Rich Wilhelm

BerryBuckMillsStipe

In Music/Opinion on April 13, 2013 at 5:13 am

On April 12, 1983–30 years ago yesterday, as I sit typing these words–a relatively unknown band from Athens, Georgia released their full-length debut LP. The band was R.E.M.; the album was Murmur.

I didn’t know anything about it at the time. I am sure I was too busy preparing for my high school senior prom later that week to notice the quiet arrival of Murmur.

Within a few months, though, I took notice. In August of that year, I saw R.E.M., opening for the Police at JFK Stadium. Actually, opening for the opening acts for the Police: Madness and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.

I don’t remember whether I bought Murmur before that concert, in anticipation of the show, or afterwards. Either way, Murmur wasn’t an album that immediately opened itself up to me. I loved the opening song, “Radio Free Europe,” immediately, but I have to admit the rest of the album seemed to be a “grower.” Gradually, Murmur revealed certain of its mysteries to me.

Thirty years later, I still can’t say with certainty that I have completely cracked Murmur‘s code. But I also can’t say with certainty that there is any album I love more than Murmur.

It would probably be an overstatement to say that Murmur changed my life. However, in terms of musical and cultural influence, Murmur is huge.

Murmur didn’t merely make me a lifelong R.E.M. fan. Murmur led me forward to bands like the Replacements, the dBs, the Three O’Clock, the Minutemen and so many more. Murmur also led me backward to bands like the Byrds and the Velvet Underground and so many more.

Murmur is simply a cornerstone of my musical life.

I am not even listening to Murmur as I write this. I don’t need to. I’m listening to a new album, New Lion Terraces by Corin Ashley. I just saw Corin perform tonight. I loved his songs, took a chance on his album, and love it as well.

I think R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck would be pleased that I was trying something new, and not listening to Murmur as I wrote about it.

Perhaps Murmur did not change my life. But my life has been enhanced and beguiled by Murmur ever since 1983. And for that, and for all that has led to, I thank BerryBuckMillsStipe.

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Patrick F. O'Donnell

writer, editor, general wordsmith and scribe

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