Excerpts from revised and updated second edition of IT CRAWLED FROM THE SOUTH: AN R.E.M. COMPANION by Marcus Gray. Copyright Marcus Gray, 1996 (See end document for publication details.) ********** (From Chapter 1) TAKE YOUR ROLE, THE STAGE IS SET The Origins Of R.E.M. ..For someone who expresses annoyance at being described as odd, Michael sometimes seems to be going out of his way to create that impression. He is not above resorting to the hoary old clich that he knew he was `different' even as a small boy: `People change drastically when they get around me. They always have, since I was a kid.' In another interview, he announced, apropos of nothing, that he `used to eat ink and glue as a kid'. In another he claimed that he wrote backwards `right up until sixth grade [age 12]. Perfect mirror image', and only stopped when one teacher told him his brain would flip over if he kept on. In fairness, writing backwards is not particularly unusual among left-handed children, but it is one more quirk to add to an already sizeable collection. He insists that none of this served to make him a difficult child. `I was always a little charmer,' he told Details in 1995. `I could charm my way in and out of anything. Unfortunately that extended to my education: I didn't really pay attention.' His father called him Mr Mouse `because Mighty Mouse was my favourite cartoon', but - so he claims - at kindergarten the teachers knew him as Michael Stipe the Shining Light... The first song Michael remembers hearing is `Moon River', Henry Mancini's theme from the 1961 movie Breakfast At Tiffany's. It became a great favourite, although - as he later admitted - this was partly because he thought the phrase `my huckleberry friend' referred to Huckleberry Hound. The other music he was exposed to belonged to his parents. Their collection at the time included some gospel, a few film soundtracks, some George Gershwin and the 1812 Overture `with real cannons'. In the mid Sixties, the Stipes moved to Texas, where Michael also began to hear country and western. The children befriended an elderly record store owner named Mr Pemberton. `He used to give me and my sisters the singles he didn't need any more, the ones that wouldn't sell. So we got Tammy Wynette, the Beatles and Elvis. And Roger Miller. He had a song called "Skip A Rope" that had a profound effect on me.' His sisters were also involved in his first record purchases: the soundtrack albums for The Parent Trap, starring Hayley Mills, and Elvis Presley's 1967 album Double Trouble. `We had to buy them together because all we had was seven dollars between us.' In 1968, Michael was also much taken with the Ohio Express's decidedly ambiguous `Yummy Yummy Yummy' - the chorus is `I've Got Love In My Tummy' - much to his father's consternation and public embarrassment. Excepting the last-named song, almost all of Michael's somewhat idiosyncratic childhood favourites have since turned up in R.E.M.'s repertoire. The more conventionally popular sounds of the Sixties passed him by completely. So much so that, even in the late Eighties, he was still insisting that he had little or no knowledge of seminal works by Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys or even the Beatles, and was totally ignorant of the original versions of R.E.M.'s Sixties cover versions. `The others just say, "Well, here are the words," and I do them.' His claim to have been almost entirely unmusical until he began to sing in rock'n'roll bands was no more reliable than Peter's never to have progressed beyond paragraph one of Bert Weedon's Play In A Day prior to joining R.E.M. Equally untrustworthy was Michael's 1991 `confession' to the contrary: `When I was about eight or nine, I played accordion, piano and guitar. Classical piano at the age of ten. My father was a violin player, my great-grandmother was an opera singer. I've never tried, but I'm sure I could sing it too.' Possibly closer to the truth, though far more bizarre, was the following admission, made to Song Talk that same year: `I did play well as a child. I think it was when my parents bought a piano and put it in my room. I lived in Texas at the time, and I had this cow skull up on top of the piano and one night I woke up and the piano and the cow - whose name was Clyde - were staring at me. From that day on, I never played piano again.'... ********** (From Chapter 8) A THUMBNAIL SKETCH, A JEWELLER'S STONE Into the Cryptic with R.E.M.'s Album Packaging Monster Michael had been working with Warner Brothers Art Director Tom Recchion since Out Of Time, but in June 1994, prior to commencing work on the packaging for the newly-completed album, R.E.M./Athens Ltd also took on their own in-house Art Director to assist with album and merchandise design and newsletter layout. At 23, Chris Bilheimer was still a student at UGA, but had already done artwork for releases by Stipe-approved bands Daisy and Magnapop as well as Athens local magazine Flagpole. After venturing out into the mainstream for the previous album, Michael also turned to people closer to home for photographs. In addition to his own pictures, the CD fold-out includes work by Chris and C-00 associate Jem Cohen, among others. Always something of a cartoon fan - he cited Krazy Kat as a hero in a 1988 Melody Maker feature, and in 1994 interviewers noted that he was sporting a tattoo of the character on the inside of his upper arm - Michael obviously