R.E.M. Breaks Up (and My Five Favourite Bands of all Time)

R.E.M., an alternative favourite of the 1980’s who parlayed that early attention into being one of the most successful bands of the 1990’s (and then one of the most uneven bands of the 2000’s) announced their break-up today (given their politics – and the amicable nature of the break – perhaps fittingly on World Peace Day?)

R.E.M. is one of my favourite bands of all-time and when pressed, I’ll usually cite “Find the River” as my favourite song of all-time.

I’ll have more to say about R.E.M. in the list below but first, a warning.  If you’re a hipster, you’ll probably want to stop reading right now as this list is not very original at all and my uncool is about to show.

1.  The Beatles

We start off the unoriginality with the band widely considered the most popular, most influential, most covered, highest selling of all-time.  But the trick is that it wasn’t always that way.  When I was a kid, one of my best friends was a huge Beatles fan (mostly because his dad was.)  I was a huge Elvis fan (mostly because my dad was.)  And ironically, our dads had been best friends when they were younger too – still not sure how my dad went for Elvis and his dad went for the Beatles but there you go.

Anyhow, one day I woke up in dorms deadly sick (for real, not alcohol-induced.)  I decided to skip classes but had enough energy to get on a local BBS (a pre-cursor of the web for you kids out there!) and I saw a post by someone who was wanting to sell their entire collection of Beatles CD’s (possibly to raise funds for their own alcohol-induced illness?)  In a slightly fevered state, I sent a message saying I wanted the discs and the person even offered to deliver them.  Later that day, a knock on the door, an exchange of money I couldn’t really afford (I still remember the total was $60.  In the days when used CD’s went for $10 each, this was a steal for maybe 10-12 CD’s!)  I popped in one of the discs and with the fever creating a “1960’s” state of mind, I finally *got* the Beatles.  Wow.  I lay in bed all day listening to one album after another through my hazy head and have been a huge fan ever since – not only reading but  collecting books about them, watching movies & videos, reading interviews and so on.

2. The Tragically Hip

Although I’m not as big of a fan as I once was, there was a time in my life when The Hip pretty much defined my life.  I was the guy who went to record stores at midnight on the day their new album was released, followed them around to nearby cities to catch various shows on their tours and was part of the tape trading community that sprung up around the band.  There was and is so much I loved about the Hip – the poetic, obtuse lyrics, the riffs, the Canadiana, Gord Downie’s stage presence, the jam-band improvisions in music and lyrics, the shows that were never the same twice.

3. R.E.M.

I might have heard one of their earlier songs on MuchMusic but one of my first R.E.M. memories is being at Provincial Drama Finals and there was a dance for all the participating schools.  I still remember that the song “Stand” came on and one school’s kids all got up and did the dance moves from the song together while I sat with my friends on the edge of the dance floor thinking “Wow, that *never* happens at our school!”  “Out of Time” was released and was huge of course.  It played a pretty major role in my life and skirting along the edge of “too much information” territory, I can state that, although it wasn’t the album playing when I lost my virginity, it played a big part of events earlier in the evening!  (What’s the emoticon for the embarrassed face?)  Not just for that reason, I became a big fan of the band and their music.  But if “Out of Time” was their biggest album, “Automatic for the People” was their masterwork – an entire album about death, dying, mortality, love and loss which is still ultimately uplifting.  So good.

4. Blue Rodeo

There are a few bands that could fill out this list in that I own all their albums, like most of their songs, have maybe seen them in concert – U2, Radiohead, Wilco, Weakerthans, Spirit of the West, Beautiful South, Blur, The Submarines who are a recent discovery – but I think I’ll give the nod to another Canadian band who I find consistently excellent in their albums, who add a bit of a countryish flare to this list and who are often called Canada’s Lennon/McCartney which, based on who is #1 on this list, gives them a big boost in the rankings!

5. Boo Radleys

I had to put at least one feeble attempt at showing my “hipster indie cred” on the list and the Boo Radleys are it.  Perhaps best known for a cover of “There She Goes” on the “So I Married An Axe Murderer” soundtrack, they were a second-tier Britpop band when I was in England in 1995.  But for whatever reason, they connected with me in a way that other popular bands of the day – Supergrass, Stereophonics, Suede, etc. – didn’t.  And while other top-tier bands like Oasis and Blur battled to be the “new Beatles”, I think the Boo Radleys actually deserved that title by being most similar to the Beatles in their endless sonic innovations wrapped in delicious pop wrappers.  Yum!

Comments 2

  1. Emily Gusba wrote:

    I *love* the Hip. Like, recessed down the aisle at my wedding to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s version of Nightswimming, love them.

    Also, hipster-dom is overrated. That is all.

    Posted 22 Sep 2011 at 8:15 am
  2. HeadTale wrote:

    Yeah, I mostly like poking funs at that “I knew the band before they even had a name” mentality of the hipsters! R.E.M. for your wedding is awesome and you picked a great song. (Michael Stipe apparently always found it hilarious when people told him they had their first dance to “The One I Love” since its lyrics, as I’m sure you know, are “This one goes out to the one I love/This one goes out to the one I left behind/A simple prop/To occupy my time/This one goes out to the one I love”)

    Posted 22 Sep 2011 at 11:50 pm

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  1. From Head Tale - Friday Fun Link – Macca!!! on 26 Apr 2013 at 10:08 pm

    […] I’m already on record that The Beatles are my favourite band of all-time. […]

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