REM Aesthetic 85-87

This past week I was watching some clips on YouTube of REM performing live from 85 to 87. And then I started listening to the studio albums from those years. I think this is my favorite period of theirs in terms of the way the band musically and visually presented themselves. From the songs, the album and single art, the videos, the stage presentations, and the way the band dressed. Just an unbelievably cool and unique world they created at that time.

I loved how Stipe mixed a boxcar hobo look with a kind of Victorian coat tail vibe. And I think during pageantry tour, wore a top hat? The music also occasionally conjured up civil war or new dreamy pastoral images. It’s not easy to describe what was happening and themes kind of got mixed together, but the end result was just stunning to me.

I guess the Green era also had a lot of elements from the previous album and tour, but one could tell the band was growing up. I think it was when Automatic came out that I became less enthralled with some of the visual and fashion decisions they were making, but still loved the music.

Anyone else love that 85-87 period the most?

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I don’t know if I love it the most but I certainly have a fondness for it. And yes, Stipe wore a top hat on the Pageantry tour. If memory serves, it was just for the first song or two. There are at least a couple (likely more) photos out there of him wearing it. There’s also some footage from a show at the Grand Ol’ Opry but off the top of my head, I can’t remember if he’s wearing the top hat. On the sartorial front, I recall wanting to own a pair of combat boots like I saw Stipe wear back then. At that time, I had no idea they were Doc Martens or what Doc Martens were. Even if I had known what they were, I doubt I would have been able to find them in my area.

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It’s my 2nd favourite era in terms of the elements you’re suggesting. The pinnacle for me goes to the Green World Tour.

I thought it was the point where Michael truly stepped out as being a rock star, but a version of which that had one foot still in the weird art kid vibe that he had previously. I loved that all the whirling dirvish act and dancing was all there still. By the time we got to the Monster World Tour, that had all been dialled back to rockstar strutting, posturing and swinging off the microphone stand. Still cool but his dancing never really came back.

It was just such a great mid point between the underground and commercial eras (for want of a better phrase) and I think managed to capture some of the best elements that had been and were to come.

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I do love that era.