R.E.M. Gatekeeping

Yesterday was the anniversary of the release of Dead Letter Office in the U.S. Through their social media channels, R.E.M. asked fans to name their favorite songs from it. As I’ve seen in years past, more than a few replied with songs from Chronic Town instead. This, because when Dead Letter Office was released on CD it included Chronic Town, which, up to that point had not been released on CD. Even when it was, it was only available as an import as part of The Originals box set that also included Murmur and Reckoning.
As I’ve done in the past, I politely let folks know that Chronic Town was included on CD editions of Dead Letter Office in the same manner as other “two-fer” releases that include separate recordings. In most instances, people were polite in return and appreciated being informed of this. In others, I was accused of “gatekeeping.” In another, even though the person had thanked me for letting them know, I was accused of bullying.
So, when did it become a matter of “gatekeeping” or “bullying” to politely inform people of factual information? I know some newer fans might not have been aware of Chronic Town until it was included on CD editions of Dead Letter Office but even then, one wouldn’t have to closely examine the liner notes to be aware that it was a separate recording as it included the artwork from the original release. For example, when I purchased the Big Star “two-fer” #1 Record and Radio City on CD in the late 90’s I was only vaguely familiar with them at best. Yet, it was never any sort of mystery to me that they were two separate albums. There are also no shortage of other two-fer’s out there where two separate recordings were included on one CD (or cassette) so it’s not like the inclusion of Chronic Town on Dead Letter Office was some sort of an anomaly.


Not sure if it’s gatekeeping, but I do wonder why you felt it was important to let people know this.

By the way, my CD copy of Dead Letter Office was not very clear on some tracks being part of a separate earlier release. (see image)


I felt it necessary to let them know because Chronic Town was only included on CD editions of Dead Letter Office because up to that point, it was not available on CD. It was never intended to be be part of the whole of that release. While the tracks may be listed all together on the back of the CD, the packaging within that includes the original artwork from Chronic Town clearly indicates it is a separate recording. The purpose of the release of Dead Letter Office was to gather together b-sides, rarities, and outtakes. Chronic Town doesn’t fit that description. It was a proper release unto itself, just as an EP, not an album. In the liner notes for Dead Letter Office, each track receives a write up from Peter Buck, just as they did on the vinyl and cassette releases of the album. The reason the tracks from Chronic Town didn’t on the CD release is because it is a separate entity. Hopefully, that helps clear up any confusion.

Oh, man. Some people have really huge egos, especially on the internet, and if they are corrected (or even advised!), the get offended so easily its almost ridiculous.

I think that the 1987 version of DLO didnt include Chronic Town? Nevertheless, these songs are first and foremost part of Chronic Town, not DLO. Its a bit weird, like saying that The Best of R.E.M. is their best album, only vice-versa.


Per Discogs, the CD release of Dead Letter Office in 1987 included Chronic Town. I see nothing whatsoever the matter in setting the record straight, especially if it’s done so in a polite and non-condescending manner, which is what I did. It was most certainly not an effort on my part to either attempt to “gatekeep” or “bully” anyone. Despite doing my best to do my research beforehand, I can’t count the number of times I’ve posted incorrect information online (not just about R.E.M.) I am glad to be corrected and have never once considered accusing the person (or persons) that corrected me of either gatekeeping or bullying simply for setting the record straight.

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I think you have misunderstood me, it was meant as more of a soul searching question: why does it bother you that people are giving ‘wrong’ answers to a silly question from a social media account trying to keep some engagement going around a band that’s no longer active? :wink:

