Ah, mix tapes – a 1980’s college staple…

There are bands that need to break up, but don’t. Bands that should never get together, but do. And bands that you just think will go on forever until their fans get tired of hearing them, which would never happen. That’s REM.

After 31 years, REM recently announced they’re calling it quits. They did it in the same way they do everything – with little drama, a good share of humility, and a lot of respect for their fans. From the very beginning, the fans have been a crucial part of the band’s success. In those early days, “Radio Free Europe” blared in dorms everywhere; college radio stations loved REM because their music was different, filled with clean rhythms and lyrics that could be both cryptic and crystal clear at the same time.

When alternative rock became an actual genre in the 1990’s (“alternative” literally being some kind of music that was an alternative for people who were tired of hearing the same old stuff), REM was out in front and the fans were more than willing to come along for the ride. Album after album, they didn‘t disappoint: “Don’t Go Back to Rockville”, “Can’t Get There from Here”, “Radio Song”, “Everybody Hurts”, “Stand”, “The One I Love”, “Nightswimming” – feel free to add your favorites.

The boys from Athens are hanging it up for the very best of reasons – they’ve taken their music in every direction it could go and it’s so much better to walk away than be thrown away. Still I can’t help but feel a little bit older, a little less one of the “Shiny Happy People”, now that the group who provided the soundtrack of my youth and the tunes I reflected to as I grew up is being unplugged. But as long as I can still find my cassettes and my 20-year-old Walkman holds up, REM will be in concert forever.

By the way, in case you’re wondering about the guitar painting in the photo? It’s called “Unplugged” by Louis Still Smoking, a talented young artist friend of mine who’ll be one to watch in the years to come.

  1. I remember hearing “The One I Love” in college and thinking, “Ohh, so this is what MY music sounds like!” I liked lots of music, but that was the first time I really felt connected to a song. REM may split, but their music will be remembered.

    • For some reason, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” always makes me think of that last apartment we lived in senior year. Pandemonium: Escape is not the plan…do you remember that?

  2. Awww. Sweetly nostalgic this one, Kelly. I loved this band as well. It was REM and Dire Straights that I listened to on cassettes in my Walkman all the way to Australia and back. And Madam thaats a long flight so I know each their stuff backwards and forwards. I personally loved the slight heft of a cassette tape. CD’s are too freaking fragile. Like handling hummingbird wings.

    Anyway, a writerly tip of the hat to you and your art.

    • Thanks for the hat-tip, madam! Still have my suitcase of cassettes from the old days and some nights when I’m writing, I pull out my trusty Walkman and time travel. You have to appreciate a mechanism that allows you to rewind and play the same :15 guitar riff over and over and over without having to listen to the whole song if you don’t want to. No can do with a CD, boys and girls.

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