Amazing time capsule video of R.E.M. making their national TV debut on the Late Show with David Letterman in October 1983. On this appearance, they played two of their earliest hits – ‘Radio Free Europe’ (off of their first album Murmur) and ‘So. Central Rain’ (off of their second album Reckoning). The performance of ‘So. Central Rain’ was such an early cut of the song that they actually had not given it a name – it was the song’s national premier! What is even more unique is that they actually played two songs on the show. On most late shows (SNL being the exception), bands only play one song, a trend that generally conveys to this day.
First – look at how young they all look! From Letterman to the band itself. This was from a time when R.E.M. was literally just getting started and had just released the aforementioned album “Murmur”. Michael Stipe was so shy in those days that he did not even engage with Letterman when he greeted the band after playing ‘Radio Free Europe’. Second – look at the set of the Letterman show where they played! It looked like someone’s basement – which was probably in keeping with the venues they were playing in at the time!
I think everyone has ‘concert regrets’ – shows that you had the opportunity to go to but did not attend for any number of reasons – apathy, conflict, punishment, etc. For me, one of several concert regrets is not going to see R.E.M. at Drew University’s Baldwin Gym in 1985. Look at that set list. Amazing! I had just moved to a new town in New Jersey at the time and for whatever reason, I did not go to this show. They were gaining in popularity and on the verge of exploding, but were just not there yet. It was *the perfect time* to see them.
R.E.M. continues to be one of my all time favorite bands. Listening to R.E.M. today brings back a flood of smiles and memories that are attached to their songs. If you are a fan, Michael Stipe just sat down for an interview on the podcast Smartless.