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I’m not sure if “bother” is the right way to put it but considering it was incorrect information, I felt the need to set the record straight. As long as it’s done so politely and not in a condescending manner, I see no harm in doing so.
Not too long ago, a discussion about misinformation came up on a friend of mine’s FB page who is a journalist. In the post, he and other journalists listed several stories that are often passed off as fact, even from what are considered reliable sources. Another friend, who is also a journalist, chimed in to say that she can’t resist and is constantly correcting friends who post misinformation, which occasionally upsets them.
As part of this discussion, I learned that the Hunter S. Thompson quote, 'the music industry is a cruel and shallow money trench" is something he never said (link below to the correct quote). Unbeknownst to me, folks like my journalist friends have long tried to set the record straight regarding this quote but to no avail. Since that discussion, I’ve seen the same quote pop up numerous times. So, it seems to me that trying to set the record straight is often a losing battle. Another point that was not lost on me during this age of misinformation we’re living in.
I realize misinformation isn’t a recent development but with the advent of the internet, it spreads faster than ever before and is even more difficult to set the record straight. If you have ever followed the comments for a post where misinformation is posted, if you try to post the correct information in response, no one pays attention to it. They go only by what the original post said. So, I guess this is this my longwinded way of saying I feel that stating the truth, no matter inconsequential it may seem to others, is important. Maybe it is also the writer in me.

What Hunter S. Thompson Really Said About the Music Industry....


The spread of misinformation on social media is the single biggest threat to the world right now.

That might sound like hyperbole, but it’s not. Trump, Brexit, covid conspiracy theories, Marine Le Pen, Boris fucking Johnson - none of these things happen without social media.

I’ve long since given up trying to challenge misinformation on social media. It was bad for my mental health.

But respect to you for trying.

I realise the semantics of a record (and, of course, you’re 100% correct about Dead Letter Office/Chronic Town) are relatively insignificant when compared to some of the political, environmental, and sociological shitstorms that we’re all living through. But ignorance should always be challenged.

It’s difficult to convey tone in written form. Helpful corrections are seen as ‘bullying’ or ‘gatekeeping’, or worse.

I guess, what I’m saying is, fuck 'em. Keep on trucking.

Bill Murray said it better than I ever could:

“It’s hard to win an argument with a smart person, but it’s damn near impossible to win an argument with a stupid person.”


Wrong info on the internet (of things I’m passionate about) drives me insane!

What’s even crazier is even after something has been proven wrong or has a different outcome, no one ever goes back and corrects their “story” (cause that takes effort) and it just lives there forever being wrong.

The situation you described with people putting down Chronic Town songs as their favorites from Dead Letter Office would have drove me crazy too man!

What’s “gatekeeping” anyway?? :rofl:


A while back, the FB page The College of Rock n’ Roll Knowledge (which is notorious for posting misinformation) posted some incorrect info about the movie Easy Rider. For the first time ever, they did correct one of their many mistakes. The text of their posts also often comes directly from Wikipedia (which also isn’t always entirely accurate) to which they give no attribution.

I believe “gatekeeping” is meant to imply someone believes they’re the fount of all knowledge on any subject (in this case, a band) who feel it is their duty to set the record straight on anything regarding that subject. I could be wrong.

BTW, this is the latest example of how proofreading and fact checking has largely gone to shit in recent years. American Songwriter has been especially bad about this but I’m pretty sure they didn’t use to be. This screenshot from FB is from this morning. I haven’t checked back to see if they’ve corrected it. I’m hoping they have. Again, I want to emphasize that am by no means perfect, I make mistakes all the time myself but this a major print publication that you would think has people that proofread and fact check these posts before they’re published.

I have Chronic Town on cassette. Is that common? I never noticed it on CD or a two fer. But do also have vinyl.

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At the time (1987) cassettes were still selling well. It wasn’t until the early 00’s that sales trailed off.

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I try to get facts right too. I was searching through vids to post on R.E.M. On This Day , and found a discrepancy between two concert tickets pics for Welcome To The Occupation - Orlando Arena, Orlando, Florida FL 30th April 1989
I had to assume the second vid had the pic of a genuine concert ticket.

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I don’t believe for one second that setting the record straight about Chronic Town being a separate work from Dead Letter Office is either gatekeeping or bullying. However, I do wonder if the folks in the R.E.M. fan groups on FB that are upset that Ariana Grande has named a perfume after her song “R.E.M.” is a prime example of that. Some folks have clearly being humorous about it but there are others that seem to be seriously concerned that she has used the name without first gaining permission from R.E.M. as though they have legal rights to use of the name. It has cropped numerous times since the product was released in 2020 and is presently the subject of much debate in the R.E.M. Fans United group on FB. To me, that ones that are seriously bent of shape about it are an embarrassment.


