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fromheadtoheart flag US - Georgia - Full Moon 239 - 02/22/16

From head to heart
R.E.M.'s Losing My Religion

Following our retroscope series going on for several years, here we go again. Yes, for one more year! Here's Speakers' corner's cousin; From head to heart. Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves'n'vaults of pop'n'rock. Blowing our ears and our head, punching our chest and shaking our heart, or simply tapping our shoulder. Making us go sentimental, but not slaphappy. This moonth we present a 25-year-old 7" platter from a band that dissolved or retired themselves in late 2011 (via a statement on their web site on September 21st 2011). The quartet formed in 1980 and played their first gig as a nameless support band on April 5th 1980 (they considered to perform as 'Twisted Kites', but decided to appear without any name). On their debut gig they performed cover songs by Johnny Kidd & the Pirates ("Shakin' All Over"), Chan Romero and/or The Swinging Blue Jeans ("Hippy Hippy Shake"), Paul Revere & the Raiders (later done by The Monkees, as well as the Sex Pistols: "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone"), Eddie Cochran ("Nervous Breakdown"), The Young Rascals ("A Girl Like You"), The Troggs ("I Can't Control Myself"), The Velvet Underground ("There She Goes Again"), Them ("Gloria" and "I Can Only Give You Everything"), The Rolling Stones ("Honky Tonk Women"), Joe Jones ("California Sun"), Jackie DeShannon (later done by The Searchers, and The Ramones; "Needles And Pins"), Johnny Rivers (later covered by The Challengers, and Devo: "Secret Agent Man"), Lou Reed ("Lisa Says"), the Sex Pistols ("God Save The Queen"), The Modern Lovers ("Roadrunner"), and Funkadelic ("One Nation Under a Groove") as well as a handful of originals (including "All The Right Friends", "Mystery to Me", and "Just a Touch"). I guess most of these bands/artists were important to the band in their formative years. Anyway, they scrapped band names like Twisted Kites, Negro Wives, Slug Bank and Can Of Piss. Instead, they landed on the term for the stage of sleep called rapid eye movement, which is a 'unique phase of mammalian sleep characterized by random movement of the eyes, low muscle tone throughout the body, and the propensity of the sleeper to dream vividly.' (Wikipedia). As they say, the rest is history! ...and so is the band.

coverpic R.E.M.
Losing My Religion b/w Rotary Eleven
Warner Bros.

R.E.M. ought to have been my kind band of the 1980s. They released their records on the independent I.R.S. label at the start, played the college and club circuit and received much critical acclaim in the respected/serious end of the rock musical press. I borrowed the band's 1983 debut album Murmur from a friend and played it quite feverishly for a week or so. But I was not convinced. I'm still not sure why. A lot of fine guitar work in there in particular, but the melodies or arrangements seemed a bit dull and monotonous. The critics resembled them with The Byrds. I preferred the originals and the album Mummer, by XTC released a few moonths after Murmur.

"Losing My Religion", released 25 years ago this very moonth, came about quite incidentally. Guitarist Peter Buck had just bought a mandolin and tried to learn how to play it on his own while recording the session. He came up with the main riff and chorus line along the way and that was it. The lyrics are not about succumbing to atheism. It has nothing to do with religion at all although the songs video suggests otherwise. The title is a phrase used in the southern states of the United States to express that one is obsessed with another person. According to Songfacts.com Michael Stipe told Rolling Stone magazine: "I wanted to write a classic obsession song. So I did." In addition to calling it a song about "obsession," Stipe has also referred to it as a song about "unrequited love" in which all actions and words of the object of your obsession are scrubbed for hidden meaning and hopeful signs.

Oh life, it's bigger
It's bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I've said too much
I set it up

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no, I've said too much
I haven't said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper
Of every waking hour
I'm choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt, lost and blinded fool, fool
Oh no, I've said too much
I set it up

Consider this
Consider this, the hint of the century
Consider this, the slip
That brought me to my knees, failed
What if all these fantasies come
Flailing around
Now I've said too much

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no, I've said too much
I haven't said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
Try, cry, why try
That was just a dream
Just a dream
Just a dream, dream

With many of the popular bands and artists from the 1970s onwards I tend to get tired of their greatest hits and prefer what we used to call (and some of us still do) their album tracks. With R.E.M. it's quite the opposite. I think some of their most well-known hit singles are great, and that's about it. Hearing" Losing My Religion" by chance on AOR radio or in a shop or something is always a treat and puts me in a better mood. It might be the mandolin, there are not many massive mandolin hits about. And the mandolin interplay with the guitar, and the dynamic bass and strings, the melody, the lot...

And the flip side of the single "Rotary Eleven" ain't half bad either. A retro instrumental with tremolo guitar and vintage organ that wouldn't have been out of place in one of the black and white films by Jim Jarmusch.

The single paved the way for a much bigger audience for R.E.M. Bassist Mike Mills later stated that without "Losing My Religion", Out of Time, the album where it is taken from, would have sold two or three million copies. Instead it sold about ten millions. Once well into the 1990s some of the straight boys at my work was very excited. They were going to an arena concert in the afternoon and the band playing was R.E.M. It made me think. This was not a connoisseur band for the few any more. "Losing My Religion" had changed that.

Copyright © 2016 JP e-mail address

You may also want to check out our R.E.M. articles/reviews: Bad Day EP, Collapse Into Now, Roncalliplatz, Cologne, Germany, 12.05.01.

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