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Subject: Rec.music.rem Frequently-Asked Questions list (1 of 3)

This article was archived around: Mon, 05 Jan 1998 16:05:58 GMT

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Archive-name: music/rem-faq/part1 Posting-frequency: monthly Last modified: Jan 5, 1998
------------------------------------------------------------------------- The R.E.M. - Usenet rec.music.rem FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS LIST Last revision 1/5/97 Maintained by Ron Henry (eviscerate@geocities.com,rgh3@cornell.edu) ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Contents: Part 1. About The Newsgroup, and How to Get its Documents Part 2. Some Very Basic Information About The Band Part 3. The FAQ Proper: Questions That You Don't Need to Ask A. General Questions B. Album Covers, Liner Notes, and Other Packaging Questions C. Those Darn Lyrics; and Other Music Questions D. Questions on R.E.M.'s Live Performaces Part 4. Where To Get More Information about R.E.M. (Books) Part 5. R.E.M. on Video Part 6. Resources Available on the Internet Part 7. A Primer on R.E.M. Bootlegs/Live tapes Part 8. FAQ Index by Subject Acknowledgments --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Part 1. About The Newsgroup, and How to Get its Documents An R.E.M. Internet e-mail list first began in Feb. 1990 as a part of Project Athena at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In July of 1993, it moved to Lynchburg College in Virginia; then, due to the ever-increasing volume of Internet interest in the band, and the resulting unmanagability of the volume of postings to the list, the Murmur list was discontinued and replaced by a Usenet newsgroup. On March 28, 1994, "rec.music.rem" was created, after winning a landslide voter approval (789 to 241). Consequently, the MURMUR e-mail list is no longer available. (However, see the section on Internet resources for currently-available mailing lists through athens.net.) The most recently updated version of the full FAQ can always be obtained by: * WWW browser to http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/8789/remfaq.htm; or * email eviscerate@geocities.com (text version only); or * follow the link from the "REM Home Page" site www.svs.com; or * it is occasionally posted to Usenet newsgroups rec.music.rem, rec.answers, and news.answers. Lyrics to all of R.E.M.'s albums can be gotten via the Web at Kipp Teague's Retroweb page, http://www.retroweb.com/remlyrics.html (Note: these files are consensus lyrics worked out by members of the Murmur mailing list and rec.music.rem over the years. You may not agree with all of them, but keep in mind that many people have worked very hard to make them as accurate as is humanly possible, so do give them the benefit of the doubt. For those wondering about specific references in the lyrics, Chris Piuma has compiled the R.E.M. Lyrics Annotations FAQ at http://www.brainlink.com/~cafard/remlafaq.html. Several specialized supplements to the regular FAQ document have been prepared (email eviscerate@geocities.com for copies if interested): * Collected posts and responses to Michael Stipe's on-line sessions in August 1995; * The "Real People in R.E.M. Songs" list, compiled by Gary Nabors, author of the book Remnants; * List of REM videos with directors and brief descriptions; * Multi-part index to Gray's R.E.M. reference book It Crawled from the South (1st ed., 1993), compiled by Cindy Donlin; * The Band Members' Illness FAQ, which summarizes Bill Berry, Mike Mills, and Michael Stipe's surgeries during the World Tour 95; * "Lame Postings to the Newsgroup and How to Cope" article to help readers face the insanity that is Usenet; * Mini-FAQ of information about the album New Adventures in Hi-Fi; * Transcript of Michael Stipe on the AOL Webstock forum; * R.E.M. Monster World Tour FAQ; * R.E.M. Monster World Tour Setlists statistics, compiled by Martin Hoyt; To comment on or make a suggestion for the FAQ-lists, send email to me (rgh3@cornell.edu). Enjoy rec.music.rem! --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Part 2. Some Very Basic Information About The Band R.E.M. Since late 1997, the band members are Peter Buck (guitar and other stringed instruments), Mike Mills (bass, keyboards, and vocals) and Michael Stipe (vocals). Until late 1997, the band included Bill Berry (percussion, backing vocals). Other folks of note have included Bertis Downs IV (the band's lawyer), and Scott Litt (producer of their albums from Document to New Adventures). Prior to 1996 the band's manager was Jefferson Holt. Albums to date: * Chronic Town (EP), 1982 * Murmur, 1983 * Reckoning, 1984 * Fables of the Reconstruction..., 1985 * Lifes Rich Pageant, 1986 * Document, 1987 * Green, 1988 * Out Of Time, 1991 * Automatic For The People, 1992 * Monster, 1994 * New Adventures in Hi-Fi, 1996 Compilations: * Dead Letter Office, 1987 (B-sides and Chronic Town reissue) * Eponymous, 1988 (I.R.S. Greatest Hits) * The Best of R.E.M., 1991 (European Greatest Hits) * In the Attic, 1997 (EMI "Rarities" package) Note that the European I.R.S. reissues of albums through Document include most of the bonus live and b-side tracks included on In the Attic. See the Discography (link from http://www.svs.com ) for a more complete description of all the official releases. