I was kissed by an older woman at an REM concert in 1987. I was 19. She must have been 35 or 40.
It was a strange moment.
The concert was a highlight of my freshman year in college.
I knew every song and they were at the top of their game.
The album was Life's Rich Pageant. Stipe still had hair. He had yet to get his cueball head on.
They still struggled to say anything directly.
Begin the Begin SEEMED to be a hopeful anthem. But it was so full of pretentious lyrics that it was hard to take seriously.
Birdie in the hand for life's rich demand
The insurgency began and you missed it
I looked for it and I found it
Miles Standish proud, congratulate me
A philanderer's tie, a murderer's shoe
Hell, even Dylan's most vague and pretentious songs were more direct than that i.e. Hard Rains Gonna Fall.
REM turned out to be a real disappointment.
It always felt like they were on the verge of saying something great and back then when my own generation struggled with finding a voice--- it seemed appropriate.
But as time went on and we grew up, REM just seemed stuck in the same babbling; incoherent, always seeming inchoate never coming to full voice. And the music became dull and predictable for me. Gone were the powerful riffs, the quiet beautiful chimings, and occasional lullabies.
I was a big fan and, for me, they sadly deteriorated. Personally, I blame it on an inability to say anything directly caused by the pretension that it's somehow more artistic to be vague.
I remember the moment that I lost respect for Stipe. I read in an in interview that he never wanted to write or sing a love song because he didn't think much of love songs. And I thought, "What a pretentious ass. People will be singing You Must Remember This or I Love You For Sentimental Reasons LONG after your sorry ass is gone".
Yet, some of their songs remain deeply lodged in my psyche. If I want to really remember my college years, all I have to do is put on Pretty Persuasion or anything from Lifes Rich Pageant and suddenly I'm 19 again. I'm at UT Austin. The drag is still a cool place. I still have a record player. The sun is shining and the world is open and inviting.