Listen to NPR special
on “Radio Free Europe” as well as a rare early
By Fred Mills
You can call it an indie rock success story, and then some:
this year the Library of Congress welcomed R.E.M.’s seminal ’81 debut “Radio
Free Europe” – the Hib-Tone 45, not the later album version – to the archives
as one of the National Recording Registry’s 25 annual selections. “Historic and
aesthetic” importance are the core selection trivia, and there’s no doubt that
The band’s in pretty impressive company, too: among the pop rock
artists to be honored in 2010 are Patti Smith (Horses), Loretta Lynn (“Coal Miner’s Daughter), Willie Nelson (RedHeaded Stranger), Little Richard (“Tutti
Frutti”) and 2Pac (“Dear Mama”).
Meanwhile, recently over at NPR’s award-winning “Studio 360” there
was a feature on R.E.M. being selected for the Library recently, with DJ Mike
Henry, producer Mitch Easter and bassist Mike Mills included with the
interviews. You can download or listen to a 7-minute podcast of the broadcast
at the Studio360.org site.
But wait, there’s more: they also have uploaded to the site
a stream of one of R.E.M.’s earliest concerts, recorded live in 1981 at Tyrone’s
Clocking in at around 75 minutes, it’s never been officially released, although
a tape of the show has been in circulation for ages. Yours truly first got a
copy in ’82 and it was a mainstay in tape trading circles ever since. With good
reason: as a very early AND a high-quality soundboard recording, it’s long been
considered by fans and collectors to be a key piece of the R.E.M. puzzle.