Every successful band has people behind the scenes who helped them get to the top. R.E.M. is no different. They started as a party band in Athens, Georgia, with only their friends supporting them. After breaking out of the local bar scene, they started touring up the eastern coast and were rewarded with a contract with IRS Records. They released the influential Murmur album in 1983 which became a hit with college rock stations all over the country. A new album was released every year, each one about as succesful as the other, until in 1987 they broke into the top 10 with the song “The One I Love.” Their success got bigger with each new album after that, peaking with the 1992 album, "Automatic for the People." This book is compiled from interviews the author did with R.E.M.’s friends and business associates throughout this time period. The members of R.E.M. are never interviewed, although they are represented through quotes from magazine articles. This book presents a history of the band through the eyes of the ones who made them what they are.
This book is an excellent resource to find out about the early days of R.E.M. The band has never been open about their beginnings, so it’s nice to read about how they started out from people who actually saw them play live before they hit it big. Unfortunately, the more successful years of R.E.M. don’t fare as well. What you are left reading is a book full of people who feel bitter because the members of the band don’t talk to them anymore. Still, if you are at all interested in R.E.M., it’s worth a look for their early history alone.
Reviewed by mw, 12/99. Other reviews by mw.