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FUV Essentials: Laura Fedele on R.E.M.

1983 publicity photo, WPAP by Laura Fedele

R.E.M. 1983 publicity photo, WPAP by Laura Fedele


I'm driving, it's late and I'm tired. The one thing that will keep my eyes open and my blood pumping is R.E.M., still. I'm not feeding off you I will re-ar-range your scales, and I can, yes I can. And still, some of the lyrics are a complete guess, sure I could look them up now, 30 years later, but that would be cheating. Because maybe we're not supposed to know.

My wake-up band and my college band, R.E.M. was, along with sausage gravy, two big-love things that I brought back north from my years in the South. I was captured by melody and Peter Buck's jangly Rickenbacker, driven forward by the beat of Bill Berry, wrapped up in Mike Mills' harmonies and slam-dunked by the voice of Michael Stipe. I was a goner.

And make no mistake that it was a Southern Thing. International arenas whatever, they dripped with Georgia poetry, lyrics like a tangled blanket of kudzu. Hurrah, we are all free now, what noisy cats are we. I knew what it meant to lose my religion over something, I'd drifted off to sleep with my teeth in my mouth.

I was there when Michael was too shy to look at the audience. They bewitched me into loving the mandolin. I was still there when the shows started to have Serious Messages. We all worried about Bill. I spotted Gwyneth.

When you grow up with a band (I won't say grow old, I won't) they weave in and out of your life's own rich pageant, through the doubt (what we want and what we need has been confused, been confused) and the anger (throw the walls into the fireplace!) and the dramatic (I sat there looking ugly, looking ugly and mean) and the lovely (I count your eyelashes, secretly).

They may not still be R.E.M. any more, exactly, but they left us 15 albums to play with, and as long as they're each out there doing something, we can keep growing. And hopefully stay awake.

Laura Fedele is FUV's New Media Director.