Saturday, April 26, 2014
30 years ago this morning I was arriving home from a lifechanging experience. It was REM's first UK tour and the night before I'd blagged my way into the soundcheck at the Gallery on Peter Street in Manchester. After that I hid in the bogs until the venue opened, not only saving the £1.50 entry fee but more importantly avoided being turned away for being so blatantly underage.
They came on with a cover of Pale Blue Eyes then ripped into their own Moral Kiosk, blowing the power. After 15 minutes of a capella singalongs including If I Had A Hammer they got electrified again, did surf guitar classic Walk Don't Run and continued their set. I spent the night on Piccadilly station and got pulled in by the rozzers.
I already had a strong belief that if I've understood something properly and found it meaningful then I wanted to interact with it, be it politics or music. I see a younger generation doing so readily with favourite bands on Twittter these days, actual two way communication from your teenage bedroom with the poeple who help you make sense of your world. Back then it meant sentencing myself to spending a significant part of my teenage years outside stage doors.
Other bands were important and inspiring to me, but there was nobody else like REM. Their sense of intelligence and mystery was bewitching. By taking a thoughtful, original, oblique angle to their creative work and the world at large they delivered an antidote to the overwhelm of brash commercialism and homogenous strictured suburban tedium. They said it was OK not to get dissolved into the soul sapping meaningless mainstream but hold out for something that I couldn't even name or describe yet.
And don't let the later po-facedness fool you, REM were an exuberant band in the early days who really enjoyed themselves on stage.
When I saw them that night Reckoning had been out a few days but my local shop hadn't got it yet. However we'd had So Central Rain as the flagship single. Here they are six weeks later.