Monday, September 26, 2011

R.E.M. - "Superman" (the song remains the same)

Less than a week ago, R.E.M. decided to hang it up after 31 years. Drummer Bill Berry had already retired 14 years ago (!), so I suppose they did the right thing in calling it quits before attrition whittled down the three remaining original members.

Here's where I have to confess that although I like R.E.M. well enough, I never loved R.E.M. Sure, I have a handful of their LPs, I enjoy most of their stuff, and I recognize their centrality in defining the 80s college rock sound. And thanks to the late Carol Taylor (FM99), everyone in Hampton Roads heard them before most did (she was playing "Radio Free Europe" in 83/84). I remember Earl Lindford's band (I don't recall their name) playing "Can't Get There From Here" at the 86 or 87 Denbigh Jam (see also: Tone Deaf). In short, unless you're from Athens, GA I probably heard about them before you.

But it was much later in life (mid-90s?) that I was surprised to discover that my favorite song by R.E.M. was actually a cover. "Superman", the second and last single from 1986's LP "Lifes Rich Pageant" (arguably their last truly alternative LP), was actually originally released in 1969 by The Clique, as the b-side to their single "Sugar on Sunday". Furthermore, the lead vocals on the R.E.M. version are from bassist Mike Mills instead of lead singer Michael Stipe. That's right, my favorite R.E.M. song is not written by R.E.M. and has Michael Stipe on just background vocals.

So while I was never the biggest R.E.M. fan, their retirement is too important to ignore. I might eventually review some of their LPs, but for the near-term this will have to do.

R.E.M.: "Superman"; (a YouTube version with bad sound quality, but you have to love the I.R.S. 45rpm single)

The Clique: "Superman"

Bonus Links:
R.E.M.: "White Tornado" (b-side to the 7" single).

The Clique: "Sugar on Sunday" (a-side to their 7" single).

No comments:

Post a Comment