R.E.M.: Life And How To Live It

September 21st, 2011

I'm pretty sure I'd never seen a man wearing eyeliner, let alone one stabbing, sweating and strutting his way shirtless across a stage back lit by 16mm film of fish swimming in slow-motion.

I was in the second row. Standing on my seat for two hours straight. Singing every word.

Indeed, R.E.M.'s 1988 Philadelphia Spectrum performance was mind blowing enough to derail everything that had come prior, and everything that would follow. The tale is well-worn. Heck, it's baked into my biography.

"My big brother brought R.E.M.'s ...

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I Heart Pop Candy Because Pop Candy Hearts Mister Rogers (And R.E.M.!)

September 5th, 2009

In December, I travelled to Washington, D.C., to cover President Obama's Inauguration for MTV News. I was managing the operation, for the most part, but broke ranks one afternoon to interview one of my artistic heroes, Shepard Fairey.

USA Today's Pop Candy Blog linked to the resulting article. So I sent its editor, Whitney Matheson, a thank you email. We talked about our mutual love of R.E.M., and agreed to grab beers sometime, then got sucked up into the cycle of our respective lives.

Fast forward to two week ago. I sent Whitney ...

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Thirty-Eight Songs

September 4th, 2009

Sometime after midnight thirty-eight years ago today in a sterile-white, fluorescent-lit University of Iowa hospital room, my parents welcomed me into the world just a few weeks shy of my due date.

My mother was studying classical guitar that summer. Moreover, the acoustic balladeer -- James Taylor, Carol King, Jim Croce, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Brown, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkle, CSN -- was everywhere then, including my parent's record player.

Those elements combined (presumably) with genetics, the position of the moon, the ...

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October 8th, 2008

Dear Ben,

In just a few weeks, you'll be laying in a hospital bed with a broken jaw. You'll look in the mirror but -- what with those wired teeth and that Elephant Man swelling -- fail to recognize yourself. It's a whole lotta' trauma on account of a girl, and a knuckleheaded football player, and it's gonna' bruise for a long, long time.

One year from now, though, you'll step from the gymnasium stage, stoned and squinty-eyed, with a diploma in your hand, and a duct tape question mark on you maroon cap. Shortly thereafter, you'll be ...

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Music Could Provide The Light You Cannot Resist

June 29th, 2008

It was spring. Everything was in bloom. The pavement was slick from an overnight rain.

The bus stop on the corner of Spencer and Fairfield Roads was crowded with middle schoolers. Including me: a tall, bespectacled and braced ninth grader in a blue Land's End oxford button-down, Levis 501s, and purple Converse All-Star high tops.

This day found me with a new cassette in my cobalt-blue Sanyo stereo tape player: R.E.M.'s "Reckoning." I pressed the big, black "play" button and in three minutes of staccato snare fills, ska-influenced ...

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R.E.M. Accelerate: A First Listen

February 27th, 2008

The day job affords me the occasional perk: random Paramount Picture DVDs, semi-annual trips to Park City, access to Lollapalooza's scrappy craft services tent. In general, though, mine's a desk job. I write email all day.

Today, though, provided a brief respite from the usual. For fifteen minutes this afternoon, I was fifteen-years-old again.

Record labels have a whole host of strategies for drumming up press support for its artist's forthcoming releases. The most tried and true is the "listening." Today, a duo of young Warner ...

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Hide & Seek: A Consideration Of REM & U2

February 20th, 2008

In the fall of 1987, two scrappy rock bands stood poised for world domination.

REM's fifth release, "Document," catapulted the band from college rock staples to mainstream mainstays. The band's Top 10 hit, "The One I Love," cracked the top ten. The album went platinum, paving the way for a five-album, $80M Warner Bros. deal.

U2's fifth studio album, "The Joshua Tree," was a cultural phenomena. Its two number one singles ("With or Without Your" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For") drove over 10 million sales, securing the ...

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The Place Where You Live

June 9th, 2006

I have the best ringtone ever.

I was a senior in high school when R.E.M. released its first Warner Bros. record, "Green," on November 8, 1988. The band had (of course) crawled from The South, releasing five sonically and lyrically unique pop albums on IRS Records and setting the bar for what would become "alternative rock." "Green," then, was the band's sell out.

And what a gloriously oddball sell out. "Hello, how are you? I know you, I knew you. I think I can remember your name." What the hell does that mean? That's Michael


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October 4th, 2003

I needed a shot in the arm. I got Michael Stipe. And I feel fine.

I got a phone call around four o'clock. "If you're fanatical enough to see REM two nights in a row, I just came across a pair of tickets for tonight."

Ends up, I am fanatical enough.

So I hitched a ride to Jones Beach with my buddy Brian (he wrote the liner notes to the "Summer's Gone" CD Single , and is on deck to write my new bio), suffered through an hour of traffic, and 45 degrees in the ocean wind, to hear my favorite band perform. And while I was cold, I was not ...

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Michael Stipe: Man On The Moon

December 11th, 1999

Listening to R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe discuss the comedian Andy Kaufman, one can't help imagining that the singer is, at least in part, also describing himself. "I copped a lot of his moves," Stipe concedes. Coming from a man who has been saddled since early in his career with the quasi-complimentary "eccentric" tag, that's no small admission.

Andy Kaufman rose to fame through early "Saturday Night Live" performances, and reached an even larger, more mainstream audience playing the ...

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