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Part 3. The FAQ Proper A. GENERAL QUESTIONS o A1. "How do I join the fan club? Is it worth it?" Write to: R.E.M., PO Box 8032, Athens, GA 30603. The yearly cost is US$10; $12 if joining from overseas. You will have to renew every year. For joining, you get a few postcards/newsletters, some random promo stuff when a new record comes out (usually a poster, some buttons, photos, things of that nature) and a holiday package containing the ever-famous Christmas collector's edition fan club single, and possibly other goodies like a calendar. Only you can decide if this is a good deal -- but bear in mind that such collectables generally increase in value over time, especially the fan club singles. o A2. "What does the 'J' in J. M. Stipe stand for?" John. Nobody knows why he dropped the name but still uses the initial. Much biographical information on the band members' full names, birthdays, home towns, childhood, and educational backgrounds is covered in detail in the book It Crawled from the South by Marcus Gray. o A3. "Are there any R.E.M. fan newsletters I can subscribe to?" Here is a quick list of a few recently-published R.E.M. fanzines, in no particular order (fanzines tend to come and go, so it's a good idea to check if it still publishing before sending money): * 394 Oconee, c/o Pattie Klienke, P.O. Box 304, Union City, NJ. 07087-9998; (Single issue: US $3, UK & Europe $5 US) * Country Feedback, RR1 North Road, Jefferson, NH 03583; (Single issue: US $3, UK & Europe 5 US dollars; payable to Country Feedback) * Chronic Town, 27 Oriel Drive, Old Road, Liverpool, L10 3JL, England; (Single issue: UK 2 pounds, Europe 2.50 pounds, Australia 3 pounds, US 5 pounds (no US checks!)) * Murmur, c/o Stephen Rennicks, Church Rd, Ardbraccan, Navan, Co.Meath, Ireland; (Single issue: UK 1.80 pounds, US 6 pounds; payable to Stephen Rennicks) o A4. "Doesn't R.E.M. stand for 'rapid eye movement'?" In the scientific field of sleep research, the acronym r.e.m. indeed stands for "rapid eye movement," and refers to the stage of sleep in which, among other things, dreaming occurs. But, in the case of the band, no, it doesn't. The story related by Peter Buck on the band's early 1983 Late Night with David Letterman appearance is that they picked it out of the dictionary (not all dictionaries include scientific terms like "r.e.m.," so don't be disappointed if you don't find it) and they liked it because it was so ambiguous. From It Crawled from the South: "'We sat up one night,' says Michael, 'and we just got completely drunk and rolled around the floor. We had all this chalk, and we took every name anyone could think of and we wrote it on the wall in the living room. When morning rolled around, we pointed and erased, and it was between R.E.M. and Negro Eyes, and we thought *that* probably wouldn't go over too well outside our immediate circle of friends!'" (p. 24). o A5. "I think that [Fables, Green, etc.] sucks/rules!" or "I think ["Stand," "Shiny Happy People", etc.] is terrible/great!" or "I hate/love [Monster, Out of Time, Murmur, etc.]!!!!!" Many tiresome flame wars start when people post comments like these. Remember, some people are going to hate a particular work, while other people will love it, and still others remain indifferent. It's a good example of a non-topic that dragged on and on and never really did anything but piss people off. Frankly, any simplistic opinion about a song, album or video that does not elaborate in support of its stated opinion wastes group readers' collective time and bandwidth, and should be discouraged (in other words, should not be replied to by other group members!) Mindless knee-jerk proclamations serve only to start tiresome battles that annoy everyone. o A6. "Do R.E.M. members ever read the newsgroup, and do they have email addresses? I want to send them a message if they have an email address!" During August 1994, Michael Stipe