thought cartoon images would be suitable for the over-the-top punky material included on this album. Two of the fold-out's panels feature Greg Fiering's Migraine Boy, an unhappy soul, regularly tormented by his friends, and with a permanent splitting headache, who appears regularly in the pages of Flagpole. The bear's head on the front cover, and reproduced in silver against a blue background on the disc itself, is taken from a balloon manufactured by the Tilly balloon company. (An early plan was to include a balloon with each CD.) No torso existed, so Michael had one computer-generated to fit... and then decided to leave it detached from the head. It can be found on the back cover, underlying the track listing. The two parts were finally brought together for the posters promoting the R.E.M. 1995 World Tour. Migraine Boy and the balloon bear's head were intended to illustrate the album's original title, Exploding Head. This title that would have become almost unbearably poignant the March following its release, when Bill suffered what was initially thought to be an acute migraine and turned out to be a ruptured aneurysm on stage while performing songs from the album. The phrase `exploding head' also has sexual connotations, the leering smuttiness of which would not have been out of keeping with the line `do you give good head?' in `I Don't Sleep, I Dream' and - more generally- with Michael's claims that he, for one, had set out to write a trashy, sexual, in-your-face album. In the event, the cover images also prove relevant to the replacement title: a decapitated grizzly is a frightening prospect, and Migraine Boy and his friends are little monsters. Like Green before it, the title Monster was selected for a number of reasons. There are references to monsters like Frankenstein in `Crush With Eyeliner'; the protagonists of almost all the songs are monsters, not least `the voice of Satan' in `I Took Your Name'; and the green eyed monster, jealousy is by no means exclusive to `Circus Envy'. Musically, the album is monstrously loud and brash, and the band knew that they would be going out to tour it live for the best part of a year, a monstrous undertaking that would make the album a monstrous success and turn R.E.M. into media monsters. Recording took place despite a host of external pressures and diversions, which meant that the album sometimes became a monster beyond their control, and as a result tempers became frayed and the band members behaved like little monsters towards each other. `We were afraid we were going to get eaten alive by it,' admitted Mike at the time of its release. The cartoon theme is picked up elsewhere in the packaging by the bright colour tints of the band portraits, the tacky furniture photos, and the graphic symbols. Of these, the concentric circles overlaying one of the Migraine Boy panels represents the building up of tension and the radiation of his pain. Of the others, the question mark represents `What's The Frequency, Kenneth?', the explosion `Bang And Blame' and the arrow `Let Me In'. Michael himself resembles cartoon in his portrait photograph: he would seem to be slapping his own head. Two of the fold-out's panels feature a bizarre alphabetical listing which at first appears to have nothing at all to do with the contents. Closer examination reveals it to be a file of songs and/or lyrics for the material demoed and recorded during the Monster sessions. Included are the working titles for most of the songs on the album itself, as well as at least two - `Revolution' and `Lucky Piece' - which were considered for the album, but ultimately dropped. It is quite possible that the title Exploding Head was dropped for superstitious reasons. Not counting their debut EP or the various compilations, so far R.E.M. album titles had followed the pattern of two one-word titles followed by two multi-word titles, a pattern which Monster - Peter's suggestion -perpetuates... By now, Michael had begun to view the traditional limited special edition CDs as artistic statements in their own right. With Chris and Tom, he worked up several different designs before settling for 52-page silver and red hardcover book. Although the packaging reproduces or adapts many of the images from the CD fold-out - the concentric circle design, for example, recurs several times, including on the disc itself - it also includes many new ones. Additional band photos are provided by another longtime band associate, Michael Meister, who was responsible for the front cover of Document. As with the special edition of Automatic, the book features extracts of lyrics from the songs and other intriguing snippets of text. The book format itself sets out to emphasise the connection between monsters and childhood, reproducing the bear's headless torso on the front cover to make it look like a particularly grim fairy tale. Several of the book's new photos are of small plastic toys and party treats, which refer to a line from `You' quoted elsewhere in the packaging: `all my childhood toys with chewmarks'. The monster quotient is increased by the inclusion of a photo of one of R.E.M.'s studio mascot dinosaurs: the plastic Godzilla wears an R on its chest to indicate its claim to the right hand side of the mixing desk. The `exploding head' theme is picked up in a text snippet allusion to an `ice cream headache'. (Spookily, one of the pictures of Migraine Boy is reproduced over