The R.E.M. - Usenet rec.music.rem
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS LIST
Last revision 1/5/97
Maintained by Ron Henry
Part 1. About The Newsgroup, and How to Get its Documents
Part 2. Some Very Basic Information About The Band
Part 3. The FAQ Proper: Questions That You Don't Need to Ask
A. General Questions
B. Album Covers, Liner Notes, and Other Packaging Questions
C. Those Darn Lyrics; and Other Music Questions
D. Questions on R.E.M.'s Live Performaces
Part 4. Where To Get More Information about R.E.M. (Books)
Part 5. R.E.M. on Video
Part 6. Resources Available on the Internet
Part 7. A Primer on R.E.M. Bootlegs/Live tapes
Part 8. FAQ Index by Subject
Part 1. About The Newsgroup, and How to Get its Documents
An R.E.M. Internet e-mail list first began in Feb. 1990 as a part of
Project Athena at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In July of
1993, it moved to Lynchburg College in Virginia; then, due to the
ever-increasing volume of Internet interest in the band, and the resulting
unmanagability of the volume of postings to the list, the Murmur list was
discontinued and replaced by a Usenet newsgroup. On March 28, 1994,
"rec.music.rem" was created, after winning a landslide voter approval (789
to 241). Consequently, the MURMUR e-mail list is no longer available.
(However, see the section on Internet resources for currently-available
mailing lists through athens.net.)
The most recently updated version of the full FAQ can always be obtained
* WWW browser to http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/8789/remfaq.htm; or
* email evisc...@geocities.com (text version only); or
* follow the link from the "REM Home Page" site www.svs.com; or
* it is occasionally posted to Usenet newsgroups rec.music.rem,
rec.answers, and news.answers.
Lyrics to all of R.E.M.'s albums can be gotten via the Web at Kipp
Teague's Retroweb page, http://www.retroweb.com/remlyrics.html (Note:
these files are consensus lyrics worked out by members of the Murmur
mailing list and rec.music.rem over the years. You may not agree
with all of them, but keep in mind that many people have worked
very hard to make them as accurate as is humanly possible, so do
give them the benefit of the doubt.
For those wondering about specific references in the lyrics,
Chris Piuma has compiled the R.E.M. Lyrics Annotations FAQ at
Several specialized supplements to the regular FAQ document have been
prepared (email evisc...@geocities.com for copies if interested):
* Collected posts and responses to Michael Stipe's on-line sessions
in August 1995;
* The "Real People in R.E.M. Songs" list, compiled by Gary Nabors,
author of the book Remnants;
* List of REM videos with directors and brief descriptions;
* Multi-part index to Gray's R.E.M. reference book It Crawled from the
South (1st ed., 1993), compiled by Cindy Donlin;
* The Band Members' Illness FAQ, which summarizes Bill Berry, Mike
Mills, and Michael Stipe's surgeries during the World Tour 95;
* "Lame Postings to the Newsgroup and How to Cope" article to help
readers face the insanity that is Usenet;
* Mini-FAQ of information about the album New Adventures in Hi-Fi;
* Transcript of Michael Stipe on the AOL Webstock forum;
* R.E.M. Monster World Tour FAQ;
* R.E.M. Monster World Tour Setlists statistics, compiled by Martin
To comment on or make a suggestion for the FAQ-lists, send email to me
Part 2. Some Very Basic Information About The Band R.E.M.
Since late 1997, the band members are Peter Buck (guitar and other stringed
instruments), Mike Mills (bass, keyboards, and vocals) and Michael Stipe
(vocals). Until late 1997, the band included Bill Berry (percussion, backing
vocals). Other folks of note have included Bertis Downs IV (the band's
lawyer), and Scott Litt (producer of their albums from Document to New
Adventures). Prior to 1996 the band's manager was Jefferson Holt.
