Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Written By Braddon S. Williams

R.E.M. – Document

Like The White Stripes, I was not an immediate fan of R.E.M. A guy I played in a band with tried (unsuccessfully) to get me into them around the time of their first 2 albums, and I just wasn’t having it.

I vaguely remember a grudging respect for the song Radio Free Europe, but it wasn’t until Life’s Rich Pageant that I started to really pay attention.

The song Can’t Get There From Here was the icebreaker from that album.

In 1987, R.E.M. released Document and finally won me over completely. I don’t know if I had matured (highly doubtful) or if it was the production, but I finally grasped the full power of Michael Stipe’s voice, aura, songwriting prowess…just the works.

I also started noticing the cool way that Stipe and Mike Mills sang together. They did traditional harmonies really well, but they also sang counterpoint lines and independent melodies within the same song that were super inventive.

The guitar work of Peter Buck was elegantly non-showoffy (not a real word, but it describes how I experience his playing), kind of similar to how Mike Campbell played with Tom Petty.

Beyond all this, my all time favorite R.E.M. song is on Document, It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).

Just a genius piece of songwriting, end of story.

The rest of the songs are pretty stellar, too.

The One I Love, Finest Worksong, Welcome To The Occupation, Oddfellows Local 151, Disturbance At The Heron House, Exhuming McCarthy. Once I connected, I went back and checked out what I missed earlier, and continued listening throughout the rest of their career.

I’m glad I figured it out…better late than never!

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