Southern Central Rain (I’m Sorry)

…last week was Dexys’ turn and this week it is time for REM. The occasion,  the re-release – on its 25th anniversary – of Document, the last of the run of albums they made with IRS before defecting to Warners and the $ where they were never quite the same. All things grow up and REM lost their innocence with that move. Before that each album had been like the shedding of another layer of skin.

Murmer started off bathed in mystery, an opaque set of songs, difficult to pin down, like music seeping out of the bunker, odd hollered words hinting at an emotion before lying back down in the sonic murk. Reckoning carried on the theme but with more clarity, Harbourcoat was a clarion call. Tales of the Reconstruction was a step back into the mystery of Murmer although the bright sheen Can’t Get There From Here was a fore-shadowing of things to come.

After that the drums got louder and you had a band that knew it wouldn’t take much to take them over the edge, out of the niche within college rock, but they continued to hold back. Amidst some of the brashness of Its The End Of the World As We Know it and One I Love there was still room for mystery with Kings of Birds

I saw REM in concert 8 or 9 times over the years that they released those five albums. They were some of the best concerts I’ve been to. A combination of a band that I loved at the cusp of being great. The best time to see a band.

I saw them play at The Milton Keynes Bowl supporting U2. The Ramones were also playing along with Spear of Destiny and The Faith Brothers. I am still slightly proud of the fact we walked out as U2 took to the stage.

At about the same time they played The Summer Ball at Warwick University. The evening started with Jonathan Richman. I can’t remember what time REM came on stage. I stood near the front and somewhere I have a grainy photo of Michael Stipe in a hat. They played an old Creeedance Clearwater Revival song Have You Seen the Rain and it was one of my best evenings.

This is the set list for that evening.

After REM played Green on Red were on stage. They had driven down from Leeds that evening and didn’t start until early in the morning. Pete Buck joined them on stage to play along with the encore including a cover of Sympathy for the Devil. Dan Peters thrust the microphone into the crowd and we sang along to the OO OOS.

The re-release of Document comes with a extra disc of a live show they played in Utrecht in September 1987. It finishes with a version of So. Central Rain which I think I may have somewhere else on the back of a 12 inch single. It is just Pete Buck on guitar behind Michael Stipe singing. Mike Mills comes in on harmonies towards the end. For the coda he sings I come to you defences down with the trust of a child. I wish I had been there.

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