a close-up photograph of Bill's face.) The sleazier interpretation of the expression is illustrated by a pictorial representation of fellatio, captioned by some equally blatantly sexual lines from `Bang And Blame'. Equally confrontational is the page dominated by the legend `DON'T FUCK WITH ME'. Michael substitutes this line for `what's the frequency' at the end of `What's The Frequency, Kenneth?', something that might have passed all but the most careful listener by had not he drawn attention to it in this less than subtle manner. R.E.M. making amends for the self-censorship of `Star Me Kitten'? A picture of a shirt in a pattern of brightly coloured squares is captioned `Pattern Shirt' and anticipated by a couple of photographs of mosaic tiles. It would seem to have no relevance whatsoever to the album, apart from the fact that one of the entries in the standard CD's listing of working titles is `Pattern Shirt': presumably, like `When We Were Young' before it, it is the name of a song scheduled for inclusion but dropped at the last minute. Support for the notion that the packaging for the special edition CD was completed slightly earlier than that for the standard is also provided by the fact that the track listing is given alphabetically rather than in playing sequence, and that the song listed on the standard release as `Strange Currencies' is listed here under its fuller, earlier title of `With Love Comes Strange Currencies'. ********** (From Chapter 10) WHAT'S THE FREQUENCY KENNETH? Studio Embellishments, Unusual Effects, Sound Art, Vocal Quirks And Muttered Asides This chapter tells the story behind the making of each R.E.M. album. It details the studio techniques and instrumentation employed and endeavours to explain any background noises, unusual overdubs, and vocal and lyrical peculiarities not addressed elsewhere... Automatic For The People The original plan was for the band's eighth full length album of new material to be full-tilt electric guitar-dominated rock, a reaction to Out Of Time. The songs they wrote in that vein didn't work out, and they slipped back into the by-now familiar acoustic approach. This time Mike played piano, organ or bass, Bill drums or acoustic guitar, and Peter mandolin, although - again - when it came time to record Bill stuck to drums and percussion and Peter returned to guitar for most songs. Peter Holsapple was conspicuous by his absence: there had been management tensions over credit and payment, and although this was played down in the media by everyone concerned, the man who between 1989 and 1991 was frequently described as the `fifth member of R.E.M.' was not invited to the sessions. Which is not to say that the band had any intention of making those sessions a closed shop. One track that made it to the album, `Nightswimming', had been recorded at John Keane's studio during the autumn 1990 Out Of Time sessions, and another one, `Drive', had been demoed during mixing at Paisley Park that December. Serious writing for the album began in June 1991, and demo recording at John Keane's in September. Nevertheless, even in April 1992 when R.E.M. left town to book into another studio with Scott Litt, they were still thinking in terms of writing new material and making demos rather than beginning work on the album proper. Although both Peter Gabriel and R.E.M. rivals U2 had worked with Daniel Lanois, the idea to book into his Kingsway studio in New Orleans almost certainly came about through Mike's contribution of backing vocals to ex-Band member Robbie Robertson's 1991 solo album Storyville, part of which was recorded at Kingsway while it was still being set up. Kingsway is vaguely reminiscent of both the Drive-In and John Keane's, in that it is located in a residential area and, in fact, part of the producer's home. If anything, though it is even more unconventional. The three storey house is located in a decidedly dangerous part of the French Quarter, is old and ramshackle with wrought iron balconies and with period fixtures and fittings inside. There is no soundproofing, but the ground floor walls are covered in the original tiles, and the console is set up in the parlour `with all this old furniture and an ancient pool table and candles lit everywhere,' according to Michael in the fan club newsletter. `It was a really wild vibe.' The band responded well to the environment, and three of the basic tracks recorded live here made it to the album: `Drive', `Monty Got A Raw Deal' and `New Orleans Instrumental No 1'. Having made an incredible amount of money from the ten million-selling Out Of Time and not having toured since 1989, R.E.M. had decided to indulge themselves during recording by combining business with pleasure and turning the making of the album into a sort of tour of its own. In May, they shifted operations from Kingsway to Bearsville in upstate New York with engineer Clif Norrell joining the production team for the recording of more basic tracks. These were considerably less detailed than those for Out Of Time, leaving room for more overdubs. Several were recorded without click-tracks. Although he had encouraged Bill to use them back in 1988, Scott was now keen to shake up the recording process. `There's some songs where you need that click on the beat, but there's others, like "Try Not To Breathe" or "Sweetness Follows" that are kind of all over the place and are supposed to be like that,' Peter explained