a selection of in-studio performance and live broadcast highlights” from the boxed set.

It should be noted, though, that the two contain slightly different tracklists, and the 2CD edition does include audio of two “Later… with Jools Holland” performances only included on the DVD of the larger set.

R.E.M. in Ireland in 1994.

R.E.M. collected rare and unreleased live and studio material for the massive R.E.M. at the BBC box set, out October 19th via Craft Recordings. The career-spanning set, assembled from the BBC and band archives, will be available in several formats: digital, 2-CD, 2-LP and a Super Deluxe 8-CD/1-DVD box set.

The deluxe package includes several in-studio sets (a John Peel Session from 1998, Drivetime and Mark and Lard from 2003, a Radio 1 Live Lounge performance from 2008) and live British broadcasts (1984 in Nottingham, 1995 in Milton Keynes, a headlining 1999 show at the Glastonbury Festival and an invitation-only 2004 set at St. James’s Church in London).

R.E.M.: R.E.M At The BBC

The DVD includes an hour-long retrospective of the band’s BBC performances in the Accelerating Backwards film, previously broadcast only in the U.K; it also includes interviews with R.E.M. members Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills, along with performances on Later….With Jools Holland, Top of the Pops and more.

R.E.M. at the BBC features elaborate liner notes from BBC DJ/presenter Jo Whiley, BBC producer Mark Hagen and rock journalist Tom Doyle.

An instant-grat download of “Losing My Religion,” recorded in 1991 for an Into the Night session, is available with pre-orders of the box set or the two-disc Best of the R.E.M. at the BBC album.

R.E.M. grew up with the BBC, and this historic relationship is lovingly celebrated across an incredible collection that beautifully illustrates the career trajectory of one of modern music’s greatest bands. The collection—available as a super-deluxe edition 8-CD/1-DVD box set, as well as 2-CD, 2-LP and digital formats—comprises a treasure trove of rare and unreleased live and studio recordings culled from the BBC and band archives. This is a must-have collection for R.E.M. fans and an authoritative introduction for newcomers. In-studio performances featured in the 8-CD/1-DVD box set include a John Peel Session (1998), Drivetime and Mark and Lard appearances (2003) and a glorious Radio 1 Live Lounge performance (2008). Live broadcasts include a rough-and-tumble show from Nottingham’s Rock City (1984), the stunning 1995 Milton Keynes Monster Tour (their first after a six-year break), a blistering 1999 Glastonbury headline set and an invitation-only 2004 show at London’s St James’s Church.

R.E.M. have now released a version of ‘E-Bow the Letter’ featuring Thom Yorke to celebrate the release of their new BBC Sessions box set.

The New Adventures in Hi-Fi track was originally released as a single in 1996 and featured backing vocals from rock icon Patti Smith. This version of the track was recorded in 2004 at St. James’s Church in London, where Thom Yorke made a surprise appearance. Radiohead had supported R.E.M. back in 1995 on their Monstertour.

R.E.M. at the BBC is out October 19th

R.E.M. grew up with the BBC, and this historic relationship is lovingly celebrated across an incredible collection that beautifully illustrates the career trajectory of one of modern music’s greatest bands. The collection—available as a super-deluxe edition 8-CD/1-DVD box set, as well as 2-CD, 2-LP and digital formats—comprises a treasure trove of rare and unreleased live and studio recordings culled from the BBC and band archives. This is a must-have collection for R.E.M. fans and an authoritative introduction for newcomers. In-studio performances featured in the 8-CD/1-DVD box set include a John Peel Session (1998), Drivetime and Mark and Lard appearances (2003) and a glorious Radio 1 Live Lounge performance (2008). Live broadcasts include a rough-and-tumble show from Nottingham’s Rock City (1984), the stunning 1995 Milton Keynes Monster Tour (their first after a six-year break), a blistering 1999 Glastonbury headline set and an invitation-only 2004 show at London’s St James’s Church.

On March 31st, 2008, R.E.M. released their 14th studio album in europe, “Accelerate”,  As the title implies, the record, possesses great urgency. Songs such as “Living Well Is the Best Revenge” and “Horse to Water” careen and lurch forward on the strength of buzzing guitars, lithe bass lines and racing tempos. The goofy, dissonant “I’m Gonna DJ” with lyrics such as “Death is pretty final / I’m collecting vinyl” cloaks its apocalyptic messages in crunchy glam riffs that hark back to 1994’s Monster.

To many, Accelerate felt like a decided sonic nod to the band’s past. After all, the lead single “Supernatural Superserious” boasts clear-eyed guitar jangle, and the acoustic-led “Until the Day Is Done” has the kind of elegiac folk vibe the band favored on 1992’s Automatic for the People.

OF course, R.E.M. had been threatening to “go back to their roots” for years; it was a running joke among fans that the phrase would crop up during album’s pre-release promotional cycles. But vocalist Michael Stipe for one demurred that Accelerate sounded like “a cousin” to 1986’s Lifes Rich Pageant and 1987’s Document.

