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A very young R.E.M. gets noticed by the NY Rocker, March 1981
05.08.2015
09:08 am
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REM at Tyrone’s O.C., Athens, Georgia, April 10, 1981
 
In March 1981 N.Y. Rocker put Pylon on its cover, which promised a look at the “New Sounds of the Old South,” centering on a town that probably not too many New Yorkers had heard of, called Athens, Georgia. If they had heard of it, it was either because of the University of Georgia football team or because of the recent success of a new band called the B-52s.

The title of the Pylon feature is “Temporary Rock”; if you’d like to read it, you can find it at this page on the WFMU blog. As promised, N.Y. Rocker did take a look at the Athens scene, and highlighted, alongside a “psychedlo porch funk” outfit named Love Tractor and a nerdy trio called Side Effects, a promising new four-piece called R.E.M. Vic Varney, author of the roundup, called R.E.M. the “most conservative” of the bunch, noted their relative popularity in Athens (they “pack in” a lot of people), and snarked that their supporters can’t distinguish their covers from their originals, which fact constitutes the divide between the band’s fans and the haters. Varney praised the group for being cautious about chasing the money train and then, rather remarkably, compared R.E.M. in Athens to the Beatles in Hamburg (!).

Where was R.E.M. at this point? They didn’t have an album out. They didn’t have a single out. According to a very useful website called R.E.M. Timeline, the band had been playing Athens pretty regularly over the course of 1980 and had even ventured out to two welcoming border states, North Carolina and Tennessee. They had never played New York, but (quite strangely) they had played, in February 1981, a venue called New York, New York, that existed for a time in Augusta, Georgia. Here’s a pretty funny radio ad for that show that features no R.E.M. music whatsoever (remember I said they didn’t even have a single out?) but does showcase some Devo, B-52’s, and the Police. Don’t miss the “punk rock dance contest”! You might win $25!
 

 
As the radio ad mentions, in December 1980 R.E.M. had opened for the Police in Atlanta’s Fox Theater. (I got that audio clip from the selfsame R.E.M. Timeline’s Facebook presence.)

Playing for really good bands like the Police was one of R.E.M.‘s defining pastimes as 1981 came and went. During that year they opened for Gang of Four, XTC, Wishbone Ash, Bow Wow Wow, the dB’s, Siouxsie and the Banshees, U2, and Oingo Boingo—that’s an incredibly impressive list. Clearly, they were Georgia’s go-to openers for a while there.

Say, was anybody reading this in attendance at the R.E.M./U2 bill at Vanderbilt University’s Underwood Auditorium on December 2, 1981? If so, it seems that you saw a historically unique lineup.

The rest of the story is better known. In June they would finally play NYC, opening for Gang of Four, and in July they released “Radio Free Europe” on Hib-Tone, which they would re-record and re-release after signing to IRS Records in May 1982—the cleaner IRS version would hit #78 on the Billboard charts.

As for the article, well, I feel the desire to bestow on it the mantle of some superlative, but I’m not quite sure what that would be. N.Y. Rocker wasn’t a national outlet, so it’s not right to say that this was the first time the national press noticed R.E.M.—and I wouldn’t know that to be true even if you do count N.Y. Rocker as national.

It seems very safe to say, however, that this article was pretty distinctive. It’s incredibly unlikely that anyone in Chicago or Los Angeles as big as N.Y. Rocker was paying enough attention to Athens to feature them in this way, and even in early 1982, when R.E.M. finally made it to Massachusetts, a writer named Jim McKay in the Boston College student newspaper was complaining that nobody in Boston knows who R.E.M. is and referencing the voluminous ink N.Y. Rocker had spilled on R.E.M. in multiple issues. Just to repeat that point: a full year after this Pylon cover, people not living in NYC had formed a mental link between N.Y. Rocker and R.E.M. (By the way, if you look at McKay’s picks, he was a pretty astute music critic.)

It ain’t worth a Pulitzer, maybe, but I say, that’s cracklin’ good rock and roll journalism for you.

I found this issue of N.Y. Rocker at the Rock Hall’s Library and Archives, which is located at the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts on Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus in Cleveland, Ohio. It is free and open to the public. Visit their website for more information.

(If you click on an image you can see a bigger version.)
 

 
Continues over…

READ ON
Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.08.2015
09:08 am
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Half Japanese ‘Overjoyed’ mini-doc features members of Sonic Youth, REM, and Velvet Underground
08.06.2014
04:35 pm
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It’d be tempting to dismiss this “mini-documentary” as a mere advertisement for a record release if the subject weren’t the incandescent and seminal lo-fi band Half Japanese.

Since their debut triple-album‘s 1980 release, the band, helmed by Mr. Jad Fair, have advanced an influential primitivist approach to rock music, which has made them one of those bands that see little marketplace success but are utterly beloved by other musicians. So beloved, in fact, that Fair’s bandmates have over the years included, among many others, noted producer and Velvet Monkeys/Gumball honcho Don Fleming, Shimmy-Disc boss and Bongwater multi-instrumentalist Kramer, and Velvet Underground drummer Mo Tucker.
 

