In the mid 80 to late 80’s I worked for a large group home, it was essentially like a large orphanage full of broken children from as young as 4 up to age 12. They were grouped by age and each group had a group leader. If you read my blog on Kenny G this is the place where the group leader broke down. I began working there as a relief and weekend group leader for the oldest group of boys. A week after I started the regular group leader left without notice and I took over that position. The staff was young. There is something about the work that almost requires you to be young. The older you are the harder time you will have gaining trust with kids that have a hard time trusting anyway. The downside to this is that there is high turnover and so these shattered children who have known almost nothing but abuse in their short lives keep feeling abandoned. Another downside is that when your staff is young they need a lot of supervision because their coping skills and experience with crisis situations and de-escalation techniques is just lacking. I had already worked at a similar group home and as I have said I am a problem solver and a leader and things just ultimately start to go through me.
My cohort in all of this was the supervisor, Diane. We were kindred spirits from the moment we met. She was exactly one year and one day older than I was born on April 29 the year before I was. In some ways she seemed so much older than I was. I had grown up in Texas and had never really been anywhere else. She was a modern day hippie girl and she had lived in both New York City and Baltimore, Maryland. We both loved music but her tastes were more into old 60’s rock, Kate Bush and her very favorite band R.E.M.
I had honestly not heard much of R.E.M.’s music, maybe a few songs. At that time they still were not widely heard on the radio, especially Texas radio. They were really an underground college band. Diane loved them and she was always encouraging me to check them out and one day I did when I bought the album Document. If I was going to start anywhere this was certainly a good place. You might know the album from the enormously big song It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel Fine which received enormous airplay and still does. Its everyone’s apocalypse song. It might be my least favorite song on the album. It might be my least favorite song the band ever did. There was one song though that I instantly fell in love with and I can’t hear it and not think about Diane. This One Goes Out to the One I Love was a minor hit for the band but I think it’s the best song on the album and one of the best songs they ever did. It was this song that made me a fan and in typical Samurai fashion I went out and started getting all the other R.E.M. albums.
R.E.M. hit it big with the album Out of Time. The album was a hit machine and brought the band fully into mainstream music. With hits like Radio Song, Losing My Religion, and Shiny Happy People the band was suddenly all over MTV. Michael Stipe has always said that he regretted making Shiny Happy People and after the tour he refused to sing it again. I suspect that the reason why he recorded it in the first place was Kate Pierson from the B-52’s who sings background on the song. Both bands came from Athens, GA and were friends and its pretty hard to deny Kate Pierson anything. I know none of this for fact but it feels right to me.
After Out of Time R.E.M. just dominated the music scene. In 1992 they released Automatic for the People which is an amazing album also full of hits but it has one of the most awesome chilling songs to kick the album off. Hearing the song Drive today still gives me goosebumps. There is also Man on the Moon a tribute to the great Andy Kaufman and I just adore that they would do that.
After Automatic for the People R.E.M. continued to put out records at a steady pace. After the album Monster they started to tail off as other bands replaced them at the top of the charts but that’s okay. That’s what happens in the music business. For me though R.E.M. had one more great moment left one great amazing song which is actually if I had to number it would be my second favorite R.E.M. song with Imitation of Life off the album Reveal.
So let’s listen to some R.E.M. and let it fly.