to Guitar. `As long as you speed up and slow down in the right place every time, it's cool.' Late May and June took the R.E.M. roadshow to Criteria studios in Miami, where amongst many other notables, the soundtrack album for Saturday Night Fever had been recorded. The band lived in houses on Miami Beach so they could take it easy when not working. Here, the recording process began to differ considerably from that for the previous album. There were many overdubs, Peter in particular having changed his mind about the need for multiple layers of guitar. Rather than work together, the individual members of the band came in one or two at a time, and built up the finished song part by part. According to Scott, Peter recorded all his guitars first, then Mike his embellishments, Bill his extra percussion, and Michael his vocals. `Automatic wasn't a real band record,' Peter admitted in 1994. `It was like a solo record for individuals. Nobody played on all the tracks.' `That was a hard record to focus on,' said Bill that same year. `The songs were these nebulous ideas that we just allowed to take shape as we were recording them.' It had been decided to use strings again, but to limit full orchestration to four tracks. The prospect of interminable mixing sessions was almost certainly a factor, but R.E.M. were also loath to make another album quite so lush sounding as the last. Although they had enjoyed the experiment, they were not happy about being thought of as purveyors of laid back easy listening music. In fact, Peter was so concerned that the new songs might sound overly soft that he pressed for something edgy and unnerving to be included on almost all of them. His own solution was to add the kind of controlled feedback he had previously used on `Country Feedback'. `It's so warm and unmusical. You can play with your feet, your elbows...' Having recently teamed up with members of the Psychedelic Furs to record a track for a Nick Drake tribute album, he also brought in that band's Knox Chandler to add distorted cello to two songs. When it came time to record the remaining strings, the band decided to follow the Led Zeppelin influence that had emerged during Green to its logical conclusion, and hire John Paul Jones to work out the arrangements. An in-demand session man before he even joined Zep, Jones's role in that band was not dissimilar to Mike Mills's in R.E.M.: bass, keyboards, arrangements and miscellaneous embellishments. `Scott met him one night and just asked him,' said Peter. The band sent him a tape and he arranged the four songs - `Drive', `The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite', `Everybody Hurts' and `Nightswimming' - in the UK, though both he and the band turned up to oversee 12 hours of recording over four days at Bobby Brown's Bosstown studios in Atlanta. The string section was again loaned from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, but only leader Paul Murphy, fellow viola player Reid Harris and cellist Elizabeth Murphy had also contributed to the Out Of Time sessions. This time the players totalled 13 - if one counts Deborah Workman on oboe - rather than nine. George Hanson conducted, and liaised between Jones and the band. `If the arrangements were not exactly what R.E.M. had in mind, they might sing a tune they wanted for a counterpoint and I would take dictation,' he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Mixing took place over five weeks in late June and July at a new studio called Bad Animals in Seattle. Even so, time was tight, and the band ended up taking over two rooms - one manned by Scott, the other by Clif - to get the album completed on schedule. Michael also added the vocals to `Man On The Moon' and `Star Me Kitten' at this late stage. `Drive' The basic track was recorded live in one take at Kingsway, Michael revisiting his Reflection-era fascination with staircase acoustics by contributing his vocal from the first floor landing. Peter says the `orchestral' sounding multi-layered electric guitar solo is his tribute to Queen's Brian May. `It's a Les Paul through a big Marshall amp, overdubbed six times and picked with a coin. I know Brian May uses some kind of English sixpence that's probably three thousand years old, but I just used a dime.' Unfortunately, it was Queen's bass player John Deacon who used the sixpence, but it's the thought that counts... `Try Not To Breathe' Written in 3/4 time on mandolin, which the band worried might make it sound too generic. As Peter had recently taken delivery of a custom-built electric dulcimer - `it gives you more of a sitar feel' - he played that on the track, and Mike contributed keyboards and `a lot of background vocals'. Peter still felt the result was too jolly for a song about death, so added feedback at the bridge `and other weird guitar tones and textures underneath' to try and make it more unsettling. `The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite' The title pays an obvious debt to `The Lion Sleeps Tonight', a song first recorded by R.E.M. in 1983 during the sessions for Murmur, and recorded in again in acoustic form during the sessions for this album. To acknowledge the debt, Michael yodels a brief snatch of the melody during the introduction. R.E.M. might well have got away with borrowing odds and sods from This Mortal Coil on Green, but even though `The Lion Sleeps Tonight' is based on a traditional Zulu folk chant