It is clear on the thirtieth anniversary of R.E.M.’s Out of Time album that the song from it, “Losing My Religion”, has weathered the time in between exceedingly well. “Pop culture, particularly in the US, everything comes and goes in cycles, as things do,” points out R.E.M. singer/ lyricist Michael Stipe, “which we all realize as we all grow older and wiser, whether it’s politics or music or pop culture…I always wanted to have a song that would be considered ‘the song of the Summer’. As it was, that song kind of became the song of the year,” he chuckled. Ten million copies sold and three Grammy Awards later, nobody could argue the case.If you were fortunate in 1983 to discover the first full-length album Murmur from Athens GA-based R.E.M., you probably realized that it sounded unlike anything else at the time and precious little ever since, except maybe their followup Reckoning. Over the next four years and five albums on indie label IRS, Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills,and Bill Berry made some of the smartest, quirky, angular rock of any American band.
Largely on the popularity of “The One I Love” from 1987’s Document, R.E.M. jumped ship to Warner Bros Records and recorded the top-notch rocker Green in 1988. But for 1991’s Out of Time, the band did a re-think, returning in many ways to the more intimate approach of instrumentation and arrangements of those two earliest albums, but utilizing strings on several.
Any serious list of “songs of the decade”, those universally acclaimed recordings which at once define the times in which they were written and released yet are timeless in their never-ending appeal, has to include Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” for the Seventies,“Every Breath You Take” by The Police for the Eighties, and for the 1990s, R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” from 1991’s Out of Time. In this week’s classic rock interview, Stipe, Buck, and Mills share thoughtful, at times controversial, insights .-Redbeard