File under kudzu
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the release of R.E.M.’s iconic first album Murmur, a record that’s widely considered among the best rock debuts and one that helped set the template for ’80s college rock and the ensuing alternative-rock explosion.
To commemorate the milestone, R.E.M.’s official website collected remembrances from each of the band’s four members about their time making the 12-song record at Reflection Studios in Charlotte, North Carolina, back in 1983. (Look for era-appropriate pop culture references to Lee Iacocca and Tammy Faye Bakker.)
April 12, 1983. R.E.M.had been a band for three years, had one single and an EP to its name, and then released the first album Murmur on this date.
We had some fun, remembering some little corners of memories from the making of Murmur 40 years ago
— Bertis Downs (@BertisDowns4th) April 12, 2023
Here’s what they each had to say:
1.) We all stayed in one hotel room during its recording.
2.) There’s the Reflection incident that found me whistling for a producer working in a control room down the hall. His space was small so he left door open. For HOURS he was struggling to mimic the whistling part in “The Good The Bad and The Ugly” theme on a Moog synthesizer. When I left our studio for restroom or food breaks his exasperation level was becoming more audible with every trip. I had long ago figured the whistling technique that provided that eerie tone. I decided to yank his chain a little and stood in hallway just out of his sight. I blew it perfectly in the same pitch then made a beeline for our control room and closed the door behind me swiftly. I announced to all in control room that there would likely be a knock on our door soon. I didn’t have to continue as there was already a polite tapping on Studio A control door. Always eager to lend a hand, I went to studio B and nailed it in one take. He was producing a Dodge pickup commercial soundtrack. I was flabbergasted that he paid me $100 for my brief effort! That was a king’s ransom in those days. Of course band dinner that night was on me, or maybe Lee Iacocca, the then-chairman of Dodge.
If, on the way to the first day of recording “Murmur,” we had chanced upon a radio rebroadcast from exactly forty years previous, we would have heard speeches from Franklin Roosevelt, news about World War II, and the swinging sounds of Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. Forty years is a looong time. I’m more than gratified that “Murmur” is still floating around in the ether.
Love to all, Peter
1.) That’s when Peter went to the Salvation Army across the street from Reflection Studios and found the two plastic dinosaurs that became Left and Right, and sat on the studio speakers for every record until… (Peter: “every record til the end”)
2.) While we were recording in Charlotte we went to see a movie called “Strange Invaders.” They’d licensed the song “1,000,000” from the “Chronic Town” EP, the first time any of our songs had been used in a film, so of course we wanted to see it in action. When the film ended, the four of us gave it a standing ovation. The other four people in the audience were confused as to why.
At the time Reflection Studios was doing a lot of business with the Praise The Lord Club, who were based in a Christian theme park on the outskirts of Charlotte. At some point I expressed interest in it… (our Atlanta friends The Now Explosion, Clare Parker in particular, thought it was campy fun) and so a guy from the PTL church showed up with a box of swag for me, and asked me if I was a believer and I said yes. He didn’t specify a believer in what, so I didn’t elaborate in my response. In the box was a PTL Club license plate, stickers, a bunch of flyers and maybe a tee shirt and some other stuff and, wow, a copy of the just released “Run To The Roar,” written and signed by Tammy Faye to me. Its premise was not dumb — it was about facing fear rather than turning away from it, advice I could certainly have used in the coming decade. I still have the book. — Michael
PREVIOUSLY ON SLICING UP EYEBALLS
- New book “Maps and Legends” promises comprehensive history of R.E.M.
- R.E.M.’s ‘New Adventures in Hi-Fi’ to receive 25th anniversary deluxe reissue
- R.E.M. reissuing original ‘Radio Free Europe’ Hib-Tone single for first time in 40 years
- Listen: R.E.M.’s Bill Berry gives very rare interview to ‘In Weird Cities’ podcast
- Listen: Michael Stipe celebrates 60th birthday with new single ‘Drive to the Ocean’