known as `Wimoweh' - and therefore of disputable authorship - this time they contacted the publishers and paid for the privilege. `We didn't want to get into any trouble or have any hard feelings so we phoned them up and gave them a little bit of money,' Peter told Q in 1992. `They were pretty flattered.' Extra royalties ensued when R.E.M. selected their new acoustic version of `The Lion Sleeps Tonight' to be one of the extra tracks on the single release of the song. One might have thought that this would make its publishers feel even more flattered, but the agreement was evidently not quite as amicable as Peter suggests. When the sheet music to `The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite' was first transcribed and printed, it included the few bars of melody from `The Lion Sleeps Tonight'. The song's publishers found out on the eve of distribution, and insisted they be removed. The sheet music was destroyed at considerable expense, and reprinted with the words `vocal ad lib' taking the place of the offending notation. Although one of the two lighter lyrics on an otherwise sensitive and serious album, its less-than-straightforward delivery and subject matter encouraged fans and critics alike to accuse Michael of donning his enigmatic hat once again. There was much wild speculation about the song's ridiculously compressed and garbled chorus. Everyone took the challenge in good part. For the single release, Warner Brothers exploited the interest with music press ads suggesting `Colin went to try Jamaica rub' and `Comedy will try to break her heart'. It is, in fact, `Call me when you try to wake her up.' The other burning topic for discussion was, what the hell is the sidewinder? It's a type of snake, but what is a snake doing here? `I don't know what that snake imagery is all about,' confessed Peter. `"OK, whatever the snake is to you..."' The protagonist is in a pay phone booth, has just failed to get through to the desired party, and is awaiting a return call. Consequently, it is reasonable to assume that the sidewinder is the instrument of communication itself: the wire attaching the head-like handset to the main body of the apparatus, coiled snake-like at the latter's side when the phone is not in use; or, in other words, is dormant. Homeless, our hero contemplates another low-nutrition meal and a night spent waiting for the return call, sleeping as one would have to in a phone box: standing up. Mike reveals the reason for the giggle after the reference to The Cat In The Hat author Dr. Seuss: `I kept trying to get Michael to say "Seuss" [hard s], not "Zeuss", and he couldn't do it. He tried, but he said "Zeuss" anyway, and that made him laugh.' `Everybody Hurts' Peter had just bought a 1970-vintage drum machine called a Univox Rhythmer for $20, and decided this was the ideal opportunity to try it out. `It kind of made sense, because the song had a metronome-ish feel,' he says. `Mike and I cut it live with this dumb drum machine, which is just as wooden as you can get. We wanted to get this flow around that: human and non-human at the same time.' As a result, Bill only makes the most token of appearances on his own composition. `There's definitely a nod to the Rolling Stones on "Everybody Hurts",' Mike told Guitar magazine in 1993. `The ascending bit is very similar to the ascending boys' choir on "You Can't Always Get What You Want".' Mike was particularly excited about meeting John Paul Jones, who made his day by complementing him on one of his more subtle embellishments to this track. In the last verse, the harmony is carried by organ instead of piano. `Just coming out of the verse, I kick in the Leslie [the Hammond organ's revolving speaker phasing effect] and it starts to spin, and then I turn it off. You barely notice it. And John sidles up to me and goes, "Nice touch on the Leslie, there." And I was like, "Whoa! Thank you! Yes!" It just made my week.' As he had with `Shiny Happy People', michael originally envisaged a female `second voice' on the track, but Patti Smith was unavailable so he abandoned the idea. `New Orleans Instrumental No 1' Recorded live in some spare time at the end of the band's stay at Kingsway, along with `New Orleans Instrumental No 2'. Bill plays piano, Mike stand up bass and Peter guitar. Michael does not contribute. Both tracks were intended for B-sides until the band decided the mood of `No 1' - unlike the `deranged pina colada commercial' of `No 2' - fitted in well enough with the other material on the album to warrant its inclusion, following the addition of some strings. Originally over seven minutes long, the track is faded after 2.12 so as not to overstay its welcome. (The long version is included on the CD single release of `Everybody Hurts'.) `Sweetness Follows' The backing track is another demo. Deciding that the song did not need a solo, `a melodic restatement', and concerned that (appropriately enough, given the title) it might sound too saccharine, Peter laid down a wash of guitar feedback that `fills the space and pushes the song to a different level'. For similar reasons, instead of adding bass, the band had Knox Chandler play cello through an amp to distort the sound. `I think I'm the only one of the band on it, except for Michael,' says Peter. `Monty Got A Raw Deal' In an attempt to add some variety to his songwriting technique, Peter added a bouzouki to his armoury of stringed instruments