When R.E.M. went to Memphis, Tennessee’s famed Ardent Studios in 1988 to record their major label debut for Warner Bros Records, singer Michael Stipe, legend has it, tasked his band mates, Bill Berry, Peter Buck, and Mike Mills, with a singular mission: to “not write any more R.E.M.-type songs.” Emboldened by this charge, the band ventured into the previously unexplored realm of bubblegum pop (“Pop Song ’89,” “Stand”), freely swapped instruments amongst themselves, and even went so far as to introduce the mandolin into their repertoire for the first time (“Hairshirt”). Bolstered by Stipe’s increasingly politically-conscious and socially-conscientious lyrics, Green emerged as the band’s most fully-realized record to date–a bold claim given the trajectory of their IRS years’ recordings (Murmur, Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction, Lifes Rich Pageant, and Document) but accurate nonetheless.
To celebrate the landmark album’s 25-year anniversary, Rhino is releasing a two-disc deluxe edition that features the remastered original album accompanied by a disc of live performances taken from the penultimate show of R.E.M.’s 130-date Green World Tour. All twenty-one songs were recorded in Greensboro, North Carolina, on November 10, 1989, just miles from where Berry, Buck, Mills and Stipe had their very first recording session at Mitch Easter’s Drive-In Studio in Winston-Salem. The set captures the confident spirit of Green (“Get Up,” “World Leader Pretend,” and “You Are The Everything”) as well as the timelessness of early favorites like “Fall On Me,” “Finest Worksong,” and “The One I Love,” and hints at the future with early versions of tracks that would ultimately appear on Out Of Time.
The original pressings of the album and cassette tape covers had the number 4 spot varnished over the R in both “Green” and “R.E.M.” In return, “R. Stand” appears instead of “4. Stand” on the track list on the back cover. Allegedly, this was a product of an early typing mistake: due to “4” being a number very close to “R” on the keyboard, “Green” was once misspelled “G4een”, and the mistake was adopted this way. The album was the first by the band to feature printed lyrics, although only the lyrics to “World Leader Pretend” appeared.
Listen to the R.E.M. radio special here.