Albums to date:
* Chronic Town (EP), 1982
* Murmur, 1983
* Reckoning, 1984
* Fables of the Reconstruction..., 1985
* Lifes Rich Pageant, 1986
* Document, 1987
* Green, 1988
* Out Of Time, 1991
* Automatic For The People, 1992
* Monster, 1994
* New Adventures in Hi-Fi, 1996
* Dead Letter Office, 1987 (B-sides and Chronic Town reissue)
* Eponymous, 1988 (I.R.S. Greatest Hits)
* The Best of R.E.M., 1991 (European Greatest Hits)
* In the Attic, 1997 (EMI "Rarities" package)
Note that the European I.R.S. reissues of albums through Document include
most of the bonus live and b-side tracks included on In the Attic. See the
Discography (link from http://www.svs.com ) for a more complete
description of all the official releases.
Part 3. The FAQ Proper
A. GENERAL QUESTIONS
o A1. "How do I join the fan club? Is it worth it?"
Write to: R.E.M., PO Box 8032, Athens, GA 30603. The yearly cost is US$10;
$12 if joining from overseas. You will have to renew every year.
For joining, you get a few postcards/newsletters, some random promo stuff
when a new record comes out (usually a poster, some buttons, photos, things
of that nature) and a holiday package containing the ever-famous Christmas
collector's edition fan club single, and possibly other goodies like a
calendar. Only you can decide if this is a good deal -- but bear in mind
that such collectables generally increase in value over time, especially
the fan club singles.
o A2. "What does the 'J' in J. M. Stipe stand for?"
John. Nobody knows why he dropped the name but still uses the initial. Much
biographical information on the band members' full names, birthdays, home
towns, childhood, and educational backgrounds is covered in detail in the
book It Crawled from the South by Marcus Gray.
o A3. "Are there any R.E.M. fan newsletters I can subscribe to?"
Here is a quick list of a few recently-published R.E.M. fanzines, in no
particular order (fanzines tend to come and go, so it's a good idea to
check if it still publishing before sending money):
* 394 Oconee, c/o Pattie Klienke, P.O. Box 304, Union City, NJ.
07087-9998; (Single issue: US $3, UK & Europe $5 US)
* Country Feedback, RR1 North Road, Jefferson, NH 03583; (Single issue:
US $3, UK & Europe 5 US dollars; payable to Country Feedback)
* Chronic Town, 27 Oriel Drive, Old Road, Liverpool, L10 3JL, England;
(Single issue: UK 2 pounds, Europe 2.50 pounds, Australia 3 pounds, US
5 pounds (no US checks!))
* Murmur, c/o Stephen Rennicks, Church Rd, Ardbraccan, Navan, Co.Meath,
Ireland; (Single issue: UK 1.80 pounds, US 6 pounds; payable to
o A4. "Doesn't R.E.M. stand for 'rapid eye movement'?"
In the scientific field of sleep research, the acronym r.e.m. indeed stands
for "rapid eye movement," and refers to the stage of sleep in which, among
other things, dreaming occurs. But, in the case of the band, no, it
doesn't. The story related by Peter Buck on the band's early 1983 Late
Night with David Letterman appearance is that they picked it out of the
dictionary (not all dictionaries include scientific terms like "r.e.m.," so
don't be disappointed if you don't find it) and they liked it because it
was so ambiguous.
From It Crawled from the South:
"'We sat up one night,' says Michael, 'and we just got completely
drunk and rolled around the floor. We had all this chalk, and we
took every name anyone could think of and we wrote it on the wall
in the living room. When morning rolled around, we pointed and
erased, and it was between R.E.M. and Negro Eyes, and we thought
*that* probably wouldn't go over too well outside our immediate
circle of friends!'" (p. 24).
o A5. "I think that [Fables, Green, etc.] sucks/rules!" or "I think
["Stand," "Shiny Happy People", etc.] is terrible/great!" or "I
hate/love [Monster, Out of Time, Murmur, etc.]!!!!!"
Many tiresome flame wars start when people post comments like these.
Remember, some people are going to hate a particular work, while other
people will love it, and still others remain indifferent. It's a good
example of a non-topic that dragged on and on and never really did
anything but piss people off.
Frankly, any simplistic opinion about a song, album or video that does not
elaborate in support of its stated opinion wastes group readers' collective
time and bandwidth, and should be discouraged (in other words, should not
be replied to by other group members!) Mindless knee-jerk proclamations
serve only to start tiresome battles that annoy everyone.
o A6. "Do R.E.M. members ever read the newsgroup, and do they have email
addresses? I want to send them a message if they have an email address!"
