10 Things You Didn't Know About... R.E.M.'s Out of Time
As any dedicated fan of R.E.M. will no doubt already be aware, this week marks the 25th anniversary of the album that transformed the four-piece from Athens, Georgia from darlings of the college radio scene to full-blown, mainstream rock stars. The commercial success of their 1991 album Out Of Time was largely down to the singles 'Losing My Religion' and, to a lesser extent, 'Shiny Happy People', but it also marked an artistic turning point for the band, experimenting with new instrumentation and pushing to expand on the territory they had made theirs with albums like Murmur, Document and Green.
To mark the anniversary, the band are reissuing the album in a range of formats, including 2 CD and 2 LP sets that feature remastered versions of the original tracks and demos recorded at John Keane Studio in 1990. For the hardcore fan there's also a deluxe four-disc version featuring all of the above as well as a third disc featuring the band's 1991 live performance on West Virginia Radio's Mountain Stage, and a Blu-ray disc featuring high-res audio and 5.1 surround mixes of each track, in addition to all the music videos created for the album and an electronic press kit that features footage of the band in the studio.
To celebrate the release we've rounded up some of the lesser-known facts about the band's 1991 album, including why the Spanish version could be worth a packet, how Prince was connected to the record and why it was called 'the most politically significant album in United States history'...
'Losing My Religion' was the first video in which Michael Stipe lip-synced
If you watch any R.E.M. music video before 1991, you'll notice that Michael Stipe never mimes to the lyrics in any of their promos, something he'd always refused to do up until that point (even the video for 'So. Central Rain' involved Stipe singing a new vocal to a backing track while the rest of the band faked it). According to bassist Mike Mills, the thing that changed his mind was watching Sinead O'Connor's video for 'Nothing Compares 2 U'.
The album was released with a different cover in Spain, the result of a competition
Around the time of the album's release, a contest was launched in Spain where students were given the opportunity to design the cover sleeve for the record. The LP sporting the winning design was released only in Spain as a very limited edition version (believed to be only 70 copies). The most recent sale at auction saw one of them fetch $437 (approximately £350).
The band didn't tour the album at all
The 11 months prior to recording Out Of Time had seen the band touring non-stop in promotion of its predecessor, Green, and the band members were pretty burned out. In fact, this partly explains the album's change of direction, with Michael Stipe commenting that guitarist Peter Buck “didn't want to look at an electric guitar, much less play one” and was learning to play the mandolin as a sort of antidote. Despite their decision not to tour the record, it still ended up being their most successful to date, going on to sell over 18 million copies.
Out of Time was the first R.E.M. album to feature guests
One of the other things R.E.M. did to try and ensure Out Of Time was different to all their previous albums was inviting guests to appear on the record, something they'd never done before. The most well-known of these is B52s singer Kate Pierson, who provides backing vocals on three songs including 'Shiny Happy People', with the most unusual being KRS-One's appearance on opening track 'Radio Song'. Other guests include former dBs guitarist Peter Holsapple, who plays on several of the album's tracks, and free-jazz saxophonist Kidd Jordan.
It was nominated for seven Grammys
Out Of Time was undoubtedly the record that launched R.E.M. into the mainstream, topping the charts in both sides of the Atlantic and earning a total of seven nominations at that year's Grammy awards. In the end it won three of them: Best Pop Performance by Duo or Group, Best Alternative Performance and Best Video.
Not everybody was comfortable with having a rap artist on the record
It seems crazy now, but in 1991 MTV still weren't playing music by a lot of black artists, so the band's decision to have KRS-One on the opening track was met with some resistance, as Peter Buck explained in a recent interview: “We got pushback from every single direction about featuring KRS-One on the record. The record people were like, 'You know, if you take him off, blah blah blah.' Then they were like, 'Well okay, put him on a record, but take him off of your single so we can get airplay.' I went into radio stations and people would say, 'We can’t really play ['Radio Song'] because no one in here likes rap.' It’s not really rap first of all, and second of all, that’s just bullsh*t”
The album was mixed at Prince's Paisley Park studio complex...
Although recording sessions took place at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, NY and at John Keane Studio in the band's Georgia hometown of Athens, when it came to mixing the album the band relocated to Prince's famous Paisley Park complex in Minneapolis. Out of Time was the band's second album for Warner Brothers after moving from indie label I.R.S. Records and, since Prince had been signed to Warners throughout his career up to that point, Paisley Park was suggested as a venue. The vocal for 'Belong' was recorded in the garage there, with Stipe singing into a Sony Walkman.
..and the album title was inspired by a secretary who worked there
Well, sort of. The album's title is, as it turns out, quite literal – the sleeve designs were done and ready to print, but with a deadline looming the band still hadn't decided on a name for the album. In what he described to Spin Magazine as “sheer desperation”, Stipe was talking about it to people working at Paisley Park: “There was one secretary that everybody was endeared to because she dressed really well. We said, “The record is about memory and time and love,” and she said, 'In Time'... Mike said, 'Out of Time', and that was it.”
Michael Stipe hadn't even finished the lyrics to 'Country Feedback' when the band recorded it
Although he has often described it as his favourite R.E.M. song, 'County Feedback' was only intended as a demo recording for an unfinished song that Peter Buck and Bill Berry had been woking on. The lyrics were mostly improvised in the studio and were recorded in one take: “I just had a piece of paper with a few words”, Stipe said of the track. “I sang it and I walked out.”
It has been described as 'the most politically significant album in United States history'...
...but not for the reasons you might think. Lyrically speaking, Out Of Time was probably R.E.M.'s least political offering to date, but the album's packaging included a cut-out-and-keep petition urging the band's fans to support the so-called 'Motor Voter' legislation – a bill introduced to allow voters to register at their local DMV (Department for Motor Vehicles) when they got their driving licenses. The campaign was organised by Rock The Vote and resulted in 10,000 petitions being sent to the Senate. In a related stunt, the campaign manager and members of hip-hop group KMD (featuring a young MF Doom) wheeled the 10,000 petitions into the senate in shopping trolley, right in the middle of the hearing. The bill was eventually passed in 1995 and is believed to have increased voter registration among young people by as much as 10%.