To celebrate their excellent new album Accelerate, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Peter Buck look back on their nearly three decades as one of America's great modern rock bands.
MURMUR (1983) [Review]
Buck: The most enduring thing is the writing. We had been a bar band for three years. But our songs had become deeper, emotionally and musically.
Mills: I still don't know all the words. But with a voice as emotive as Michael's, it didn't matter.
DOCUMENT (1987) [Review]
Mills: We thought of it as Peter's record. It's very guitar-driven.
Buck: When it was done, there was a feeling: "Something's changed." We finally made a record people would hear. And it is so 1987. It captured what America was like at the time.
GREEN (1988) [Review]
Stipe: For me, the big moment is "World Leader Pretend." It's a tribute to Leonard Cohen, using military terms to describe a battle within. I was so proud of the lyrics and my vocal take that I refused to sing it a second time. I did it once. That was it.
OUT OF TIME (1991) [Review]
Buck: Folk music with a mandolin - we thought, "Oh, that will be real popular." But this is where we wanted to go. We had been playing 130-200 shows a year. There was more we could do with our lives now. "Country Feedback" - I thought that was a demo. Michael just sang it once. It was a letter he wrote to someone but didn't send. He just sang it.
MONSTER (1994) [Review]
Buck: I talk to fans all the time who love that record. It was a bit monochromatic. But we wanted to switch around again.
Stipe: We had radio's attention. So we decided to put out the most fucked-up song - "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" - as the first single.
NEW ADVENTURES IN HI-FI (1996) [Review]
Buck: As crazy as the 1995 tour was - Bill's aneurysms, Mike in the hospital, so much weird stuff going on - that album was recorded onstage, at sound check or in a dressing room. If I had to pick just four records of ours that people should hear, that would be one.
ACCELERATE (2008) [Review]
Buck: "We got into a bad habit of spending months in the studio. My feeling was, 'We are a great live band. Let's do a great live-band record in the studio.'"
Mills: "We needed faster, shorter guitar-oriented songs. I feel that the people are ready to like R.E.M. again. Part of me feels like it's 1985 and we're a brand-new band again."
[From Issue 1022 — March 22, 2007]
To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here
MUSIC 9 Classic Devo Videos
OLYMPICS 18 Epic Opening Ceremonies