Saturday, February 6, 2010

80s/90s Music Video Flashback: R.E.M.

R.E.M. - "Fall On Me"

R.E.M. - "Man On The Moon"

R.E.M. is an American rock band formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980 by Michael Stipe (lead vocals), Peter Buck (guitar), Mike Mills (bass guitar), and Bill Berry (drums and percussion). R.E.M. was one of the first popular alternative rock bands, and gained early attention due to Buck's ringing, arpeggiated guitar style and Stipe's unclear vocals.

In January 1980, Michael Stipe met Peter Buck in the Athens record store where Buck worked. The pair discovered that they shared similar tastes in music, particularly punk rock and protopunk artists like Patti Smith, Television, and The Velvet Underground. Stipe said, "It turns out that I was buying all the records that [Buck] was saving for himself." Stipe and Buck soon met fellow University of Georgia students Mike Mills and Bill Berry, who had played music together since high school. The quartet agreed to collaborate on several songs; Stipe later commented that "there was never any grand plan behind any of it". Their still-unnamed band spent several months rehearsing and played its first show on April 5, 1980 at a friend's birthday party held in a converted Episcopal church. After considering names like "Twisted Kites", "Cans of Piss", and "Negro Wives", the band settled on "R.E.M.", which Stipe selected at random from a dictionary. The band members eventually dropped out of school to focus on their developing group

"Fall on Me" was from their fourth album Lifes Rich Pageant (1986). It was the first of two singles released from that LP. It peaked at number 94 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is something of a duet between Stipe and Mike Mills, with the two of them sharing vocals prominently during the bridge and chorus. Mills takes lead vocals for the bridge. Stipe filmed and directed the video for this song, in which the lyrics are seen superimposed over upside-down, black and white footage of a quarry.

"Man on the Moon" was released as the second single from its 1992 album Automatic for the People. The song makes numerous references to the performer Andy Kaufman, including his Elvis impersonation and work with wrestlers Fred Blassie and Jerry Lawler. The song was released as a single in 1992.

The title, video, and lyrics are a reference to the conspiracy theory that the American moon landing was faked. There have also been rumors that Andy Kaufman faked his death. The lyrics make no direct reference to this or a connection between the two, but they do imply that Kaufman should not be seen as having "nothing up his sleeve."

The song gave its name to a 1999 film based on Kaufman's life, Man on the Moon, and was used in the film's soundtrack.

The song's video, directed by Peter Care, was shot over three days in the desert, at Lancaster in the Antelope Valley area of California, in October 1992. Care kept a journal of the unusually long planning, filming, and editing process, which was published by Raygun magazine and reprinted in the R.E.M. fan club newsletter.

In the video, Stipe, attired in a cowboy hat, walks along a desert road. He leaps onto a passing truck, driven by Bill Berry, and hitches a ride to a truck stop where Peter Buck is tending bar and Mike Mills is shooting pool. Berry trades his truck seat for a bar stool, and along with a few of the other customers (in the shooting they used both actors and non-actors), sings along during the choruses. After finishing his order of fries, Stipe leaves and walks off into the dusk. In the background on a small television set in the truck stop, various footage of Andy Kaufman can be seen showing. The video was ranked #41 on Rolling Stone magazine's The 100 Top Music Videos.

Links: Official R.E.M. website

Thanks to Wikipedia; Rolling Stone Magazine; REM Fan Club;Warner Bros Records; AthFest, Athens, GA

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