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Murmur, R.E.M.

I.R.S. Records, April 11, 1983

Track Listing: 1. Radio Free Europe, 2. Pilgrimage, 3. Laughing, 4. Talk About the Passion, 5. Moral Kiosk, 6. Perfect Circle, 7. Catapult, 8. Sitting Still, 9. 9-9, 10. Shaking Through, 11. We Walk, 12. West of the Fields

Everything went pink. Skin. Eyelids. The fleshy undersides of palms. The snap and crackle of the stiff Sunday paper on the break table. The Pink Section. The arts and entertainment section of the San Francisco Chronicle. It was everything to you. All you ever lived for each week. So incredibly huge and pink and abominable like some fat and rosy cloud. All with thick black lettering. It smelled of ammonia and raw printing ink. It was spread out before you like some blushing desert sky. The reddish eye of a wild storm at the center of what was your culturally-shocked, jackpot-clogged casino home. The thick hole at the edge of next-to-nowhere. You couldn’t get enough of it. The pink pages! Herb Caen. Joe Bob Briggs. Art. Music. Film. Theatre. Books. Concerts. There was a band so shockingly simple and starkly named X playing at some strangely-named night club you had never heard of before. Only 20 years later would you see them play live. There were men in strange metallic suits building fire-breathing robots in Berkeley. Grannies who went to est and dropped acid on Nob Hill. Homos and Lesbos. Tales of some strange and sinful city that was somewhere four hours west. Miles away from the neon-stained tracks you crossed every night on the way home after your late shift as a busboy at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino. Punk was alive and well but you were dead in Reno. You had no idea where to begin. No idea where to go.

“West of the fields, west of the fields,
West of the fields, west of the fields”

-fromWest of the Fields

You listened to Blondie and smoked grass. You drank Schlitz and got buzzed to The Knack. Somehow you never got west of Virginia Street. You missed the boat. The Dead Boys. The Germs. The Circle Jerks. Those two funny kids at school with different colored sneakers. Nothing reached you east of Sacramento. You were in a time warp (again). Stuck. Nowhere. Left out. It was all in the pink section but you just couldn’t get past the pages. You curled up each Sunday to a secret world wider and brighter than all the loose slots and all-you-can-eat breakfast places in the saddest biggest little city in the world. Each week you learned about plays and authors. You started buying books. Saw strange films. The world was suddenly different through rose-stained glasses. You were different. Changed. Pink!

“Straight off the boat, where to go?
Calling on in transit, calling on in transit
Radio free Europe, radio free Europe”

-fromRadio Free Europe

You found R.E.M. Like some precious Georgian stone. They were the first band you discovered all by yourself. Suddenly you were right there when it happened. As it happened. Sparked on by an article in the pink section. You bought the album blind with all your tip money. You had no idea what it actually sounded like. There was no college radio station. No local fanzine. Nothing but a pink article in the paper that drew you on. No one had ever heard of them before. You were no longer a shitty busboy in high school but a shitty bellhop in college with a secret. You bought an album no one knew about. And you were turned on by it. Like being let into some Southern esoteric society. Still going nowhere but knowing somehow, somewhere, something had to change—and fucking quick! You found the answer. The way out. This album set the time and date. Like a chiming alarm clock. Like a kudzu-infested freight train pulling you out of the decrepit station. It was so tight. So fresh and urgent. You couldn’t get enough of it. You bought even more albums. Were turned on by even more bands. You stopped listening to commercial radio. You finally got it. It finally clicked. You were off and then you were gone. Like a Roman rocket. A quick and fiery Chablis stain across the sky.

“The Pilgrimage has gained momentum
Take a turn, take a turn
Take our fortune, take our fortune
Pilgrimage, pilgrimage”