shortly before the New Orleans sessions. It was there that this song was both written and recorded in one take with Peter playing his new toy. Effectively a bass mandolin, the bouzouki has a warmer, deeper and - frankly - less `plinky' sound than the preferred Buck compositional tool of recent years. Here he uses a modal tuning to give it what he describes as a `weird Arabic sound'. `Ignoreland' Written on guitar in Neil Young's dropped D tuning, and taken by Peter as an excuse for Young-style guitar overkill. Four guitars playing the same thing provide the main chord structure (`or two guitars delayed and split,' says Peter. `I can't remember which because we tried it both ways'), of which two are acoustics, compressed and mixed down, and the other two electrics. At the chorus, these are joined by two more electric guitars. On one, Peter uses an E-Bow - a hand held electro-magnet that causes the strings to vibrate - to hold the root note of the chord `so that you get a real buzzy sustain'. Meanwhile, the other track carries his Rickenbacker turned up really loud while he hits the open notes and bends them. Mixed together, `you've got one note held and the other pushing out, and it makes the feel really unsettling.' The burbling, rubbery-sounding riff is played by Mike on a six string bass through a Big Muff fuzz pedal chained to an Ibanez Tremolo pedal. Scott Litt plays clavinet and - for the first time, according to Michael - harmonica. Knox Chandler adds more amp-distorted cello. And Michael also distorts his vocal by routing it through an amp. `He wanted to get that cold anger in his voice that you get with natural distortion,' says Peter. Anger is right: Michael spits vitriol, even slipping in his second recorded `fuck'. Understandably, the song proved a nightmare to mix. Eight different attempts were made, one of the discarded ones throwing even more cacophony into the pot: what Mike calls the Bad Horn Mix features engineer Clif Norrell on trumpet and Mike on the trombone he was in the process of learning to play at the time. `I'd feel a little funny putting that out and charging money.' Peter was pleased with the mix that was eventually chosen. Mike and Michael were not. Always the two most vocal members of the band during the mixing stage, they invariably - one being a trained musician, one relying on intuition - pulled in opposite directions. Usually, this ended in one or other of them getting his way or in an inspired compromise; sometimes, as on this occasion, it resulted in something that neither was happy with. In 1994, talking to Mojo, they both said they regretted including the track on the album, where, thanks not only to its instrumentation but also its overtly political content, it `was out of place'. Overall, perhaps the track is just too busy ever to have been wholly successful. At the time of mixing, though, it was the fuzz bass that proved to be the sticking point: in 1992, Mike told Q that `due to other people's opinions' it was turned right down. `I would have had it the loudest thing on the song!' Ironically, the kind of volume and distortion Mike envisaged would turn out to be the guiding principle on Monster, where everybody was in favour of it. `Star Me Kitten' When Peter first heard Mike's organ chords, he decided the song needed some `tremolo guitar, some lovely little Twin Peaks lead'. The guitar style is the trademark of Chris Isaak, contributor to David Lynch's Wild At Heart, whose `Wicked Game' R.E.M. would begin to cover in 1994. Peter believes that Michael also pursues the Lynch connection with his lyric for what the guitarist describes as a `Frank Booth-type love song'. Booth is one of actor Dennis Hopper's more memorable psychotic creations, and spends much of Blue Velvet getting high on something like nitrous oxide, which not only exacerbates his less socially acceptable character traits, but also roughens up his voice. Michael sings at the bottom of his range, with distortion, for maximum spooky effect. He also considerably ups the album's quota of `fucks'. Mike picks up the baton with his backing vocals, which are wispy and ethereal in a way that recalls the trademark style of another Lynch soundtrack collaborator, Julee Cruise... but which are actually modelled on the backing vocals for 10cc's 1975 single `I'm Not In Love'. Mike explained what he wanted to Scott, who came up with a solution. Mike sang seven or eight notes into a sampler, and then each one was fed into a different channel on the control room mixing board. Mike then played the faders like a keyboard. `I just played my voice and brought in the notes that needed to be there, very haphazard and random,' he says. `I could never play it the same way twice.' As with the 10cc song, the resulting harmonies are both angelic and clearly artificial, an intentionally disturbing paradox. When Mojo linked Mike up with 10cc in 1995, he discovered that they had achieved the original effect in a similar, if slightly more complex, way. `Man On The Moon' Another riot of instrumentation. Peter ran down his guitar contributions for (fittingly) Guitar in 1993: the basic track is played on an Gibson acoustic, there's a Rickenbacker strumming chords in the chorus, a Les Paul through a Marshall amp `doing the loud chords' and another Rickenbacker `doing backwards strums' during the bridge. The slide guitar parts are played on a Telecaster through a Mesa/Boogie amp. He also