During August 1994, Michael Stipe posted comments, and answered fans'
questions, via an America On Line account "sti...@aol.com". After much
confusion and controversy regarding the authenticity of these postings, his
identity was confirmed by news reports and third party sources. For those
interested, the complete text of Stipe's net postings, which have been
annotated with the actual questions asked by fans, is available (send a
request to me, rg...@cornell.edu). Also, Bill and Mari Berry have posted
from a Prodigy account, and Peter Buck appeared on an on-line Q & A session
In late 1995 Stipe posted the lyrics to "Tongue" directly to rec.music.rem
using the AOL account, wished Happy Holidays to the group, responded
sarcastically to a post commenting on his sexuality, and thanked a poster
for defending the band from an accusation that the band had sold out. Most
recently, Stipe was on-line again in Nov. 1996 on the AOL Webstock forum.
To the more brazen among us: Stipe has also said he deletes all email sent
to his AOL account due to the excessive volume, so don't bother trying to
send him a message there -- he won't see it!
o A7. "Someone told me that R.E.M. is going to break up on New Year's Eve,
1999. Is that true?"
Peter Buck said this as an off-the-cuff joke during an interview (mainly in
connection with it being a great excuse for a huge party), but they have
all repeatedly said since then that as long as they feel R.E.M. is making
good music, they will continue to work together -- whether that doesn't
last until 1999, or goes beyond. Note that magazine writers who can't think
of anything else to say about the band will often trot this factoid out and
compel the band to comment on it.
o A8. "A friend told me that Michael Stipe is HIV positive! Is this true?
Has anyone else heard this?"
Uh, yeah, we heard. In fact, every few months or so a new contributor
decides to share this so-called "fact" with us. There is absolutely nothing
to substantiate such a rumor and questions and comments stating that Stipe
is HIV+ are considered by some newsgroup readers to be in poor taste, and
insensitive to the feelings of newsgroup readers who are struggling with
the disease. In some recent interviews Stipe has mentioned how upsetting
and cruel he found this rumor to be, that he is naturally very thin, and
that he feels he is now in the best shape of his life.
o A9. "Who are/were the Hindu Love Gods?"
R.E.M. (without Michael Stipe) collaborated on a side project with the
singer Warren Zevon. (Note that the lineup also played on Zevon's own album
Sentimental Hygiene.) The HLG album includes covers of many blues standards
as well as Prince's "Raspberry Beret."
Opinions about the project vary greatly: some saw it as a mediocre
knock-off of some blues standards that should not have been released,
others as a fun romp for the instrumental 3/4 of R.E.M.
o A10. "Where does the title 'Automatic for the People' come from?"
The band borrowed this slogan from a sign in Weaver D's Delicious Fine
Foods, a popular home-cooking restaurant in Athens, Ga., which,
incidentally, sells T-shirts, hats, and other such merchandise featuring
the slogan (address 1016 E. Broad St., Athens GA, 30601).
The phrase means that people at the restaurant "automatically" get what
they want (as in: "Do I get fried potatoes with my chicken?";
o A11. "So, what's the story with those funky suits Mike Mills wore during
the Monster World Tour?"
Actually, the outfits Mike was wearing are known as "Nudie" suits, after
the late tailor Nudie who designed many such outfits for country stars of
the 1960's/70's. Nudie suits became hip with the rock crowd through their
being worn by the band that's been credited with initiating the music
called country-rock, the Flying Burrito Brothers (including the legendary
Gram Parsons.) It's been mentioned in an interview with the band that the
one Mike wears in the "Kenneth" video was in fact once owned by Parsons.
o A12. "There's this kind of wacky song whose lyrics talk about all the
songs on Reckoning and about the guys in R.E.M. -- what is that?"
The band Pavement recorded a song for the compilation CD No Alternative
called, "The Unseen Power of the Picket Fence," which is a tribute of sorts
to R.E.M., their album Reckoning, and the defense of Atlanta against
General Sherman's march to the sea in the Civil War.
o A13. "Is Peter Buck related to Rob Buck of the 10,000 Maniacs?"
