November 17, 2011. That’s today.
November 17, 1983. That’s the day R.E.M. made their first appearance outside of the United States.
Or should I say the late and great R.E.M., since they broke up not too long ago? September to be super extremely precise and dorky about it. Boohoo.
On this day in 1983, R.E.M. was featured on Channel 4 UK on “The Tube,” a pop music and rock music show that showcased bands in the 80s. This marked their first time performing outside the borders of these here United States. The next night the firsts continued, when they made their live United Kingdom debut in London. It was just an epic British double whammy of firsts for R.E.M.
R.E.M. formed under the most random circumstances ever. In January of 1980, guitarist Peter Buck worked in a record store in Athens. One day that was apparently musically magical, singer Michael Stipe walked in and Stipe went to purchase all the records that Buck was actually saving for himself. They bonded over a mutual love artists like The Velvet Underground and Television. From there, they found drummer Bill Berry and bassist Mike Bills unexpectedly at University of Georgia.
The group of four did not expect anything big to come from their rehearsing and hard work. And maybe nothing would have come out of it had they stuck with some of their original band name choices, like “Cans of Piss” and “Negro Wives.” Thankfully, and with the help from a dictionary, they chose R.E.M.
By 1981, R.E.M. had released their first single, “Radio Free Europe” and, in 1982, their first EP (titled Chronic Town EP) followed. A year later, Murmur was released; this debut album featured the single “Talk About the Passion.” It wasn’t until 1987 and their hit single “The One I Love,” that R.E.M. reached mainstream status. Shortly thereafter, the band scored a killer record label and started advocating for the environment publically and being vocal about political issues, both in their work and outside of it.
R.E.M. released fifteen studio albums in total, signed for one of the most expensive record contracts of their time ($80 million with Warner Bros) and made it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. With 2011’s Collapse into Now marking the end of their time, R.E.M. definitely had a seriously inspiring run.
So, R.E.M., congrats on having your first appearance outside of the US today! And thanks for creating so much amazing music.