posted comments, and answered fans' questions, via an America On Line account "stipey@aol.com". After much confusion and controversy regarding the authenticity of these postings, his identity was confirmed by news reports and third party sources. For those interested, the complete text of Stipe's net postings, which have been annotated with the actual questions asked by fans, is available (send a request to me, rgh3@cornell.edu). Also, Bill and Mari Berry have posted from a Prodigy account, and Peter Buck appeared on an on-line Q & A session on AOL. In late 1995 Stipe posted the lyrics to "Tongue" directly to rec.music.rem using the AOL account, wished Happy Holidays to the group, responded sarcastically to a post commenting on his sexuality, and thanked a poster for defending the band from an accusation that the band had sold out. Most recently, Stipe was on-line again in Nov. 1996 on the AOL Webstock forum. To the more brazen among us: Stipe has also said he deletes all email sent to his AOL account due to the excessive volume, so don't bother trying to send him a message there -- he won't see it! o A7. "Someone told me that R.E.M. is going to break up on New Year's Eve, 1999. Is that true?" Peter Buck said this as an off-the-cuff joke during an interview (mainly in connection with it being a great excuse for a huge party), but they have all repeatedly said since then that as long as they feel R.E.M. is making good music, they will continue to work together -- whether that doesn't last until 1999, or goes beyond. Note that magazine writers who can't think of anything else to say about the band will often trot this factoid out and compel the band to comment on it. o A8. "A friend told me that Michael Stipe is HIV positive! Is this true? Has anyone else heard this?" Uh, yeah, we heard. In fact, every few months or so a new contributor decides to share this so-called "fact" with us. There is absolutely nothing to substantiate such a rumor and questions and comments stating that Stipe is HIV+ are considered by some newsgroup readers to be in poor taste, and insensitive to the feelings of newsgroup readers who are struggling with the disease. In some recent interviews Stipe has mentioned how upsetting and cruel he found this rumor to be, that he is naturally very thin, and that he feels he is now in the best shape of his life. o A9. "Who are/were the Hindu Love Gods?" R.E.M. (without Michael Stipe) collaborated on a side project with the singer Warren Zevon. (Note that the lineup also played on Zevon's own album Sentimental Hygiene.) The HLG album includes covers of many blues standards as well as Prince's "Raspberry Beret." Opinions about the project vary greatly: some saw it as a mediocre knock-off of some blues standards that should not have been released, others as a fun romp for the instrumental 3/4 of R.E.M. o A10. "Where does the title 'Automatic for the People' come from?" The band borrowed this slogan from a sign in Weaver D's Delicious Fine Foods, a popular home-cooking restaurant in Athens, Ga., which, incidentally, sells T-shirts, hats, and other such merchandise featuring the slogan (address 1016 E. Broad St., Athens GA, 30601). The phrase means that people at the restaurant "automatically" get what they want (as in: "Do I get fried potatoes with my chicken?"; "Automatic!"). o A11. "So, what's the story with those funky suits Mike Mills wore during the Monster World Tour?" Actually, the outfits Mike was wearing are known as "Nudie" suits, after the late tailor Nudie who designed many such outfits for country stars of the 1960's/70's. Nudie suits became hip with the rock crowd through their being worn by the band that's been credited with initiating the music called country-rock, the Flying Burrito Brothers (including the legendary Gram Parsons.) It's been mentioned in an interview with the band that the one Mike wears in the "Kenneth" video was in fact once owned by Parsons. o A12. "There's this kind of wacky song whose lyrics talk about all the songs on Reckoning and about the guys in R.E.M. -- what is that?" The band Pavement recorded a song for the compilation CD No Alternative called, "The Unseen Power of the Picket Fence," which is a tribute of sorts to R.E.M., their album Reckoning, and the defense of Atlanta against General Sherman's march to the sea in the Civil War. o A13. "Is Peter Buck related to Rob Buck of the 10,000 Maniacs?" No. There was, however, an amusing story in Musician magazine about Peter getting drunk one night of the Work Tour (during which the Maniacs opened); when he stumbled back to his hotel and found a room assigned to "Buck," he got into the bed