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Bootleg Country: REM – 06/09/84

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I have somewhere around 1,000 CDs in my bootleg collection. I usually get one or two new shows a week. I simply don’t have the time to listen to all of this music. Because of this, a lot of bootlegs get lost in the cracks.

From time to time when I am fingering my way through my collection I am completely surprised by something. Either I have forgotten that I owned a certain bootleg or the music contained therein, while previously dismissed, kicks the tongue to the back of my head.

One of the great things about this series is I am forced to look closer at music I may have previously ignored. I am a musical creature of habit. Even though I have thousands of CDs in my collection, there are maybe a few dozen that actually get any type of heavy rotation.

It's not that I’m opposed to new music, for there is plenty of that that rolls across my eardrums every week, but for certain moods or events I have a select set of music that meets my needs. When I’m feeling sad or introspective I grab Willie Nelson's Stardust. Or if I want something a little off kilter that makes me smile, l grab some Wilco. In the mood? Give me Norah Jones.

This rotation changes over time. New stuff finds its way in, while other music slips away to collect dust until I rediscover it.

With Bootleg Country, I'm continually walking outside my normal musical boundaries to find something different. One of my initial goals in this series was to show the diversity that can be found in the bootleg community. It’s not just a bunch of hippie, jam-band music, but jazz, folk, punk and every other genre you can think of.

06/09/84
Capital Theatre
Passaic, NJ

My first full length memory of REM is coming out of play practice in the eighth grade. It was well into dark and I was looking for my brother amongst all the headlights. Moment later he rolled up in hi K-Car and as I opened the door “Stand” blaringly filled up the night air. I jumped in singing along at the top of my lungs.

I was not a popular kid in junior high and by singing along with such a cool song I felt that, I too, was cool. As by simply knowing the music, it’s popularity might somehow rub off on me. It was a perfect moment and I savored every minute of it.

It didn’t last, of course, the next day I went to school and I was the same pimply faced shy kid. No one had even noticed, or cared that I dug REM.

Dig I did that band, for many years. They were one of my first true musical loves and I remained faithful up until a few years ago when they become so maudlin as to nauseate.

I've had this show now for many months and not given it much attention. When I would see it I would skip past it feeling it wasn’t worth any more listens. Thinking about that now I’m not sure if this is because of a general distaste I have for the band, or because I have another bootleg from 1995 that’s not very good at all. Whatever the reasons, I haven’t given it a spin in a long time.

Actually listening to it now, I don’t think I ever gave it a spin. The music is completely new to me, so it must have been something that was acquired and immediately put into my collection.

What a shame because the music contained here is as fresh and vital as it must have been when it was originally performed some 22 years ago. Wow, if that doesn’t make me feel old.

This is a band on a mission; they are on fire playing like Greek Gods before the Vestal Virgins. This is well before they become the biggest rock band on the planet, and a few years before “alternative” became an overused buzz word. This is indie rock at its finest.

They open with a sweet cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” which isn’t as pretty as the Velvet’s version but a lot more tight than REM’s drunken version on Dead Letter Office. Anytime you hear a band cover the Velvet’s first thing, you know you’re in for a good night.

Like a lot of early REM, the music is heavy on the lower end, and light on the high end levels. Mike Mill’s bass trudges, and thumps along like a Chihuahua on sugar tablets, while Peter Buck’s guitar slithers like a snake. Michael Stipe’s vocals are as muddled as ever, but it all assimilates into a growling, beautiful piece of rock music.

Highlights include a howling "Hyena" that reverberates into my jowls and a "Gardening at Night" for the ages.

It is a great bootleg, and one that I'm knocked out to have found again, for the first time.

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About Mat Brewster

  • Vern Halen

    HAve you ever heard the boot “So Much Younger Then” by REM? HAs a gargoyle on the front and says “Recorded 1981.” I don’t recognize any of the songs – I think some might be covers.

    Any of these sound familiar?

    Body Count
    Narrator for the Jacques Cousteau Show
    A Different Girl

    it’s one of the best boots I’ve ever heard – if these are original songs, why were they never done in the studio?

  • http://midnightcafe.wordpress.com/ Mat Brewster

    Sorry, I haven’t heard of that. The REM Collector’s Guide lists the date as January 10, 1981 and mentions that your boot isn’t a complete show.

    No word about if the songs or original or not.

  • Vern Halen

    Thanx for the link. Maybe some REMophile out there can shed light on the songs’ origins.