No. There was, however, an amusing story in Musician magazine about Peter
getting drunk one night of the Work Tour (during which the Maniacs opened);
when he stumbled back to his hotel and found a room assigned to "Buck," he
got into the bed Rob Buck was already occupying.
o A14. "Who is that woman prominent in both the 'One I Love' and 'Pop Song
An old friend of Stipe's named Caroline. According to Marcus Gray,
"Auctioneer (Another Engine)" was written with her in mind, and Stipe used
to tell anecdotes about her (and her tatoos) between songs during the
Reconstruction Tour. Gray does not provide her last name, probably to
protect her privacy.
o A15. "What is the tattoo under Michael Stipe's right upper arm that was
visible on the 1995 Letterman show appearance?"
It is a tattoo of Ignatz Mouse and Krazy Kat, who are the main characters
in the comic "Krazy Kat" by George Herriman, drawn from the 1920s-1940s. If
you don't know who/what these are, and like interesting comics, make a
beeline to a library or good bookstore and find a compilation of old Krazy
Kats. They are a incredible mix of quite hilarious and totally surreal
(reality-bending) material. Berke Breathed's "Outland" (and parts of "Bloom
County" before it) are the closest contemporary comparison to the style and
There's a web page at http://www.krazy.com/coconino.htm which explains the
comic better than I have -- I suggest surfing over there if you're
o A16. "Did Michael Stipe work on a project with Kurt Cobain before
While many people would have looked forward to such a project and have
hoped something had been accomplished before the Nirvana singer's untimely
suicide, according to Stipe they had only traded correspondance about such
a project and nothing was composed or recorded. One of the ironic tragedies
of Cobain's final months was his expression of admiration for the way
R.E.M. had handled their superstardom, though, as Stipe pointed out, they
were lucky it took years for them to reach the point and learn to adapt to
the strain of the media spotlight.
o A17. "I have seen Mike Mills' name recently as an artist and as member of
other bands besides R.E.M."
The Mike Mills in Butter 08 is not Michael Edward Mills from R.E.M., but a
graphic artist who has done work with bands like Smashing Pumpkins and They
Might Be Giants. According to rec.music.rem reader <sujan> he does not
remotely look like the Mike Mills in R.E.M., for whatever that's
o A18. "Who is Patti Smith, who sings on 'E-bow' and is in the video for
The background singer on the song "E-bow the Letter", Patti Smith, is an
important figure from the late 70's punk/new wave scene in New York whose
albums (especially Horses and Easter) are considered by many people
essential milestones in the development of American rock music. She has
also published several books of Beat-influenced poetry over the years. Her
influence on the members of R.E.M., especially Michael Stipe and Peter
Buck, has long been noted in interviews with the band.
o A19. "Why isn't long-time manager Jefferson Holt mentioned in the New
Adventures in Hi-Fi credits?"
A recent press release from the band announced that Holt had left his
position of manager. No further details about the split were confirmed by
R.E.M./Athens Ltd., and much speculation on why and what happened remains
rumor. In fact it has been reported that one of the terms of the
dissolution is that none of the parties make public comment, so don't
expect any further details.
o A20. "Is the song 'The Wake Up Bomb' about the band Oasis?"
Not according to R.E.M. Peter Buck said in an interview in 1995 that Stipe
wrote the lyrics about the Glam Rock period of the 1970's (characterized by
bands like T-Rex, Mott the Hoople, the NY Dolls, and David Bowie) after
visiting a club in NY with a Glam Rock theme decor, and that the supposed
Oasis references are being read into the song and not intended.
B. ALBUM COVERS, NOTES, AND OTHER PACKAGING QUESTIONS
o B1. "What are those phrases inside the liner notes for 'Monster'?"
Possible alternate names, and working titles, both for the album itself and
various tracks from the album. In interviews the band has described its
process of naming albums this way: they tape a big sheet of paper up on the
studio wall and then variously they write down random ideas when they occur
to them. One might speculate that at least some of this list is derived
from that process.
o B2. "What are the strange symbols on the cover of CD-single for 'What's
the Frequency, Kenneth?'"