“I’m really bad at looking backwards, and I’ve stated that a thousand times before,” he responded. “Even thematically, I had no idea where the direction the record would go. I try not to think, or overthink, what I’m writing about and let it come through me and be in some more unconscious voice.

“Thematically, I didn’t know ’til halfway through how the record was shaping up, and the different emotions that are touched on and the different scenarios that are played out in the record.”

Still, as the songs for Accelerate coalesced, the band did nod back to their early road warrior days. Peter Buck and bassist Mike Mills began working on instrumental demos in winter 2007, assisted by touring members Bill Rieflin and Scott McCaughey. The music they wrote was faster and more aggressive than other material they had written in years.  Mills suggested the band work out its new songs in a live setting before recording them, as it had done in its early years so over five nights in July 2007, R.E.M. hunkered down at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, and workshopped their new songs and unearthed seldom-heard chestnuts (“Circus Envy,” “Kohoutek”) in front of a live audience. The album was recorded the album in a nine-week schedule. Stipe said, “We spent less time making this record than we have in 20 years”

As had been the case throughout R.E.M.’s history, a couple of these new songs (“On the Fly” and “Staring Down the Barrel of the Middle Distance”) never made it past the live tryout to a studio record. But other future Accelerate songs, including “Man-Sized Wreath” and the title track, were vital.

In several other notable ways, Accelerate was a firm step forward. For starters, the band worked with producer Jacknife Lee, at the recommendation of U2 guitarist the Edge. Stipe, who had enjoyed Lee’s work with bands like Snow Patrol and Bloc Party, said the producer was an asset in the studio.

“I think he’s got his own style, but more than anything, it’s probably just a directness, a straightforward way of communicating, which is something that the band, we were looking for in ourselves on this record. And he definitely has his own sound. I think he does, anyway. It’s a little different. He doesn’t necessarily come from rock music and so the universe that he collides with our universe is interesting.”

Accelerate is a real pop album in the sense that the arrangements are (generally) compact and don’t skimp on hooks. But, if anything, Lee’s influence—when combined with the ferocity of studio drummer Bill Rieflin—ensured this record possessed the kind of velocity that was largely absent on R.E.M.’s previous studio album, 2004’s Around The Sun.

Accelerate is also full of biting, observant songs touching on society and politics. “Houston”—a song “filled with sadness,” Stipe refers to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.

“I was writing from the point of view of someone who has barely survived Hurricane Katrina and then been displaced,” he explained. “Barbara Bush, the ex-First Lady and the president’s mother, said, ‘So many of the people were underprivileged anyway, so this is working well for them.’ Hello, Barbara, these are people who lost everything. I know people who lost family members, their homes, everything.”

In an odd twist, Accelerate feels extremely relevant to the post-2016 roiling political climate–even though Stipe told Huffington Post in 2008 that certain songs were written about the political chaos of that time. “All of the new songs are fictional. ‘Mr. Richards’ could be about any member of the current administration. “Living Well Is the Best Revenge’ is about the 24-hour, personality-driven news media. ‘Until the Day Is Done’ is about how the idea of America is so much greater than where this country has gone.

“The title of the album is tied to my conception of the 21st century as it has unfolded,” Stipe added. “I just thought we would have solved these problems by now. So here we sit, even as people feel, as I do, that things are moving way too fast. We are out of control.”

Accelerate landed at No. 1 on the album charts in the U.K., After the album’s release, R.E.M. embarked on what would be their last world tour as a band.

A deluxe edition of the album was released in addition to the standard edition; it includes a DVD featuring filmmaker Vincent Moon’s film 6 Days, which includes behind-the-scenes footage and performances of various songs on the album. Two B-side tracks, “Red Head Walking” and “Airliner,” are included as bonus tracks, along with a 64-page booklet. The vinyl version consists of two 12 inch discs each running at 45 RPM, and contains the full album on CD.

All songs written by Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe, except where noted.

  1. “Living Well Is the Best Revenge” – 3:11
  2. “Man-Sized Wreath” – 2:32
  3. “Supernatural Superserious” – 3:23
  4. “Hollow Man” – 2:39
  5. “Houston” – 2:05
  6. “Accelerate” – 3:33
  7. “Until the Day Is Done” – 4:08
  8. “Mr. Richards” – 3:46
  9. “Sing for the Submarine” – 4:50
  10. “Horse to Water” – 2:18
  11. “I’m Gonna DJ” – 2:07

Bonus tracks

  1. “Red Head Walking” (Calvin Johnson) – 2:11
  2. “Airliner” (Buck, Mills, Stipe, and Scott McCaughey) – 2:21
  3. “Horse to Water” (Live from Athens) – 2:17
  4. “Living Well Is the Best Revenge” (Live from Athens) – 3:12
  5. “Until the Day Is Done” (Live from Athens) – 4:06
  6. “Supernatural Superserious” (Live from Athens) – 3:25

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.”

SETLIST:

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.