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Thursday, April 26, 2007

R.E.M. - Unplugged

Rem_unpluggedcompletely_allR.E.M.’s first appearance on MTV Unplugged took place on April 10, 1991, the year the band came to worldwide attention, at Chelsea Studios in New York City. The band, along with hired hand Peter Holsapple, lined up on stools in front of an invited audience. Michael Stipe defied the studio lights by wearing the black fisherman’s hat he favoured that year and a three-quarter-length mustard-coloured coat (over a yellow shirt, no less), although for the latter part of the set he did resort to rolling the legs of his jeans up over his knees.
Of the less predictable selections, ‘It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’ was the strangest candidate for an acoustic revamp, and it certainly didn’t occur to the band themselves initially, as Stipe announced that it was a last-minute request from MTV. Indeed, they had to have the lyric faxed through from Athens. The vocals, for its part, received more care and attention than it had on the Green tour, and the attempt amused both the band and the audience alike.
The cover of the Troggs’ ‘Love is all Around’ was subsequently included on the longform video This Film Is On. A photograph taken during the performance by Retna’s Frank Micelotta can be found in the image section in the middle of Adventures in Hi-Fi: The Complete R.E.M., a book written by Rob Jovanovic and Tim Abbott, issued in 2001.
Remu2Although the edited broadcast programme was structured like a non-stop concert, recording actually took two hours. In addition to breaks while the band members exchanged instruments and Berry went to the men’s room, there were delays while technical adjustments were made. During these moments, the band entertained themselves and the audience by playing a quartet of cover versions: Classics IV’s ‘Spooky’, the Undisputed Truth’s ‘Smiling Faces Sometimes’, ‘Egyptian Reggae’ (Jonathan Richman), and J.J. Jackson’s ‘But it’s Alright’. They also recorded second takes of ‘Disturbance at the Heron House’ (Buck having broken a string during the first attempt) and ‘World Leader Pretend’. The latter song, ‘Fretless’, ‘Swan Swan H’, and ‘Get Up’ were subsequently dropped from the final running order, which aired on April 24, 1991:

Remu3Edited Version Setlist

‘Half a World Away’
‘Disturbance at the Heron House’
‘Radio Song’
‘Perfect Circle’
‘Fall on Me’
‘Love is All Around’
‘It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’
‘Losing My Religion’ (“We’ve got one more,” announced Stipe. [The audience audibly showed their disappointment.] “Oh, you want us to quit now?” quipped Mills.)
‘Pop Song ’89’

Line up

Bill Berry – congas, tambourine, maracas, vocals
Peter Buck – acoustic guitar, mandolin
Mike Mills – acoustic bass, acoustic guitar, Hammond organ, vocals
Michael Stipe – vocals
Peter Holsapple – acoustic guitar, Hammond organ, accordion

R.E.M.  -  Unplugged

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