NEW YORK R.E.M. won't be eligible for the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame for several years, but another museum has already taken in
the influential Athens, Ga., band.
"Rapid Eye Movement: R.E.M. on Television," a comprehensive exhibit of
visual and audio material, is on display at the New York and Los Angeles
branches of the Museum of Television & Radio through Nov. 28.
"If people find it interesting and noteworthy, and worth putting on
exhibition into an institution, we're certainly appreciative," the band's
manager, Bertis Downs, said. The band has yet to see the exhibit, Downs
said, although singer Michael Stipe did sit for an interview with the
museum in October that's included in the display.
Through music videos, tapes of television appearances, radio spots and
a couple of documentary films, the exhibit traces R.E.M.'s evolution from
college-radio cult band to rock stars.
The exhibit is part of the museum's ongoing series saluting performers
for whom television has played an important role in achieving success.
Past exhibitions at the museum have focused on singer Janet Jackson and
the late comedian Andy Kaufman.
Including R.E.M. in the series wasn't a difficult choice, said Arthur
Smith, a curatorial assistant at the museum. "R.E.M. [have] been in the
forefront of innovation in terms of their visual presentation."
"We have been around for a while and done quite a few videos and films
of concerts," Downs said.
As part of the R.E.M. exhibition, the museum compiled a 90-minute film
that includes "MTV Unplugged" performances; such music videos as
"Everybody Hurts" (RealAudio
excerpt), "Man on the Moon" and "Losing My Religion"; and clips
from the 1995 documentary "Rough Cut" and numerous television appearances.
Interspersed with the video and television footage is the Stipe interview.
The R.E.M. frontman talks candidly on subjects ranging from feeling uneasy
at being labeled the "voice for a generation," to the pressures he faced
being a spokesperson for political causes, to the inspiration behind his
homage to Brian Wilson in the song "At My Most Beautiful" from the R.E.M.'s
latest album, Up (1998).
Other gems in the film include a 1983 clip from the TV show "Live Wire"
in which a young, mop-headed audience member, the Beastie Boys' Adam
Horovitz, raises his hand to ask if Stipe could "write down the lyrics"
to R.E.M.'s songs, because Horovitz can't understand what Stipe is singing.
The R.E.M. exhibition includes two documentaries. "This Way Up" has
behind-the-scenes footage of the band recording Up in Hawaii and
speaking of the difficulties working without longtime drummer Bill Berry,
who quit in 1997. "Uptake" features the band performing material from
Up on a soundstage in England's Ealing Studio.
Because college radio played a big role in R.E.M.'s career, a 60-minute
radio package, "R.E.M.: On the Radio," is also part of the exhibit.
Listeners can take in the 1996 radio show "The R.E.M. Radio Hour," with
bandmembers talking about the album New Adventures in Hi-Fi,
released that September.
R.E.M.'s first single, "Radio Free Europe" (RealAudio
excerpt), released in 1981, became an instant underground hit,
but the band's breakout success came in 1987 with their fifth album,
Document, which featured the single "The One I Love." The group's
Out of Time (1991) and Automatic for the People (1992) were
major critical and commercial successes.