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Exclusive Audio: R.E.M. on Earliest Influences

March 12, 2007 4:27 PM ET

Before tonight's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Peter Buck joined us in our offices to reminisce about the past, talk about influences and give us some insight into the band's future. We felt bad we couldn't fit all of you in the room, so we're doing the next best thing and sharing a handful of audio highlights from the interview:

Michael Stipe talks about how he feels about The Beatles.

On the band's love of Velvet Underground and Patti Smith.

Michael Stipe admitting the lyrics on the first two albums were "nonsense."

Find out the band's favorite new music and what Michael Stipe thinks is "best record of the last seven years."

On being chosen as Rolling Stone's Album of the Year in 1983, over Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Can't get enough R.E.M.? Check out what the band thinks about key albums from their extensive discography. And be sure to catch them tonight on VH1 Classic at 8:30 P.M. as Eddie Vedder inducts the boys from Athens, Georgia, into The House That Rock Built.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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