21 September 2011

Sweetness follows

It did stop me in my tracks. Just a bit.

One of the bands I've been listening to for nearly 30 years called it a day today. If I had to set my life to music, REM would certainly own a chunk of the compilation.

I suppose that one of the things that was fun about them, for me anyway, was a sort of sense of ownership. The band broke when I was in college, unlike so many others that have influenced me, but had sort of always been there, and I had to run to catch up with them. And so, catching REM at the beginning, I got to see them in small venues and record stores, got to talk to them, got to watch where their music went.

(Okay, ready for a best humiliating memory? I sang to one of the band members--I won't say who--trying to figure out a song that had been played on one of the tours, but had never made it to vinyl. I must have done an ok job, because he was able to place the song in a couple of bars--it never did make it to vinyl--but still. And no I wasn't drunk. But I sort of wish I had been. Let me just say that the band member also never batted an eyelash, like it was the most normal thing on earth for me to do. They were--all of them--the nicest of people.)

And of course, this is what the news inspires--a flood of memories. Racing to the record store for each new release. All the concerts. Warren Zevon joining them onstage at the Greek. Standing in the pouring rain at Pacific Amphitheater for two hours. The blissful show at Radio City Music Hall.

Writing my senior thesis. Running along the LA river. Finishing my master's. Working at Big Entertainment Company. My one-year-old gleefully dancing to "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" Both of my kids singing the rousing chorus of "It's the End of the World As We Know It."

All the years. All the music.

All the memories.

Thanks, guys.

Go listen to some good music: "Sweetness Follows" from the album Automatic for the People by REM. Sadness, sure, but if they feel like the band has run its course, I'd rather they depart the stage gracefully and on their terms.

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