R.E.M.- Document- Michael Stipe, Peter Buck

Document was the mainstream breakthrough for R.E.M. in a five album stubbornly eclectic alternate route to the top of the US album sales chart  in September 1987. My conversations with R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe and particularly with lead guitarist Peter Buck about those early IRS Records reveal a band remarkably cohesive and certain about its vision. This interview includes the earliest days of the Athens GA R.E.M. with songs from their first five full albums Murmur ( a perennial “desert island disc” for me, released April 1983), Reckoning a year later peaking at #27 on Billboard,  Fables of the Reconstruction,  Life’s Rich Pageant, &  their biggest seller to that point, Document in September 1987.

”We played for $40 a night for years,” R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck says matter-of-factly.”There were many $8 nights. Yet we never lost money on a tour. We’d always start in Athens GA, and make $800. And then we’d go to North Carolina and make $300. Then when we got out of that area we’d open for somebody, and they’d give us $50 or $100 to open for Bow Wow Wow in Detroit.”( From left Mike Mills, Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Michael Stipe. Photo by Sandra Lee Phipps)

R.E.M. Murmur  quietly emerged April 12, 1983 and has never left my essential music list, along with its follow-up Reckoning. Songs include “Radio Free Europe”,”South Central Rain”,”Can’t Get There from Here”,”Driver 8″,  and an ultra-rare live acoustic performance of “Maps and Legends” from McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. This edition of In the Studio lovingly dedicated to the memory of Barney Kilpatrick, who tirelessly promoted all of these albums for R.E.M.- Redbeard