The packaging for the CD single for "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" the
first single off Monster, displays some interesting features that newsgroup
members have already remarked upon. Each letter of the title is surrounded
by a circle. A dot at the upper right corner of each circle contains the
rank of the frequency (e.g., "E" the most common letter in English, equals
1) of that letter's occurrence in the English language. Also, found below
each title letter, appears the Morse Code (in dots and dashes) for that
letter. Notched into the circle around the letter are the semaphore
positions (hand-held flags at various angles) of that letter. (See Section
C below for info on the "Kenneth" lyrics.)
o B3. "Why is there a '4' superimposed over the 'R' on the Green cover?"
The story told in interviews is that someone (most likely Michael Stipe)
was typing the name of the album and hit the '4' key instead of the 'R'
(note their proximity on the "qwerty" keyboard). Somebody (again, most
likely Michael Stipe) thought it was a neat idea and carried it on to the
packaging as a faint transparent "4" over the "R" in both "GREEN" and "REM"
on the CD notes, and by "numbering" the fourth song ("Stand") with an "R".
Some later pressings (notably CD club versions) may not have the "4"s on
Some newsgroup readers have connected this to the fact that Lifes Rich
Pageant has "OR" in place of "04" in the track listing.
When remarking on oddities in R.E.M. packaging and publicity, always bear
in mind the band's eccentric creative bent. (See also the answer to the
o B4. "There's a '5' on Document and a '4' on Green, and wait, there's a
'10' on Chronic Town, and a '9' on Murmur and an '8' on Fables, and a '7'
on Reckoning! Is this some kind of countdown?"
This is an urban legend which even the band are weary of denying. The topic
has also been the subject of many flame wars, and most newsgroup members
don't want to hear any more about it. On AOL in August 1994, Stipe said
this about the so-called countdown theory:
"the countdown is a silly coincidence. i swear it. pb [Peter
Buck] sez were going into neg.#;s next, so there. i did put the
#7 on each record for a while but started getting strange mail in
volumes about it and so we quit. no reason for 7, it was just a
cool typo thing [like typefaces on fables]."
For what it's worth, r.m.r reader Chris Perry pointed out the following
sevens on album covers:
Murmur, in midst of liner notes on inner sleeve, typewritten
"SEVEN"; Reckoning, hand-drawn three-dimensional seven with
a line running through it on inner sleeve; Fables, very thin
calligraphy-looking seven in corner of inner sleeve; Lifes
Rich Pageant, underneath the Cricket Machine diagram, "Seven
Continents as one Hurrah we are all free now".
o B5. "Who painted the cover art for Reckoning?"
The folk or "naive" artist (the term art critics use), Rev. Howard Finster,
is a friend of Michael Stipe who painted the intricate snake design for the
band. (Presumably Stipe added the song titles.) Rev. Finster also appears
in the video for "Radio Free Europe" (at the end, when they tumble the
little figure down the wooden ramp; note it was filmed at his home). Also,
Michael Stipe has dedicated the song "Maps and Legends" on FotR to Finster
when playing it live. (Some may want to note that Finster later was asked
to do the cover of the Talking Heads album Little Creatures, too.)
o B6. "My copy of the Green LP has names for each side. Are the sides named
on other albums?"
Almost every R.E.M. album bears creatively-named sides. Here's a list:
Album Side A Side B
Chronic Town Chronic Town Poster Torn
Murmur (side 1) (side 2)
Reckoning L R
Fables of the Reconstruction A Side Another Side
Lifes Rich Pageant Dinner Supper
Document Page Leaf
Dead Letter Office Post Script
Eponymous Early Late
Green Air Metal
Out Of Time Time Memory
The Best of R.E.M. (UK) Us Them
Automatic For The People Drive Ride
Monster C D
New Adventures in Hi-Fi Hi Fi
o B7. "Why is the actual song order on Lifes Rich Pageant different from
that listed on the back cover? And do some copies actually list the song
'Superman' as 'Superwoman'?"
Reportedly, the song order on LRP was changed at the last minute, too late
for the cover art to be changed. While it's anybody's guess why this was
not subsequently corrected for later domestic vinyl and CD pressings, it
*has* been corrected for many foreign and record club versions. Bear in
mind that the off-beat creativity of the mixed-up list, and the cryptic
"lyrics clues," is typical of the band.
Note also that some European issues of LRP have the proper track order, but
list "Superman" as "Superwoman."
