The Day R.E.M. Were On Top
By 1987, Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe had a Top 10 album (Document), a Top 10 single ("The One I Love") and were christened "America's Best Rock & Roll Band" on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. R.E.M. had achieved major success, and they'd done it completely on their own terms. But there's a big difference between stardom and super-stardom – and the guys were about to find out, first-hand.
In the late '80s, R.E.M. jumped from the indies to the majors, signing a lucrative contract with Warner Bros. Records, which also helped increase the overseas distribution of their albums. Their first major label release, 1988's Green, was another hit and led to the band's biggest tour yet. After a busy decade, R.E.M. took their first prolonged break and reconvened to record their next album in the fall of 1990.
The sessions found the band members experimenting with different instruments and styles, building on Green's mixture of folk, rock and pop. Songs were written using an array of acoustic instruments, including organ, harpsichord, mandolin and acoustic guitar. In addition, country and classical music influences came to the fore.
The album was shaping up to be R.E.M.'s biggest departure from rock music. Strings were heard all over the album, lending it a baroque feel. Meanwhile, leadoff track "Radio Song" featured rapper KRS-One. "Country Feedback" was a rustic, lumbering dirge and "Shiny Happy People" was pure, bouncy pop. more on this story
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