R.E.M. Records Christmas Single from Phil Spector's Catalog

Band's holiday tribute tradition dates back to 1988

December 10, 2010 5:45 PM ET
Michael Stipe in New York City, December 8, 2010.
Michael Stipe in New York City, December 8, 2010.
Mike Coppola/FilmMagic

R.E.M. have accumulated a number of fan-club-only Christmas singles since they first began releasing them in 1988.

While the singles initially followed a format pairing a cheeky cover of a Christmas tune with a ragtag cover of a non-Christmas song (by artists ranging from Mission of Burma to George Gershwin), the band ditched that format in the 1990s. Since then it's been anything goes: In 1998 the group and Radiohead covered each other's songs, and they've done similar recordings with Neil Young and Wilco — as well as releasing Christmas videos, DVDs and even CD ROMs.

Photos: R.E.M. Through the Years

This year, at they've recorded Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," from Phil Spector's 1963 Christmas compilation, paired with an ethereal instrumental remix that combines three songs from their forthcoming LP Collapse Into Now . Michael Stipe didn't take part, but bassist Mike Mills handles the lead vocal just fine. Bill Berry is back behind the drum kit, as he was for the flipside of last year's "Santa Baby" single, a cover of Lenny Kaye's "Crazy Like a Fox." (Incidentally, U2 covered "Christmas," with Darlene Love on backing vocals, for the Very Special Christmas album way back in 1987.)

[Listen: R.E.M.'s Fan Club-Only Christmas Single [Cover Me via Consequence of Sound]

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

Music Main Next
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

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."

More Song Stories entries »