gets to play his bouzouki. Bill adds claves, hardwood stick percussion featured in a lot of traditional South American music, which Peter believes adds `a nice little Brazilian accent'. As with `The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite', Michael has a lot of fun with the vocals. The line about Egypt being troubled by `the horrible asp' derives from something Peter told him about the movie Cleopatra during the mixing sessions. `One reviewer of the movie wrote something like, "They mentioned we would see more of Elizabeth Taylor than we ever had, but I never knew she had such a large asp." I told Michael that joke, and all of a sudden there's "the horrible asp" in there!' During his 1994 appearances on America Online, Michael revealed the song also features a partly buried backing vocal about wrestling bears; listen just after the line `Mr Andy Kaufman's gone wrestling'. In addition to writing `Just A Touch' in honour of the man, Michael had also allowed Elvis Presley inflections to creep into his vocals during the band's early live shows, just as he did with the similarly infectious Buddy Holly. They disappeared when the band's own material began to dominate their repertoire during the early-to-mid Eighties. Thus, in addition to illustrating the song's subject matter, Michael's Elvis impression - `"Hey, baby!"' - is a nostalgic wink aimed at the other members of the band as well as an acknowledgement of his own near-lifelong fascination with the King. `We fell through the floor when we heard it,' says Peter. `Because he does a really great Elvis, and normally he won't even do it for us.' Having decided to come out of the Elvis closet, Michael went for it in style. He dressed up Orion-fashion in a tacky jumpsuit, wig and shades for his Mr October page in the Athens Rape Crisis Centre 1993 Townie Boy Calendar. He illustrated his vocal impression with a straight-faced Elvis kung fu move in the video for `Man On The Moon'. And he threw in a few more during performances of the number on the R.E.M. 1995 World Tour, even inspiring the appropriately rhinestone-besuited Mike Mills to join in with a simultaneous knee drop during one particularly hammy bit of business. `Nightswimming' This was only the band's second ever piano song after `Perfect Circle'. This is the version recorded during the Out Of Time sessions at John Keane's studio, with just Michael singing and Mike on piano, plus strings. The band did try to record it in at least one other arrangement, but eventually decided that the original was most in keeping with the general tenor of the album. Peter and bill do not contribute. `Find The River' The backing track is another Athens demo, recorded with Bill on drums and Mike on just about everything else, including massed acoustic guitars. `Mills did it in about 30 minutes, and it had such a great feel because it was all of a piece,' Peter told Q. `I refused to try to redo that.' He doesn't play on the track. The vocals were added in Miami. In the hopes of coming up with something out of the ordinary, Mike had the band's three vocalists work independently on a backing vocal part for the chorus. Then he put them together. `Mine was real emotional, and Bill's was totally the opposite, cool and low-key. They really worked together. That's the kind of thing that keeps it from being too processed.' ********** (From Chapter 11) ABOUT THE PLACE WHERE YOU LIVE R.E.M. and the South ..In the autumn of 1983, R.E.M. came up with what would provide Reckoning's finale and turn out to be one of the most significant songs of their career. Ostensibly an account of this touring life, `Little America' is actually a great deal more than that. In expressing its disillusion with the homogeneity of American mass culture, it not only signposts the political direction R.E.M. would eventually take on the 1986 album Lifes Rich Pageant, but also the detour they would first make with 1985's Fables Of The Reconstruction: ignoring for a while longer the tacky, value-less modern world and making their most sustained, in-depth study to date of the folksy, tradition- steeped, highly idiosyncratic rural South. As Peter told Ikon magazine over ten years later, `Now that America's becoming all the same all over because of the TV and all that, the South is like the last place that's really out there...' Not wholly appropriately for a supposed road song, `Little America' begins with an image of being stuck fast, preserved like an insect in amber. A quickfire association causes Michael to throw in the phrase `tar-black brer sap', as suggested by that most famous of Uncle Remus's Brer Rabbit tales, The Tar Baby. `More haste, less speed' is what he appears to be saying, a point that echoes the `empty vessels make the most noise' drift of the song's chorus. It is time to go back to the South, and - despite the singer's claim to be lost in the song - Uncle Remus has just shown Michael the way. In fact, Uncle Remus was a fictional narrator for stories written by newspaper humorist Joel Chandler Harris. In 1876, he read an article about the folklore of the Southern plantations. Georgia born, he recalled a lot of the sayings and stories of negro workers from his own youth, and began to write them up for the Atlanta Constitution in the guise of wise old Uncle Remus. In 1880, he published the first of many popular books based on the material, Uncle Remus: His Songs And His Sayings. Like