September 22, 2011


my favorite photo of Michael Stipe, and my favorite photo by Anton Corbijn

today my favorite band in the whole wide world announced that they are done.

i'm surprised by how sad this makes me. no one died, they just decided now was the time to walk away.

we were "born" the same year, but it wasn't until i was 10 years old that i was introduced to the wonder of R.E.M. it was at the annual dance at summer camp; they played "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" and it was like nothing i had ever heard before. (of course, i was 10, so my musical knowledge was, like, the Monkees, Motown oldies, and Paula Abdul.) right after i got home, i had my mom drive me to Peaches record shop and i bought Eponymous on cassette. i sat on my bed with a pad of paper and a pen, and pressed PLAY/STOP/REWIND over and over until i had written down and memorized all the lyrics to that glorious song. well, as much as anyone could ever know those lyrics. to this day, i still know the whole thing.

since then, they have always remained a part of my life. in 1995 Monster came out and they were embarking on a crazy world tour, one of the stops being about an hour away from my hometown. our previous next door neighbors were an awesome family whose paterfamilias was a bigwig concert promoter. we'd occasionally gotten tickets through him to sweet arena shows like Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones. i worked up the nerve to ask him if he could get us tickets (me, my best friend, and surrogate big brother acting as chaperone). when i went over to pick up the tickets and pay for them, they literally waved my checkbook away. my parents were in the midst of their divorce, so i think they were taking the opportunity to do something really nice for me during a rough time. i was so shocked and thrilled i didn't even open the envelope.

cut to a few weeks later, we've driven to the arena and i finally open the envelope to dole out tickets. we make it through the gates and one of them asks, "hey, so where are we sitting?" all the times we've ever gotten tickets from our neighbors, they're always in the same section- lowest row of bleacher seats off to one side. great seats. that's what i was expecting, so i was taken aback when the other one said, "uh...mine says Orchestra." i was confused so we just went to an usher, who looked at our tickets and just pointed down to the floor. okay, now we're getting excited. we get to the floor at the very back, show our tickets to another usher, and he just starts walking toward the stage.... closer.... closer... until he stopped. at the 9th row. i remember we were all so shocked we couldn't speak at first. we just sat down wide-eyed, about 20-30 feet from the stage. we were so close we could see the blue eyeshadow in Michael Stipe's eyebrows. to this day, it is one of my greatest memories.

my musical tastes have run the gamut over the years, but R.E.M. has remained the strongest constant. they are my "comfort music." and now all we have is all we'll ever have from them.

rest in peace favorite band ever. 31 years is a great run.

1 comment:

Dixon said...

What a great show that night! Thanks for taking me;)
Great reflection on a great band. Comfort music indeed.

"Man on the moon" came on in the restaurant where I was having breakfast today and I had to stop the conversation at our table to savor the pre-chorus/chorus majesty of it.

R.E.M. is dead. Long live R.E.M.