“Gatekeeping” is basically when people try to determine who is ‘worthy’ of being a fan/enthousiast of something, so the Ariana Grande-thing also does not really fit the bill.

What you are seeing there is people getting upset that a very popular artist (and her substantial young fanbase) have adopted the name of something that is very important to them, seemingly without even being aware that “R.E.M.” brings up this connotation for many people. I think it’s making them feel like they and their fandom are being erased, so I understand the emotional reaction, even if it is a bit sad. I too think R.E.M. deserve a more prominent spot in cultural memory, but these things have never worked and never will work on a meritocratic basis.


I’m not sure how one goes about determining how well known R.E.M. remains at this point. I guess the concern is that current generations are unaware of them and because of this they will be forgotten by future generations. I wish I could remember the name of the publication but I want to see it was Magnet that several years ago approached a young female musician who had zero knowledge of R.E.M. and asked her to learn of their songs. Once she did, it dawned on her that she had heard some of their work before, it just didn’t register on her radar. As you might imagine, this led to her digging deeper and a new R.E.M. fan was made.
Since I’m obviously an R.E.M. fan it is hard for me to see the forest for the trees but I still hear them on some radio stations, at least one Classic Rock and one Triple A (Adult Album Alternative), the latter of which plays more than the hit songs. I also hear their songs in places of business. I can’t help but think if a young person shows some interest in alternative/indie music in general it may lead them to R.E.M.
I have a friend who is 25 that is not only well versed in R.E.M. but in music in general. For those that are truly as passionate about music as she is, I would imagine there are more folks out there like her. I think back to when I was coming up in the 70’s and 80’s when there was no such resource as the internet. If there was something that piqued my interest I dug into it deeper. That is easier than ever to do now with the internet at everyone’s fingertips. However, some folks seem to believe that due to how younger generations are exposed to music these days, it may not play the same role in their lives as it did for past generations. Still, I can only imagine that the most passionate of music fans are going to want to embark on similar journeys of discovery just as previous generations have done.


Gatekeeping is a journalim theory that states the media are the dogs who control the gates where through information is released to people. So the media guard the gate: they “open” it and let the information pass when they find it’s worthy that people know it, or “close” the gate to the general people when they judge the information is not suitable – or should not spread for whatever reason, including selfish ones.

It’s a very sensitive position to keep, because you rule above what the people “should” know or not. It can also be seen as regarding oneself as “the real owner of all truth”.

With an accusation of “gatekeeping” they likely mean that second part. According to some idiots, if you set something straight because, purely and simply, A FACT is being stated wrong, then you become “the guy who says actually” – as in “actually, this is wrong and here is the truth”. Where’s the bullying in that?? That’s not a bad thing to do either. It’s not even to be considered “gatekeeping” if you just try to set the record straight; you’re not advocating to being “the owner of all truth” or, worse, the one who keeps info from the general audience. It’s about bringing light, not shadow. You just happen to know some fact is wrong and you try to elucidate people, which is laudable.


FWIW when I got my CD copy of DLO in the 90s I understood that most of the album was non album tracks and the last few tracks were an early EP reproduced. But I was not aware they were not on the LP and for me they are a part of both DLO and Chronic Town - they felt like an integral part of the release, not two things bundled together. This may not be how it was but is maybe why people see those tracks as “best of DLO”


So, it the release being referred was one by another artist where two separate works were included on one CD (or cassette) would it be acceptable to respond with songs from the other release as favorites when it was the other release that was specifically being referred to? For instance, one of many two-fers out there is Big Star’s #1 Record/Radio City. If Someone were to ask what their favorite song from #1 Record is, would be ok to respond with a song from Radio City simply because it’s also on the same CD?

In a world of on-demand streaming, how much does it matter what song is on what album?