Radio Free Europe & Sitting Still versions

There is always some debate/confusion on WHAT versions of Radio Free Europe and Sitting Still exist, WHERE they exist, and HOW they are different.

It can be said there are 5 (to 6) “different versions” of Radio Free Europe.
The two that are the hardest to tell apart (and the ones always in discussion/debate) are the “Hibbert (HibTone 45) mix” and the “Mitch Easter” mix.
Both of them are SO incorrectly labeled all over the internet AND on official releases, because REM (or I.R.S.?) keeps saying the Mitch Easter mix is The “Hib Tone original” which is not true.

Original (cassette set demo)
Hbberts mix (hib tone single version)
Easters mix (Eponymous version)
Easters silly “dub” mix
Mumur re-recording
Murmur radio edit

(I’ll admit, those last 2 are a stretch on being “different” from each other though)

The following is a LONG recap of my (and others’) research into this a few years back to try help set everyone straight. Some of it is what we thought at the time with revelations to follow at the end…


This all started with a question I had for a long time. Is it ever stated anywhere or known that Peter Buck wrote the liner notes for Eponymous??
I always thought so in my mind, but now I can’t really find any evidence of that… I think maybe people are confused with Dead Letter Office (that he did write) and just assume he wrote the ones for Eponymous too.
I kind of feel like some “I.R.S. Employee” wrote them, because what’s said in the Eponymous liner notes about Radio Free Europe is really confusing…

I had always THOUGHT that the “hib tone” single and the Eponymous version were NOT the same.
We had been led to believe (from many sources) that the version on Eponymous is NOT the Hib-Tone 45 single version (ie Johnny Hibbert mix), and that it’s REALLY the Mitch Easter mix that “lost out” to Hibbert’s mix.
So then I always wondered is it Peter Buck (and R.E.M. indirectly) that is totally disavowing any knowledge of Hibbert’s mix, and just saying that the Mitch Easter mix is “The Hib-Tone mix” (even though it isn’t)!! Or is it someone at I.R.S. (That wrote the liner notes) saying this?

For some more background these two mixes in question, both come from the same RECORDING (from April 15, 1981), but different MIXES.

June 1981 - Bombay Recording Studios, Symrna, GA
notes: The band return to Bombay Recording Studios with Johnny Hibbert. They bring with them the two versions of ‘Radio Free Europe’, the one mixed by Johnny Hibbert, and the other mixed by Mitch Easter, and use the studio to decide which one to put on the Hib-Tone Records single. Hibbert’s mix wins and can be found on the original Hib-Tone Records single. Easter’s mix can be found on the ‘Eponymous’ compilation album.

From a 2011 story about the cassette set surfacing (See link in next post)
R.E.M.’s debut 7″ single release of “Radio Free Europe”/”Sitting Still” later that year on Hib-Tone Records was based on these demo versions, but added overdubs and notoriously band-hated mixing work by label chief Johnny Hibbert. Easter’s mix of the post-overdub “Radio Free Europe” has since appeared on the R.E.M. compilations Eponymous (1988)

In 2019 I finally sat down and did some “work” I had wanted to do for years… I spent half a day or so DEEPLY comparing MY PERSONAL Hib-Tone 45 (ripped to .wav), the Eponymous CD version, and just for fun, the “Cassette Set” version of Radio Free Europe.

I put them all into Cool Edit Pro as 3 separate tracks in a multi-track recording so I could isolate each as needed and listen to super short loops over and over again. I got some really good headphones and went to work…


I of course was blown away that I and many other people (going off the information of many books) have been WRONG for a long time thinking that the Hib-Tone and the Eponymous versions were different!

So WHERE was/is the Mitch Easter mix that R.E.M. supposedly preferred?!?!

It has to exist, because it has been documented in books and internet posts about them debating which version to put on the hib-tone single and Johnny Hibbert “winning out” after a “mixing bakeoff” of the April 15 recording. (See next post for link)

There’s even a comment on a YouTube video where someone asked Easter to autograph their hib-tone single and him telling them “you know I didn’t make this”.

Here’s the link to the story he refers to.
(See next post for link)

This story ALSO “perpetuates” the idea that the Hib-Tone single and Eponymous versions are different…!?!
Who knows if they ever actually listened to both though? Or are just repeating the story like I always did…

Tony Fletcher in “Remarks” does say “Hibberts input is hard to quantify. Various tapes of the Drive-In recordings do not clarify what was done before Hibbert’s appearance and what was added afterwards.”

(Hit the “preview this book” link to read yourself)

Also in Gary Nabors 1st pressing of “Remnants: The REM collectors handbook” on pg 64-65, he says about Eponymous, “The major selling point of the album was the inclusion of the original Hib-Tone version of ‘Radio Free Europe’ (though this time it was the brighter Mitch Easter mix of the track that was released, and not Hibbert’s mix).”
This was published in 1993 BEFORE any “internet confusion” would have skewed his statement.


