Friday, September 11, 2015

Songoftheday 9/11/15 - A simple prop to occupy my time...


"The One I Love" - R.E.M.
from the album Document (1987)
Billboard Hot 100 peak: #9 (one week)
Weeks in the Top-40: 10

Today's SOTD comes from one of the most revered American indie-rock bands of all time, R.E.M., who came together in Athens, Georgia at the start of the 80's. Instead of the synth-based sound that dominated rock at the time, their lo-fi approach gathered them a devoted local following, and after a regional tour landed them a record deal with the label I.R.S. (with the likes of the Go-Go's and the English Beat). They re-recorded their first indie single "Radio Free Europe", which managed to make #25 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock radio chart and became their first to make the US Hot 100 at #78. It was the centerpiece of their debut full-length studio album, Murmur, which made the top-40 and topped Rolling Stones best albums list for the year in 1983. Their next two albums were college radio staples but besides having their first top-20 rock hit with "Can't Get There From Here" (which sounded like an English Beat out-take), sales and radio airplay weren't up to snuff. For their fourth release Life's Rich Pageant the quartet worked with producer Don Gehman (John Mellencamp), and the fuller sound and more coherent delivery by lead singer Michael Stipe resulted in the top-5 rock single "Fall On Me", which also dented the pop chart at #94.

In 1987, the group released their fifth studio set Document (marked with No. 5 on the cover), this time produced by Scott Litt, an engineer that would go on to work with them through the course of the rest of the decade. Keeping their simple, no-frills instrumentation intact, the foursome got their pop radio breakthrough with "The One I Love", a no-nonsense kiss-off track that gets to the point and with simple, repeated lyrics illustrating the monotony of a soured relationship, Stipe and the band connected to those running from the horde of lovey-dovey songs on mainstream stations at the time. A hymn to the bitter, if you will (like the Anti-Christ of "Day By Day")...


"The One I Love" not only hit the American pop top-40, but became their first top-10 single in December of 1987. The song also climbed up to #2 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock radio chart. Internationally, the song originally stopped down at #50 on the British list, but after a re-release in 1991 made it to #16 on the UK chart and #5 in Ireland. To my ears and my age, it heralded a change in rock just as important as the breakthrough of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" four years later.

(Click below to see the rest of the post)


This is R.E.M. appearing on French TV to promote the song with Michael singing live...


And here's the band in concert in 1989...


 ...and again in their "arena rock" popularity in 1995...


In 2001, R.E.M. appeared on the UK Jools Holland show, after drummer Bill Berry left...


For a change of pace, here's country crossover duo Sugarland in 2010 with a quieter take on the song...


 ...and lastly, back to R.E.M. in Germany in 2005...


Up tomorrow: Glam-metal boys have no memory problems.

No comments: