Everyone has band and an album by that band that changes your life. For me it’s REM’s Automatic for the People. It’s the first album that I truly appreciated as an opus and not just a collection of songs. I loved the album as a whole. I’ve been a fan for REM for what seems like my whole life. First, I had the tapes which I wore out. Then I bought CD’s and played them until they were scratched and skipped like a vinyl record. Finally I bought all the songs again for my iPod. So when the band announced earlier this week that they were quitting, I took it quite personally. Sure, they’ve been in the “Greatest Hits” phase of their careers for several years, but quitting altogether???
Here’s my favorite memory of REM.
I was a freshman in college and Husband (who was my boyfriend then) was, well who knows what year he was. He was on the 10-year college plan. He was probably somewhere between a sophomore and a junior and on his 4th major. REM was going to Memphis. We tried and failed to get tickets to the show in Memphis, Kansas City and Dallas. I resolved I would not see them live, and moved on.
Husband calls late one morning, ecstatic. His friend, Dustin, had just been given tickets to the Memphis show for THAT night. Indignant, I ask, “You’re not going to go without me are you?” “Uh, yeah I am,” he answered. So I ask again, “Seriously, you’re going to go see REM without me?” “Hell, yes,” he says. We go on back and forth like this for the better of 5 minutes. I finally hang up and am quite angry. As it’s a 3 ½ hour drive, they leave almost immediately.
I put the situation to the back of my mind and study that evening. About 11 pm, I go to bed. The phone rings, and I know it’s him (there’s no caller id – it’s just intuition that I know). I let it ring and ring. I’m wondering why he’s calling NOW. At this time they concert should be in full swing. REM should be on stage. I have an epiphany! The only logical reason he’d be calling now is if they are not at the concert! Yes! THAT’S IT! Hastily I answer. I’m anticipating hearing a tale about car trouble, a car wreck, a cancelled show… It’s loud on the other end. I can barely hear what the voice on the other end is saying through the din.
We’re talking at the same time. I’m asking him what happened that they didn’t see the concert. He’s yelling something I can’t make out through the commotion. Then as if it was a scene from a movie, for about a second and a half the noise dissipates just long enough for me to hear him say, “I MET THE BAND!!!!!” “Bullshit!” I answered. “What are you talking about?” Again he says, “I met the band!”
I can just make out the song, “This One Goes Out to the One I Love” in the background. Then Husband says, “Don’t you hear that? I asked them to play that for my girlfriend!” I was unappeased to say the least.
Finally he convinces me that he’s serious. He did meet REM!!!!! Naturally I cuss him out. I made up my own cuss words and combined them in new and interesting ways. How dare he me MY REM without me???
Here’s how it went down. The seats were good, so they were close to the front. While waiting for the concert to begin a pretty girl comes up to Dustin and asks him what his favorite radio station is. In true Dustin fashion he replies wryly, “Whatever you want it to be, baby.” “Wrong!” she says. She looks to David and poses the same question. He just reads the numbers and letters spread across her ample chest. “You’re going back stage!” she says! And off they went.
He’s lead to a nice green room where Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry are greeting other fans. Many are too star struck to really even speak. In walks Michael Stipe drinking Merlot out of a large wine glass. Next thing you know Husband is holding Peter Buck’s child and their chatting away about Greenpeace and the ecology test he should have studied for tonight.
Dustin is disappointed too. But while Husband was hob knobbing with REM, he decides to drown his frustration in malted hops and THC. He slept while Husband drove home. Husband also failed the ecology test. I took strange pleasure out of that.
I still haven’t gotten over this!!!! Years later they came to Dallas. I got really good tickets. I was flying back from Seattle just in time to make the show. In a morning that was truly a comedy of errors, I missed my flight and thus the show. I guess I wasn’t supposed to see them live.
Thank you to REM. Your songs are a part of me and a large part of the soundtrack of my life. We’ve had some great times together. Bands are like a lot like marriages I suppose – it’s a difficult union to maintain and many don’t it. But together 31 years isn’t too shabby.
Let’s just all pray the U2 doesn't follow suit.