So…The part of the liner notes of Eponymous saying that version is the “original Hib-Tone single” seems totally CORRECT to me. I was happy that they are “right” after thinking they were wrong for so long.
The part about it being Mitch Easter’s mix in the liner notes and “Mike and Jefferson think this one crushes the other one like a grape” is still TOTALLY confusing and misleading though.


Both the Eponymous and Hib-Tone tracks have a super small drop out on the left channel of the opening sound effect 0.35sec after the start. It sticks out like a sore thumb when you look at the .wav file in an editor. Further proving that part at least is identical…

Hib-Tone version is 0.7sec longer/slower than Eponymous version. But that most likely is due to my turntable speed. The weird thing was that the Cassette Set version was the EXACT same length as the my Hib-Tone though… (taking in to account no “sound effects” at the beginning of cassette set) You would think variances in cassette tape speeds compiled with turntable speeds would have made that very unlikely wouldn’t it?

In general the Cassette Set version has less overdubs and echo by far and is much “cleaner” sounding. BUT what’s really weird is that for it to supposedly be the “raw original stripped version” that got used on their demo tapes, there is a very obvious HEAVY overdub/echo/production on the very first word of the song (“Decide”) on the Cassette Set version that is NOT on the Hib-Tone/Eponymous version! So strange… You’d think it would be the other way around.

Right before the “Straight of the boat” pre-chorus on the Hib-Tone/Eponymous version there are 2 “tick” mouth sounds. I can’t tell if these are someone “counting off” to the chorus or what, but the Cassette Set version is missing the 2nd sound that is there ~1:10~1:11 on my Hib-tone/Eponymous versions.

This happens again before the 2nd “Radio Station” (still not sure if that’s what Stipe is saying) pre-chorus. The Hib-Tone/Eponymous has ONE of these “tick” mouth sounds, and the Cassette Set version has NONE.

Right around 2:56 the Hib-Tone/Eponymous version has a very obvious tambourine hit right before the “Straight of the boat” pre-chorus. The Cassette Set version does NOT have this at all.

I thought perhaps what we know as the Cassette Set version is MAYBE the one that people have referred to as the “Mitch Easter mix” in books,etc??
Johnny Hibbert wasn’t even around when it was recorded, so he shouldn’t have had any influence over it, and it does seem much cleaner and brighter than the others. These authors have just all been wrong to say that it is what’s on Eponymous, though.

Also, while I was doing audio comparisons, I threw the Radio Free Europe from the “And I feel fine… IRS Years” (Disc 2) into the multi-track comparison as well, and although the amplitude/levels are higher, it is an exact “thumbprint” match to the Eponymous version when you look at the .wav file. Once I got the levels the same I could jump between them and tell absolutely NO DIFFERENCE that I was even flipping back and forth. EXACT SAME.

At this point I had a hard time believing so many articles were/are wrong.
I just know what my ears heard during my comparison.
So, I decided we’ve either NEVER heard Hibbert’s mix or NEVER heard Easter’s mix.
Cause everything we HAVE heard (labeled as Hib-Tone) is the SAME.
OR there’s so little difference no one can tell…

See next posts for some of the links I wanted to include. There’s some rule on this forum about not having more than two links in a post…

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In September of 2020, I finally got in touch with Chris Hartstonge of the R.E.M.TIMELINE to ask what he thought about all the different versions of RFE and the “stories” behind them.
I didn’t know I’d hit a goldmine…
He said he was currently working with R.E.M. on archival projects!! He actually gets to go to Athens and go in the climate controlled VAULT of master tapes!! So when he says things like “this tape resides in the archives and is labeled xxxx” he means he’s physically seen and listened to it! Crazy!

Here’s what he had to say after reading my “Radio Free Europe” comparison:

This topic is currently relevant as we (the band) are looking at the early recordings for future releases.
We have done quite a bit of research into the early recordings and after going through the REM archives & from earlier discussions with Mitch Easter, the following facts will put all the rumours to rest. I have read what you have written which is interesting.

As we know:
On 15 Apr 1981 the band recorded Radio Free Europe, Sitting Still & White Tornado - & was mixed the next day – which turned into the demo Cassette Set that the band sent out. For simplification we will call this 1st mix a ‘Monitor Mix’.
The Cassette Set recordings were made available in 2011, which came from my own original Cassette Set. The master tapes from this mix reside in the REM archives – at that point, ‘White Tornado’ was titled ‘Stronger Than Dirt’.

On 24 May 1981 – the band went back to Drive-In Studio with Johnny Hibbert, & recorded overdubs for RFE & SS and remixed the songs from the April masters. This mix is the Johnny Hibbert mix that was used on the released Hib-Tone Single. This mix also currently resides in the REM archives, plainly stating that it was the Hibbert mix – master mix for the Hib-Tone Single. – So this is the 2nd Mix – the Johnny Hibbert Mix. On the master tape box – plainly states ‘DNU’ – DO NOT USE.