On a related note, the song "When I was Young" is listed on the sleeve of
Fables of the Reconstruction, but was dropped at the last minute, destined
to reappear later in quite revised form on LRP as "I Believe."
o B8. "What is the name of that last song on Green?"
The instrumental version on the CD-single for "Stand" is called "The
Eleventh Untitled Song (Instrumental)." One can therefore infer that it's
simply called "Eleventh Untitled Song." Reportedly, however, some of this
cut's lyrics were included in a Fan Club mailing under the title, "So Awake
Volunteer," so some people consider that to be its intended title.
Recently, an industrious group reader posted that while browsing the
Library of Congress, he discovered that the song is copyright-registered
under the title of "11", its track number.
o B9. "What is that on the front cover of Chronic Town?"
The Spitting Gargoyle on Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
o B10. "Whose half-face is on Lifes Rich Pageant?"
Bill Berry's. Gruesome makeup and photography courtesy Stipe. The
spliced-together photos constitute a visual pun ("buffalo bill").
o B11. "The spine title of my copy of Fables is Reconstruction of the
Fables, not the other way around! Do I have a limited ed. or something?
Alas, no. It's neither a misprint, nor rare, and the "two" titles indeed
refer to one and the same album. The "real" title of the album is circular,
you might say ("Fables of the Reconstruction of the Fables of the
Reconstruction of ... [ad nauseam]"). You'll notice that on one side of the
CD booklet, it says "Fables of the" and on the other side it says
"Reconstruction of the." You can flip the booklet and use either cover you
wish. The spine of the CD says "Reconstruction of the Fables," whereas the
face of the disc itself says "Fables of the Reconstruction," but with
"Reconstruction" printed upside-down, and "of the" printed vertically, it
can be read either way. (However, note that the newer European reissue
discs just have "Fables of the Reconstruction")
Anyway, it's a play on words, like much of the band's genius. Does it mean
"tales about the post-Civil War period in American history," or does it
mean "putting back together those tales of old in our own weird way"...? It
all depends on which way you show the cover.
o B12. "Who is that on the cover of Document?"
Michael Stipe, hiding behind a camera. Note there are several images
superimposed over each other at different angles. The car is a black
Checker Marathon (the kind of car most cabs used to be) which Michael used
o B13. "On the Reckoning liner, it says 'Help Carl Grasso.' Who was he?"
Carl Grasso was reportedly the art director (or product manager) for IRS
back then; supposedly the band used to drive him nuts with what they would
and wouldn't allow on the album covers. Grasso is also credited for album
design on Murmur.
o B14. "Is the Chronic Town EP available separately?"
As a regular release, it is only available as part of the Dead Letter
Office compilation album. However, there are reportedly a number of limited
edition box sets that include CT on a separate disk within the entire
multi-album package. An example of this is the UK set called The Originals
released in 1995 with CT, Murmur, and Reckoning included with new
o B15. "Why isn't the song 'Revolution' on New Adventures in Hi-Fi, like
all the other new songs they were performing on the Monster World tour?"
The choice of whether to include a song on an album is one only the band
itself can really comment on, but recall that `Revolution' really dates
back to the time of Monster's release (some of the "possible song names" on
the album notes of Monster refer to versions of "Revolution", so it really
should be considered an outtake of that album.) Besides, most of the song's
many contemporary political references (O.J., Ollie North, etc.) had become
outdated by the time of the release of NAIHF, and this is also a likely
reason for the song not having been included. (Nonetheless, I'd look for it
as a track on a future maxi-single release.)
o B16. "I thought there was a R.E.M. song called 'Sponge' that was on the
radio in 1995. I don't see it on New Adventures."
The song "Sponge" recorded by R.E.M. is actually a composition by Georgia
singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt, and R.E.M's cover of the tune is included
on the compilation record Sweet Relief II along with other Chesnutt songs
performed by various bands. The proceeds of the album go to a charity fund
that assists musicians with medical expenses (Chesnutt himself is a
parapalegic). The song "Sponge" comes from his album West of Rome (which
Stipe produced) and he did an interesting (if loose) "cover" of R.E.M.'s
"It's the End of the World..." for the Surprise Your Pig R.E.M. tribute
[Continued in Part 2 of 3]