Aesop's fables, the tales featured animals with human characteristics and conveyed a moral. During 1984, Michael immersed himself in fables, rereading Aesop, the Uncle Remus stories, and other similar anthropomorphic tales, such as Kenneth Grahame's Wind In The Willows (transferred to TV as Tales From The Riverbank). A cappella snatches of Southern folk ballads like the negro minstrel song `Blue-Tail Fly' (aka `Jimmy Crackcorn') and Henry Mancini's slightly more recent `Moon River' began to crop up during R.E.M. gigs. Grahame's book can probably lay claim to inspiring the chorus of `Wendell Gee': `listen as the wind blows through the trees.' In `Can't Get There From Here', listeners are invited to `throw your trolls out the door'. The spoof `Bandwagon', recorded at the album sessions but destined instead for Dead Letter Office, is sung by a happy-go-lucky Pied Piper figure offering a Disneyland-style Magic Kingdom. These few indications of regular visits to the children's section at the local library aside, though, Michael makes few direct references to his source material on Fables. The main lesson Uncle Remus and his ilk taught him was that he no longer had to go via Ancient Greece to capture the flavour of the South: he could do what Joel Chandler Harris had done before him, and draw upon his own experiences and memories and the anecdotes of his friends, local folk artists and his own family - including his preacher grandfather - to create a personal Southern folk mythology... ********** (From Chapter 12) THIS FILM IS ON Videos, Films and Soundtracks `Drive' In keeping with his habit of developing an ongoing working relationship with sympathetic video directors, Michael hired Peter Care again for Automatic For The People's lead single. He worked out the storyboard himself. Filmed outdoors on 26 September 1992 at the Sepulveda Dam in the Burbank area of Los Angeles in strobe-lit black and white, and involving a crowd of 300 or so extras, `Drive' takes a decidedly skewed approach to the tradition of the performance video: all the action takes place in or - in Michael's case, on - the audience. Hair cut respectably short, attired in white shirt and shorts, he spends the duration crowd surfing the extras Peter Gabriel-style. They roll him over and push and pull him hither and thither, while he lip-synchs part of the lyric. Appropriate to the tenor of the song, the effect is ambiguous: one minute he resembles a triumphant hero, the next a sacrificial offering. The video is both a good-hearted communal celebration and a disquieting illustration of the vulnerability of both the masses to the dictates of one person's ego and the individual to the will of the masses. Michael spent most of the first night of the shoot doing this, and it was rough going. Certain members of the crowd were determined to steal his clothes, and a cricket box would have been an asset. Towards the end, water cannon were turned on the crowd, who promptly dropped him and ran. As morning approached, Michael announced, `If you want to abuse Peter Buck, come back tomorrow night.' The second night was again mostly devoted to Michael's crowd surfing, but the other band members were also abused as promised. While waiting to film their by now traditionally token appearances, Peter, Mike and Bill grumbled about the chore of making videos to the attendant representatives of the media. The reason becomes all too clear when one sees what was required of them: turn up and get wet. In footage later synchronised with the song's guitar solo, they take it in turns to stand in the centre of the crowd and pretend to play along, being liberally hosed down the while. Peter, still long haired and goatee- bearded, does not quite manage to bear his brief (if only in terms of screen time) ordeal with Christlike grace: he keeps his eyes closed throughout, and there is something just a little dangerous about the expression on his face. Reminiscing about the shoot and Michael's unfettered imagination within the hearing of Details journalist Chris Heath a couple of months later, he muttered, `What's he going to do next? Drop us from a helicopter to be trodden upon by elephants?' The crowd came off even worse. For two nights of filming, each soaking wet, arm-weary participant was rewarded with a photocopied lyric sheet for the song, a black cap commemorating the event, and a couple of rudimentary meals. `Some girl actually got hurt on the first thing they tried,' a not entirely sympathetic Mike Mills told the MTV crew covering the shoot. `She had a slide in her hair, and they passed some guy [er, that would be Michael, Mike] over her head, and she cut her head on the slide. I hope they all signed releases!'... ********** IT CRAWLED FROM THE SOUTH: AN R.E.M. COMPANION by Marcus Gray Published in UK on 3 June 1996. Available from some good book shops. To order: ISBN 1 85702 3544. UK publisher 4th Estate Ltd, 6 Salem Road, London, W2 4BU, UK. Tel: 0171 727 8993. Fax: 0171 792 3176. If you can't find the book, let them know. In US, revised and updated edition unlikely to be published before spring 1997. Mail order available - international reply coupon for details - from Minus Zero, 2 Blenheim Crescent, London, W11 1NN, UK. Tel/fax: (precede with UK code) 171 229 5424. Some foreign language rights still available. Publishers' enquiries only to Julian Alexander at Jacintha Alexander Associates, Fax: (+44) 171 373 4374.