I read plenty of well-written tributes to the band last week, but the one that really rang true for me was -- no surprise here -- the one The A.V. Club did. With fond memories in them, writers like Noel, Josh, and Kyle hit the bullseye on what's it like to be a fan of this band. Keith's final line really hit me:
Some music you hear. Some music marks you, and shows you where you’re headed before you even know.
Referring to where he was in his life when he heard the R.E.M. records that impacted him the most, it's interesting how the band was there at pivotal moments.
I, along with many others, can understand the sentiment.
Even though I knew who R.E.M. was when Document and Green were out, I became a big fan with Out of Time. With "Losing My Religion" being an inescapable video on MTV (as well as "Shiny Happy People" and "Radio Song"), it helped that I really gravitated towards the band's sound.
I was in seventh grade when I became a big fan of the band. Almost every other fall between then and my freshman year of college, there was a new R.E.M. record. It's like fall wasn't really fall until the new record arrived.
As they toured Monster in 1995 with Radiohead, I was fortunate to see the band play at the Houston equivalent of the Starplex. Definitely one of those shows I speak of fondness with a little bit of bragging (especially since Radiohead was touring off of The Bends, which wasn't as heralded at the time as it soon would be), I don't find any embarrassment that I went with my parents. It's not like I took them to see Napalm Death.
Since I was too young to fall in love with the band when they released Murmur, the crux of fandom was (and might always be) between Out of Time and Up. Thinking of Keith's quote about music directing your future, this was definitely true with me and my life. For the past few years, I've been very lucky to review live shows and interview bands that I admire -- and it helps that I'll always have a positive memory of an early showgoing experience.
Plus, it's very important how records like Out of Time and Automatic for the People helped me see a broader and denser view of the world. With all the videos MTV played (as well as the many interviews with the band) over those years, I highly doubt anyone watching the channel now could get the same experience from the lifestyle programming that's on now. No, the post-R.E.M. generation will have to find that elsewhere, and I'd be more than happy to share.