ROOTS with ROBB:  R.E.M.


R.E.M. is a pivotal band in music history.  Without them, there’s a good chance the 90s alt-boom from Seattle never happens…at least the way it did.  In all honesty, I’m not well-versed in their early 80s catalog.  So it was a real treat for me to dive into their first 5-6 albums.  If you’re in the same boat as me, check out staffer Billy’s beginners guide to the I.R.S. years below.

Roots is co-hosted and brought to you by Farmer’s Insurance, the Robert Hasty Agency

Our Roots song(s) of the Day:

A Beginner’s Guide to R.E.M.  by Billy Thompson

For the new to back catalog R.E.M listener the best starting point is the IRS records compilation Eponymous which includes all of the single releases from each of the early albums. Listed below are the songs that stood out to me from each of the early albums on IRS up to the Warner Bros album Green.

“Gardening at Night”

‘Chronic Town E.P’ (1982) IRS

Gardening at Night set the template for the R.E.M. sound, and it still sounds fresh over 35 years later.

“Perfect Circle”

‘Murmur’ (1983) IRS

This cut from the band’s first full-length album demonstrated that R.E.M was capable of ballads as pretty and delicate as … well, as a perfect circle. This song really showcased drummer Bill Berry as a solid song writer.

Singles released or better known songs:

Radio Free Europe

Talk About the Passion

“Time After Time (AnnElise)”

‘Reckoning’ (1984) IRS

This should’ve been the greatest song named “Time After Time” released in 1984, but Cyndi Lauper dropped a monster single by the same title in January of that year.

Singles released or better known songs:

So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)

Don’t Go Back To Rockville

“Maps and Legends”

‘Fables of the Reconstruction’ (1985) IRS

The second cut on an album that was a little slower in tempo, a little stranger and a whole lot murkier in overall sound.

Singles released or better known songs:

Can’t Get There From Here

Driver 8 (A song Bill Berry said he could crap out in his sleep)

“What If We Give It Away?”

‘Life’s Rich Pageant’ (1986) IRS

This is one of those songs that fly under the radar solely because it is so well-constructed. One would have a hard time finding a song that more accurately showcases the R.E.M.’s sound.

Singles released or better known songs:

Fall On Me


“Disturbance at the Heron House”

‘Document’ (1987) IRS

“Disturbance at the Heron House” is one of those evolutionary oddities that mark the boundary between old and new. Document marked the end of R.E.M.’s career as indie artists. Shades of what was to come with Warner Bros. are on display in this track, but the “classic” R.E.M. sound is still there. This is the album that really broke R.E.M to the masses thanks to the constant rotation on College radio and MTV of the song “The One I Love”.

check out a live performance of Heron House in the Unplugged video below.  It’s the 2nd song.

Singles released or better known songs:

The One I Love

End of the World

Finest Work song

“Turn You Inside Out”

‘Green’ (1988) Warner Bros

Few songs have been more appropriately titled. Green announced the end of the indie sounding band and was replaced by a more muscular, arena rock sound. The shift certainly turned longtime fans inside out (like me), but it also brought the band a whole new and well deserved audience.

Singles released or better known songs:

Orange Crush


Bonus Unplugged Concert

Next week’s Roots CLASSIC ALBUM:  The Who ‘Who’s Next.’

Make a suggest for a future roots artist/album!                                      Past Roots episodes!