Sunday, October 26, 2008

No Moon River?

I could hear R.E.M. playing when I walked through the other part of City Park earlier tonight, but I all heard were R.E.M. songs. I've seen R.E.M. live once, at McAllister Auditorium back in 1984. I vaguely remember it being a great show, but all I that really remember, twenty-four years later, is some of the covers they played. "Moon River" and a combination of "We Walk" and "Behind Closed Doors" stood out because they were unexpected. I had forgotten about "Falling in Love Again," between "We Walk" and "Behind Closed Doors," but it rings a bell. I'm pretty sure that "Moon River" was performed separately from "Pretty Persuasion."

Anyhow, for those of you who care about this sort of thing, any songs that R.E.M. performed off its first two albums are older now than "Moon River" was when R.E.M. played it twenty-four years ago; any songs from "Fables of the Reconstruction" are as old. Also, I'm happy to report that I was able to stand on a park bridge at night and listen to a band that I last heard twenty-four years ago without feeling the slightest twinge of middle-aged angst or melancholy -- for those of you who care about that sort of thing.

Listening to "Dead Letter Office" confirms what you're saying about how well they do covers - even when they're drunk as skunks, as in "King Of The Road".

Never saw R.E.M. live, and I didn't see 'em this weekend, but it's good to know they can still bring it when they wanna.
I LOVE that version of "King of the Road" But I still say the world would have been better off if REM and U2 had both called it quits in 1989. Would have saved us all a tremendous amount of embarrassment.
"Moon River" was tied to a culturally and stylistically different era, given its being co-authored by Johnny Mercer. So in a certain sense it was older. His heyday was the late '30s to mid-'50s, with the last hit being "Something's Gotta Give" from 1954. It's a long wait 'til 1961 for another big hit. Being connected to a big hit movie certainly helped.

I'm trying to think of what an apt comparison would be today. REM helped define, some would say flat-out define, the alt-rock or post-punk era. No one's gotten much beyond that (excluding some ad-mixtures with techno and hip-hop) in rock music yet, which is either a sign of rock's decline or an indication of the decline of the American music biz. Probably more the latter, but a mixture of both.

I've always found the idea of "rock" to be a bit ridiculous anyway, though, given that the early stuff was either rockabilly or what we'd now call R&B. I still remember hearing Stevie Wonder on a "rock" station in Jackson MS in the 1970s (when I was a kid), but I never hear his stuff on "classic rock" stations.
- Ray
p.s.: Two covers I heard them do in 1980s concerts (I saw three then) were of the Everly Brothers' "All I Have to Do is Dream" and Peter Gabriel's "Red Rain," the latter of which owes considerably more to Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini than Elvis, Chuck Berry or Jerry Lee Lewis, say, except in the percussion and bass depts. "Rock" is so difficult to sort out.
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