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Talk About The Passion

Twenty years ago, R.E.M.'s Murmur -- one of the most influential albums in rock history -- was recorded in Charlotte



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Mike Mills: (On whether the band visited the thrift store across the street to pass the time) "Oh yeah. Constantly! As a matter of fact, we have two plastic dinosaurs called Left and Right that always sit on our speakers when we make a record, and I believe they were purchased at that Salvation Army. It wasn't (a bad time in Charlotte). It wasn't bad because we were spending so much time working. There wasn't really any time for social life -- we were in there from 12 to 12 and I think the only real time we took off is when we all went out to see the movie Strange Invaders, which was our very first song in a movie. When the credits rolled and our names came up, we all stood up and applauded like crazy! The other three people in the theater were baffled."

Jamie Hoover, Spongetone, producer: "We were recording the Spongetones' "Torn Apart' at Reflection, and I remember going over from Studio C to Studio A, where the band was. I seem to remember gargoyles on the speakers. The whole place was decorated in sort of the typical Dixon/Easter fashion. I remember hearing them cover "Tighten Up' through the door and wondering what the hell they were doing."

Don Dixon: "The band always worked hard to find the common ground in a song. They each had a lot of autonomy in the creation of their own part, but they were aware of the whole in a way that some bands aren't. Nothing was sacred at that point, and they took a democratic approach to the process. Each member had a kind of veto power, and they used that power with great respect for each other. We had fun, if you can call making records fun -- there's an element of drudgery that is undeniable."

Mike Mills: "I guess we all know about Mitch beating on the chair for "Moral Kiosk.' There is a clanking metal sound in the break of one of the songs, which is Mitch pounding on the leg of a metal leg of a chair with a metal pipe. The main thing was that we were prepared to do anything at that point. "Perfect Circle' is actually two pianos being played at one time by myself and Bill (Berry). Of course, the noise at the beginning of "We Walk' is pool balls. It's Bill playing pool, recorded really fast and then slowed down. That's what makes that thunderous noise. There was a little breakroom down the stairs from the control room, and if you left the doors open you could hear the pool being played. So we sped the tape up, recorded the pool balls hitting, slowed it down and added a lot of reverb, and then turned it into thunder."

Mitch Easter: "We had fun. The only clash was over "production' -- due to the band's well-documented abortive session with Stephen Hague they had gotten sort of "safe.' We had to push them to relax a bit and do a few fancy "studio' touches here and there. This was understandable -- lots of silly sounding records were being made then!"

Mike Mills: "I don't think (we were trying to copy anybody). I think with some of the guitar stuff, and certainly some of the stuff that came out with the b-sides and oddities at that time, we were perhaps looking for a little Velvet Underground vibe, since we were doing some of their covers anyway, but no, there was nothing specific. I know Peter and I were fans of Big Star at that point, but I don't recall thinking about anything in particular as we were trying to make the record."

Part Three: CatapultR.E.M. wrapped up the recording of Murmur on February 23, 1983, and retired back to Athens for awhile to rest and prepare for a short tour with The English Beat. On April 12, 1983, Murmur was released. On October 6, the band played Late Night With David Letterman, and their ascension to modern rock royalty began. Twenty years and countless platinum albums later, some folks still look at the quirky little record churned out at Reflection as their best.

Don Dixon: "When you're so closely involved with something, it takes time to see past some of the things you've been trying to improve. I could stand to listen to it all the way through, (which is) high praise from me. I think it's still a very interesting record today. (It was) so different in its time, it has a timeless quality."

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