Rob Buck was already occupying. o A14. "Who is that woman prominent in both the 'One I Love' and 'Pop Song 89' videos?" An old friend of Stipe's named Caroline. According to Marcus Gray, "Auctioneer (Another Engine)" was written with her in mind, and Stipe used to tell anecdotes about her (and her tatoos) between songs during the Reconstruction Tour. Gray does not provide her last name, probably to protect her privacy. o A15. "What is the tattoo under Michael Stipe's right upper arm that was visible on the 1995 Letterman show appearance?" It is a tattoo of Ignatz Mouse and Krazy Kat, who are the main characters in the comic "Krazy Kat" by George Herriman, drawn from the 1920s-1940s. If you don't know who/what these are, and like interesting comics, make a beeline to a library or good bookstore and find a compilation of old Krazy Kats. They are a incredible mix of quite hilarious and totally surreal (reality-bending) material. Berke Breathed's "Outland" (and parts of "Bloom County" before it) are the closest contemporary comparison to the style and attitude. There's a web page at http://www.krazy.com/coconino.htm which explains the comic better than I have -- I suggest surfing over there if you're interested. o A16. "Did Michael Stipe work on a project with Kurt Cobain before Cobain's death?" While many people would have looked forward to such a project and have hoped something had been accomplished before the Nirvana singer's untimely suicide, according to Stipe they had only traded correspondance about such a project and nothing was composed or recorded. One of the ironic tragedies of Cobain's final months was his expression of admiration for the way R.E.M. had handled their superstardom, though, as Stipe pointed out, they were lucky it took years for them to reach the point and learn to adapt to the strain of the media spotlight. o A17. "I have seen Mike Mills' name recently as an artist and as member of other bands besides R.E.M." The Mike Mills in Butter 08 is not Michael Edward Mills from R.E.M., but a graphic artist who has done work with bands like Smashing Pumpkins and They Might Be Giants. According to rec.music.rem reader <sujan> he does not remotely look like the Mike Mills in R.E.M., for whatever that's worth. o A18. "Who is Patti Smith, who sings on 'E-bow' and is in the video for that song?" The background singer on the song "E-bow the Letter", Patti Smith, is an important figure from the late 70's punk/new wave scene in New York whose albums (especially Horses and Easter) are considered by many people essential milestones in the development of American rock music. She has also published several books of Beat-influenced poetry over the years. Her influence on the members of R.E.M., especially Michael Stipe and Peter Buck, has long been noted in interviews with the band. o A19. "Why isn't long-time manager Jefferson Holt mentioned in the New Adventures in Hi-Fi credits?" A recent press release from the band announced that Holt had left his position of manager. No further details about the split were confirmed by R.E.M./Athens Ltd., and much speculation on why and what happened remains rumor. In fact it has been reported that one of the terms of the dissolution is that none of the parties make public comment, so don't expect any further details. o A20. "Is the song 'The Wake Up Bomb' about the band Oasis?" Not according to R.E.M. Peter Buck said in an interview in 1995 that Stipe wrote the lyrics about the Glam Rock period of the 1970's (characterized by bands like T-Rex, Mott the Hoople, the NY Dolls, and David Bowie) after visiting a club in NY with a Glam Rock theme decor, and that the supposed Oasis references are being read into the song and not intended. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- B. ALBUM COVERS, NOTES, AND OTHER PACKAGING QUESTIONS o B1. "What are those phrases inside the liner notes for 'Monster'?" Possible alternate names, and working titles, both for the album itself and various tracks from the album. In interviews the band has described its process of naming albums this way: they tape a big sheet of paper up on the studio wall and then variously they write down random ideas when they occur to them. One might speculate that at least some of this list is derived from that process. o B2. "What are the strange symbols on the cover of CD-single for 'What's the Frequency, Kenneth?'" The packaging for the CD single for "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" the first single off Monster, displays some interesting features that newsgroup members have already remarked upon. Each letter of the title is surrounded by a circle. A