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
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.
From REM TIMELINE*
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 spin.com 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…
My results were that I can hear ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE HIB-TONE 45 AND THE EPONYMOUS VERSION!
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.
BUT LIKE I SAID I CANNOT HEAR ANY DIFFERENCE!
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.
OTHER FINDINGS FROM THE AUDIO COMPARISON:
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…