 
So when it was announced that Half Japanese would be returning with a new album after a thirteen year layoff, it was surely an easy matter to find plenty of glowing testimonials from folks you can trust. (It’s worth noting that Fair has spent that downtime pursuing the visual arts, and if you can catch an exhibit, I recommend it, his work is great fun.) Overjoyed will be released by Joyful Noise on September 2, 2014, and members of REM, Sonic Youth, the Velvet Underground, NRBQ, Teenage Fanclub and many, many others are eager to tell you all about why you should care. If what you see here whets your appetite for more, you really need to see the 1993 documentary The Band That Would Be King. I’ve said this before, many times, but as far as I’m concerned it bears infinite repeats: if that doc doesn’t make you want to start a band, you might have no soul.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds
Virtuosity in minutes: Half Japanese’s only guitar lesson you’ll ever need
‘Indie, punk, Motown, Brill Building and Velvets’: meet the street karaoke maestro of Los Angeles

Posted by Ron Kretsch
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08.06.2014
04:35 pm
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Awaiting Rapturization…


 
Just thought I would check in and report on how it’s going on the other side of the world on this momentous day. And I just LOVE this “Prairie-Dog Rapture” pic! Well, so far so good… unless you are a fundie, I guess. No sign of any earthquakes or bodies being mysteriously sucked up into the sky. Yet. There’s still two hours to go ‘til the official kick-off time so you never know, it might happen, but reports from the expanses of the planet that have already hit that 6pm deadline report nothing unusual. Oh, wait, there WERE a couple of earthquakes in the Pacific, but they were small (3-4 on the Richter scale, surely not God bothering size?) and apparently there tends to be a small earthquake somewhere in the Pacific every day anyway.

I am in Ireland at the moment and interestingly (for such a predominantly Catholic country) no one seems too fussed by this whole rapture malarky. Maybe the populace have had other things to think about. This week has seen a royal visit by Queen Elizabeth, the first visit to this isle of a British monarch since Ireland fought for, and won, independence way back in 1922. Now THAT is a momentous occasion. People who would normally be described as “patriots” and who within their own lifetimes have seen periods of real animosity against the British were seen cooing and ahhing at the British monarch’s presence. There were protests, of course, but the turnouts were small, estimated at around the 200 mark. This is what they looked like from the inside:
 

 
By all accounts the visit was a roaring success. Liz had a tour of ghostly Dublin, where roads were blocked off to keep people away from her highness. She was brought to Croke Park, the 80,000+ capacity sports arena that has a very special significance in the history of Irish nationalism. Bought by the Gaelic Athletics Association in 1913, it was used to encourage the playing of indigenous sports hurling and Gaelic football (at a time when the country was under strict British rule) and was seen as a hotbed of anti-British conspiracy by the then powers-that-be. It was at Croke Park that the infamous original Bloody Sunday occurred in 1921 when, in retaliation for a number of assassinations by the IRA, the British army and the Royal Irish Constabulary indiscriminately shot into the crowd during a Dublin-Tipperary football match killing 13 spectators and the Tipperary football captain. It was this incident that turned the tide of the war of independence against the British and ultimately led to the withdrawal of British troops from most of the island. The fact that the Queen visited this specific arena says a lot about how far relations between the Irish and the English have come in the resulting ninety years. 

Her Madge also stopped off at the Coolmore Stud, the world’s largest breeding centre for thoroughbred horses, and in Cork city made a visit to its famous English Market. That bit was of particular significance to me, as my mother’s family have had a fruit and vegetable stall there for over 100 years. The English Market is a beautiful, hidden treasure in the vastly under-rated city (Cork is MUCH nicer than Dublin!) and could dearly use a boost in visits and trade in this era of multinationalization.
 

The English Market - the white haired man is my uncle.

Even more excitingly though, for me and a lot of people other people anyway, on Monday we will be being graced by a visit from President of the United States and the First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama. It’s only a flying visit really, as he is on his way to the UK for 4 days, but while here he will be travelling to County Offaly to look up some of his ancestors, and giving a public address on College Green in Dublin city centre. I expect the turn out for this to be very strong, and even though there will be a stepped up security presence, I really don’t think he has anything to worry about. In fact I think he will be greeted by a very warm Irish welcome, something that eluded President Bush a few years back. I won’t be here then, unfortunately, but the Irish media will be supplying day-long rolling coverage of his visit if you are interested in watching. I expect there to be protests too, but they will most likely be Queen-sized.

Anyway, so where was I… oh yes! The Rapture. Hmm, well there’s still a bit of time to kill before believers get hoovered up (or not). If there is any breaking news on this side of the pond I will dutifully report it. Or I might not actually, preferring to spend that time with my family. But for some reason or other all day I just haven’t been able to get this bloody song out of my mind. Any ideas why? Answers in a comment to the usual address…
 

 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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05.21.2011
10:50 am
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Tourettes Karaoke: R.E.M.‘s ‘Losing My Religion’
09.12.2010
03:56 pm
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I will never think of this song the same way again. “Oi, fucker, fucker!” From TheMainMeal:

Another tic day, another song, this time I include a brief explanantion of just how knackering doing a song with severe tics can be…

(via Nerdcore)

Posted by Tara McGinley
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09.12.2010
03:56 pm
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