Wednesday, February 20, 2008

shiny, happy years

REM's new single is out and ready for download. Whoop-dee-doo, right?


Back in the dark ages of the 80's, I became friends with a kid who attended a neighboring high school. We were bunkmates at the now defunct, but once best summer camp ever, Twin Oaks (long live Ga-Ga!).

The first time I went over to his house, he met me at the end of his driveway. We walked toward the house. He told me that his mother was an art therapist.

The house was filled with his mother's artwork... in every every hallway. And each painting an homage to motherhood, depicting little fetuses nestled between motherly thighs.

Anyhow, here's the thing: prior to meeting this kid, my musical taste was extremely limited (read: Hot Hits 98.1 FM). I owned two cassettes, Thriller and Synchronicity. But this new-found friend had musical taste that Rand would have admired. He sifted through his albums, pulled one, and told me to borrow it.

Life's Rich Pageant

Now, I know that REM is too mainstream today. The move from IRS over to Warner Bros. was a big harbinger of commercialism, but hey, they had families to feed.

I listened to the album. Again. And again.

I wrote my 11th grade research paper on REM.

I own every album.

Why I like them isn't important, but what liking them has meant for me is of immeasurable value.

They show up with a new album at all the right moments:
  • Document (1987) - date first girlfriend
  • Green (1989) - graduate high school
  • Out of Time (1991) - father's cancer goes into remission
  • Automatic for the People (1992) - enter education program
  • Monster (1994) - father re-marries
  • New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996) - begin teaching
  • Up (1998) - officially begin dating Jess
  • Reveal (2001) - marry Jess
  • Around the Sun (2004) - birth of first child
  • Accelerate (2008) - birth of identical twin girls
Consistency is a tough word. It just doesn't have the staying power that its definition rests its reputation on. But the spectrum of my life can cite only four examples of consistency, unwavering and well-timed:
  1. Mom
  2. Dad
  3. Jess
  4. REM
And as lame as it may sound, the four of them make my life complete.

But this list is bound to grow. The timely release of this most recent album will most assuredly cause the list to double.

One band. One wife. Two parents. Four children.

My life is timing, and REM, my well-timed alarm, awaking me to savor the moments in my life that have the most meaning and importance.


Andrew Marcinek said...

...more like the sporadic cinek.

Excellent Ga-Ga reference!! I love that game! We should start a game in the library some time. However, we don't tell anyone else we are playing.

I had no idea about the new REM single! I must get to iTunes and DL!!! The discography of REM linked to prominent moments in your life reminded me of the book "High Fidelity". Good stuff!!

Dina said...

I still remember the smell of my dad's cigarettes on the long trip to Grandma's when I first listened to "Radio Free Europe" on my Walkman; and then rewound the mix tape and listened again, and again, and again.

Dogtrax said...

Like you, I was turned on to REM by a friend and this was in the early days when REM was just getting college radio play. The sound was murky -- what the hell was he singing? I used to wonder -- but there was undeniable energy and movement in their songs, and something about that jangly rhythm of Peter Buck stuck with me for years.
I kind of did not like when they became big pop stars -- not that I hate that kind of progression, just that they seemed to be writing pop songs to get famous. So I abandoned ship for a few years and I never found my way back again.
My favorite song in the world still remains "nightswimming" and it brings tears to my eyes even today.

Dianne K. said...

Ken - I, too, have been a life-long fan of REM. Although I do admit to not running to the store to buy any CD after Monster, I do own them all and fondly remember my high school and college years faithfully listening to their early CDs over and over.

I remember when the "Losing my Religion" video came out on MTV. I went home from school as soon as I could and sat on the couch until it came on. I watched it with tears in my eyes. I was a BIG fan of Michael Stipe - BIG FAN :)

I have downloaded the new single already and am in the stage I often am with new REM - I have to listen to it several times before I understand it.

Thanks for bringing up great memories!

Chris Lehmann said...


98.1 Hot Hits.

Terry "Motor Mouth" Young.

And yeah, REM still rocks. I remember the first time I heard Murmur. That was probably around '86. (It was around when Life's Rich Pageant came out, I think.) REM and U2 were the first two bands in the 80s that made me think that modern music could be as powerful as the music from my parents' era.

Ian said...

crush with eyeliner; great song, and that's from an Eve 6 guy

Ken Rodoff said...

I love being a teacher.
I love being a tech coach.
I love writing about teaching.
I love writing abut coaching.

I love that the one time I write about REM, I receive comments.

Oh, life, you are a funny bug.

Glad this post brought back some memories.

When I was in high school, I used to sit in my car at night and listen to "I Am Superman". Always helped whenever I felt stressed about my then girlfriend.

"Ken is strong!" That's what I'd hear from Michael Stipe. And, in truth, he very well could have said that. The lyrics were so damn indiscernible.