dot at the upper right corner of each circle contains the rank of the frequency (e.g., "E" the most common letter in English, equals 1) of that letter's occurrence in the English language. Also, found below each title letter, appears the Morse Code (in dots and dashes) for that letter. Notched into the circle around the letter are the semaphore positions (hand-held flags at various angles) of that letter. (See Section C below for info on the "Kenneth" lyrics.) o B3. "Why is there a '4' superimposed over the 'R' on the Green cover?" The story told in interviews is that someone (most likely Michael Stipe) was typing the name of the album and hit the '4' key instead of the 'R' (note their proximity on the "qwerty" keyboard). Somebody (again, most likely Michael Stipe) thought it was a neat idea and carried it on to the packaging as a faint transparent "4" over the "R" in both "GREEN" and "REM" on the CD notes, and by "numbering" the fourth song ("Stand") with an "R". Some later pressings (notably CD club versions) may not have the "4"s on the cover. Some newsgroup readers have connected this to the fact that Lifes Rich Pageant has "OR" in place of "04" in the track listing. When remarking on oddities in R.E.M. packaging and publicity, always bear in mind the band's eccentric creative bent. (See also the answer to the next question.) o B4. "There's a '5' on Document and a '4' on Green, and wait, there's a '10' on Chronic Town, and a '9' on Murmur and an '8' on Fables, and a '7' on Reckoning! Is this some kind of countdown?" This is an urban legend which even the band are weary of denying. The topic has also been the subject of many flame wars, and most newsgroup members don't want to hear any more about it. On AOL in August 1994, Stipe said this about the so-called countdown theory: "the countdown is a silly coincidence. i swear it. pb [Peter Buck] sez were going into neg.#;s next, so there. i did put the #7 on each record for a while but started getting strange mail in volumes about it and so we quit. no reason for 7, it was just a cool typo thing [like typefaces on fables]." For what it's worth, r.m.r reader Chris Perry pointed out the following sevens on album covers: Murmur, in midst of liner notes on inner sleeve, typewritten "SEVEN"; Reckoning, hand-drawn three-dimensional seven with a line running through it on inner sleeve; Fables, very thin calligraphy-looking seven in corner of inner sleeve; Lifes Rich Pageant, underneath the Cricket Machine diagram, "Seven Continents as one Hurrah we are all free now". o B5. "Who painted the cover art for Reckoning?" The folk or "naive" artist (the term art critics use), Rev. Howard Finster, is a friend of Michael Stipe who painted the intricate snake design for the band. (Presumably Stipe added the song titles.) Rev. Finster also appears in the video for "Radio Free Europe" (at the end, when they tumble the little figure down the wooden ramp; note it was filmed at his home). Also, Michael Stipe has dedicated the song "Maps and Legends" on FotR to Finster when playing it live. (Some may want to note that Finster later was asked to do the cover of the Talking Heads album Little Creatures, too.) o B6. "My copy of the Green LP has names for each side. Are the sides named on other albums?" Almost every R.E.M. album bears creatively-named sides. Here's a list: Album Side A Side B Chronic Town Chronic Town Poster Torn Murmur (side 1) (side 2) Reckoning L R Fables of the Reconstruction A Side Another Side Lifes Rich Pageant Dinner Supper Document Page Leaf Dead Letter Office Post Script Eponymous Early Late Green Air Metal Out Of Time Time Memory The Best of R.E.M. (UK) Us Them Automatic For The People Drive Ride Monster C D New Adventures in Hi-Fi Hi Fi o B7. "Why is the actual song order on Lifes Rich Pageant different from that listed on the back cover? And do some copies actually list the song 'Superman' as 'Superwoman'?" Reportedly, the song order on LRP was changed at the last minute, too late for the cover art to be changed. While it's anybody's guess why this was not subsequently corrected for later domestic vinyl and CD pressings, it *has* been corrected for many foreign and record club versions. Bear in mind that the off-beat creativity of the mixed-up list, and the cryptic "lyrics clues," is typical of the band. Note also that some European issues of LRP have the proper track order, but list "Superman" as "Superwoman." On a related note, the song "When I was Young" is listed on the sleeve of Fables of the Reconstruction, but was dropped at the last minute, destined to reappear later in quite revised form on LRP as "I Believe." o B8. "What