It was a Tuesday morning. Sometime in April, I think. I'd just joined a band - a band who worshipped at the altar of another, not quite famous band. In an attempt to keep up and show a bit of willingness, I'd purchased one of the not quite famous bands records...just for research purposes and to see if there were any Basslines I could steal. I picked the cheapest one, not wishing to throw money away on a dud. I played it once and it sounded alright...a bit low key and sadly lacking in the shredding Guitar solos that I loved so much. The cover was a bit murky too... some sort of bridge thing covered in weeds and pictures of four freshly scrubbed college students. "Don't these jerks know anything about packaging?" I thought as I looked longingly at David Lee Roth arching backwards on the rear cover of the first Van Halen album. I played it again. It sounded...better. What was the singer going on about? Nice Bass lines...good harmonies too. I put the headphones down and went to sleep. The next morning - Tuesday morning - I awoke and before breakfast, before brushing my teeth, before getting dressed I had to do one thing -play that record again. I've played it no less than once a fortnight since April 1986. I'm playing it now and it still sounds like nothing else.
'Murmur' changed my life. How fucking Hollywood is that? But it did - at a stroke, the REO Speedwagon and Sammy Hagar records scattered around my bedroom looked vaguely ridiculous. I couldn't bear to look at them after a while and those 'Pre REM' LPs that didn't get binned were placed on a high shelf...REM was all I needed now. I sought out everything by them- every record they mentioned in inteviews, every record that sounded like them, every record by bands which came from where they came from. It was all so vital and thrilling and new... like drinking spring water after a lifetime of no-brand diet Cola.
They could do no wrong. They said they'd never mime in videos and they didn't (until MUCH later). They said Big Star were great and they were. Their live shows were chaotic, passionate and ever-changing. When they played 'Radio Free Europe' at the Hammersmith Odeon on September 12th 1987, I leaped out of my chair so hard I cut my shin.
Mike Mills became my hero. I ripped off his playing so much, I considered sending him a royalty cheque.
REM were my gateway into a new world and a new way of thinking...from music to dress sense to politics to Greenpeace to almost everything.
And now, they've split. I'm happy and sad at the same time. Happy that they aren't grinding on making patchy records that sound like other people, but sad that they aren't -well - a presence, I guess. A fixed point of reference. I'd have liked to have seen them once more, knowing it was the last time I was over going to hear some of those songs that altered the course of my life. The last time I saw them at some cattleshed sized venue in the UK, I was so bored I could barely concentrate...until I heard an echo of the music that made me wake up - just for a moment.
They've won countless awards and sold equally countless records. That doesn't matter. My story is not unique...I've met so many people in bands who started playing when they heard 'Murmur' or 'Reckoning' or any of those dazzling 80s albums. They inspired people. Me included. I'll miss them.
I'll miss them like I miss being 5 years old.