Murmur Turns 40 Today

40 years ago today, R.E.M. released their debut album, Murmur. Even though they’d been right under my nose for the past several years playing the local club circuit, it was the first I remember hearing of them. The first song I recall hearing is “Laughing.” This, thanks to WQDR out of Raleigh, NC. “Radio Free Europe” was the single but since QDR was an album rock station it’s not at all unusual that I heard a deep album track. However, from what I’ve come to understand, it was unusual that they were receiving airplay on a commercial rock station since, in 1983, they were mostly being heard on college radio. It’s my understanding that it was largely due to their NC ties that QDR was playing them. Namely, co-producers Don Dixon and Mitch Easter, that Murmur and their preceding EP, Chronic Town were both recorded here and that they were regulars on the club circuit, including the Pier in Raleigh where QDR often sponsored shows.
The album received much critical acclaim and was voted Album of the Year in Rolling Stone, beating out Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It was cool that that happened but by that point I was already all in. The album was dark, mysterious and steeped in the Southern Gothic. What lyrics you couldn’t understand came through in how they hit you in the heart. You may not have always been able to understand what Michael Stipe was singing but what he was feeling came through loud and clear.
Little did I know as a 20 year old way back when what an impact they would come to have on me over the years. Not just from a musical standpoint but how they would come to impact my outlook on life in general. They were not alone in that but their social and political activism certainly went a long way in informing my beliefs on everything from the environment to who I wanted to see hold public office. That doesn’t mean I always agreed with them but the majority of the time they echoed my own sentiments.
Happy 40th Anniversary, Murmur.


Some Murmur memories from the band.


Great post. Very similar to my experience, albeit mine was a decade later with Out of Time. They sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before, even more so when I got ‘Best Of…’ for Christmas 1991 and began discovering the older stuff. Outside of my parents, they did more to shape the person I would become than anyone or anything else.

The band of my life. Happy birthday Murmur.


Bill’s whistling story is brilliant!

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I took Murmur for a spin just now. My 1983 vinyl pressing has initials, presumably those of a previous owner, on the upper left corner of the cover, but the record itself sounds immaculate. The initials somehow add to the beautifully rustic aura of it all.


Love this song.

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Elizabeth Nelson on Murmur.
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