The band were not happy with this mix, & Mitch Easter went away & remixed from the same masters - & this was done on 2-3 June 1981 according to the REM archives, & as I referenced to an interview done with Mitch Easter above, he made it clear that the Johnny Hibbert Mix was lacking in the high end, & quite muddy, & he re EQ’d, & made some other mixing adjustments which the band favoured. This is the 3rd mix – Mitch Easter’s Mix. Mitch also said that the equipment that they had for mixing was quite limited, so it was simply no more than a simple EQ over Johnny Hibbert’smix.

The masters for this 3rd mix also reside in the REM archives & have some notes with this particular master tape which will make other things clearer.

Then later in June 1981 the band & Hibbert took both mixes (the 2nd Hibbert Mix & 3rd Mitch Easter Mix) to Bombay Studios to decide which mix to go with, & as we know, Hibbert won out & the 2nd mix was used on the single. Mitch still has in his possession a 2 track safety from the songs copied when they went through the mixes that day.

So at the end we have 3 mixes:
1st Mix – Cassette Set ‘Monitor Mix’
2nd Mix – Johnny Hibbert Mix
3rd Mix – Mitch Easter Mix

The 2nd mix was used for BOTH pressings of the Hib-Tone single – we have compared transfers of both pressings & they are the same mix.

In 1988, as we know Eponymous was released, which uses Mitch Easter’s 3rd Mix – the master safety tape which they used for the compilation (which also resides in the REM archive), has descriptions of each individual song & the master tape they were taken from, & Radio Free Europe was taken from the Mitch Easter mix master tape. Also contained within the Mitch Easter Mix Master Tape is the reference to when they were used again for the ‘And I Feel Fine’ compilation in 2006 along with ‘Sitting Still’.

If you compare the Eponymous & ‘And I Feel Fine’ Radio Free Europe ‘Hib Tone’ session recordings – they are identical – same mix – the ‘And I Feel Fine’ one has been mastered louder. Both from Mitch Easter’s Mix.

So from the tapes in the REM Archives it is very clear what mixes have been used & for what releases, which was backed up from Mitch Easter’s interview testimony.

We made digital transfers from both 1st & 2nd pressings to compare the original Hib-Tone Single to the Mitch Easter Mix used on ‘Eponymous’ & ‘And I Feel Fine’, & they back up Mitch’s answers at the time.

The Hib-Tone Single lacks a lot in the high end & is quite muddy mix wise – the drums sound tbh like a ‘sack of potatoes’, & comparing to Mitch’s 3rd Mix – he has brought back a lot of the high end, the drums sound more clearer, better spatial mix between the instruments & one other difference, is the ‘noise’ that Mitch inserted at the beginning of RFE – on Johnny Hibbert’s Mix, this starts mainly on the right channel, whereas on Mitch’s Eponymous Mix, it starts more from the middle, & has some rumble before the song kicks in, which the Hibbert Mix does not have. The EQ issues are more heightened when you compare Hibbert’s & Easters Mixes for ‘Sitting Still’.

    -Chris Hartstonge

So, there we have it!

The 1st & 2nd pressings of the HibTone RFE are identical. I was unsure of that till Chris confirmed.

Also, the important takeaway is that the HibTone 45 single IS Hibbert’s mix and Eponymus version REALLY IS Easter’s mix!! Just as is stated everywhere I’ve ever read.
I was so glad all of THAT wasn’t wrong!!

In my audio comparison I was listening for obvious “differences” in the two. Like a different echo/reverb here, or a variance in a note or drumbeat there…
Turns out Easter had really “limited” (crappy?) equipment and ONLY tweaked the EQ levels in places…

How lame!!!

How could Peter Buck (and everyone else for that matter all along the way) make SUCH A BIG DEAL over “how different” they sound and how much better the Easter mix is??!?!?
WHAT about it “crushes the other one like a grape”?!?!

Going back, now knowing what exactly I’m listening for, I agree the Eponymous (Easter) version is “brighter” sounding and drums are “cleaner” sounding. It just has more “fidelity”. I guess I just assumed that was due to it being mastered for CD for the Eponymius release… but apparently that’s what Mitch Easter did back in June '81.

Believe the Eponymous liner notes!
(And whoever wrote them)

Thank God they keep good notes in the master tapes and we have access to Chris as well!

Hope this helps! It finally did for me!!


Ok, so… the version most of us mortals have available (Eponymous and so on) is Mitch Easter’s mix.

Unless you were right there at the beginning and you have the first or second press of the original single, which are both Hibbert’s. And most of us haven’t listened to that early mix yet.

You got it @Gargumma !

Even though they are not VERY different (to me), R.E.M. (successfully) did everything they could do to not let the Hibbert mix see the light of day after the original Hib-Tone 45s were released!
They’d tell you it was because Easter’s mix “crushes the other one like a grape”… But I think it was mainly the principle of it.


i always thought they were saying that the original single version crushes the murmur version like a grape, which it does

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Hmmm… Yea… maybe?

That’s what I always thought too. :man_shrugging:

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