is the name of that last song on Green?" The instrumental version on the CD-single for "Stand" is called "The Eleventh Untitled Song (Instrumental)." One can therefore infer that it's simply called "Eleventh Untitled Song." Reportedly, however, some of this cut's lyrics were included in a Fan Club mailing under the title, "So Awake Volunteer," so some people consider that to be its intended title. Recently, an industrious group reader posted that while browsing the Library of Congress, he discovered that the song is copyright-registered under the title of "11", its track number. o B9. "What is that on the front cover of Chronic Town?" The Spitting Gargoyle on Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. o B10. "Whose half-face is on Lifes Rich Pageant?" Bill Berry's. Gruesome makeup and photography courtesy Stipe. The spliced-together photos constitute a visual pun ("buffalo bill"). o B11. "The spine title of my copy of Fables is Reconstruction of the Fables, not the other way around! Do I have a limited ed. or something? Alas, no. It's neither a misprint, nor rare, and the "two" titles indeed refer to one and the same album. The "real" title of the album is circular, you might say ("Fables of the Reconstruction of the Fables of the Reconstruction of ... [ad nauseam]"). You'll notice that on one side of the CD booklet, it says "Fables of the" and on the other side it says "Reconstruction of the." You can flip the booklet and use either cover you wish. The spine of the CD says "Reconstruction of the Fables," whereas the face of the disc itself says "Fables of the Reconstruction," but with "Reconstruction" printed upside-down, and "of the" printed vertically, it can be read either way. (However, note that the newer European reissue discs just have "Fables of the Reconstruction") Anyway, it's a play on words, like much of the band's genius. Does it mean "tales about the post-Civil War period in American history," or does it mean "putting back together those tales of old in our own weird way"...? It all depends on which way you show the cover. o B12. "Who is that on the cover of Document?" Michael Stipe, hiding behind a camera. Note there are several images superimposed over each other at different angles. The car is a black Checker Marathon (the kind of car most cabs used to be) which Michael used to drive. o B13. "On the Reckoning liner, it says 'Help Carl Grasso.' Who was he?" Carl Grasso was reportedly the art director (or product manager) for IRS back then; supposedly the band used to drive him nuts with what they would and wouldn't allow on the album covers. Grasso is also credited for album design on Murmur. o B14. "Is the Chronic Town EP available separately?" As a regular release, it is only available as part of the Dead Letter Office compilation album. However, there are reportedly a number of limited edition box sets that include CT on a separate disk within the entire multi-album package. An example of this is the UK set called The Originals released in 1995 with CT, Murmur, and Reckoning included with new packaging. o B15. "Why isn't the song 'Revolution' on New Adventures in Hi-Fi, like all the other new songs they were performing on the Monster World tour?" The choice of whether to include a song on an album is one only the band itself can really comment on, but recall that `Revolution' really dates back to the time of Monster's release (some of the "possible song names" on the album notes of Monster refer to versions of "Revolution", so it really should be considered an outtake of that album.) Besides, most of the song's many contemporary political references (O.J., Ollie North, etc.) had become outdated by the time of the release of NAIHF, and this is also a likely reason for the song not having been included. (Nonetheless, I'd look for it as a track on a future maxi-single release.) o B16. "I thought there was a R.E.M. song called 'Sponge' that was on the radio in 1995. I don't see it on New Adventures." The song "Sponge" recorded by R.E.M. is actually a composition by Georgia singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt, and R.E.M's cover of the tune is included on the compilation record Sweet Relief II along with other Chesnutt songs performed by various bands. The proceeds of the album go to a charity fund that assists musicians with medical expenses (Chesnutt himself is a parapalegic). The song "Sponge" comes from his album West of Rome (which Stipe produced) and he did an interesting (if loose) "cover" of R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World..." for the Surprise Your Pig R.E.M. tribute album. [Continued in Part 2 of 3]