Tag Archives: r.e.m.

Win R.E.M. “Unplugged” Albums + MTV DVD


The group may have bowed out a few years ago, but here at BLURT the mighty R.E.M. will never die—proof being the contest at hand. Not long ago R.E.M. saw the release of R.E.M. Unplugged 1991 and 2001 (Rhino/Viacom) which documented the group’s two key appearances on the MTV Unplugged series, and they came out on both vinyl and CD. After that came R.E.M. By MTV, a very cool documentary about the band’s lengthy history with the video channel. According to the creators:

“Drawing exclusively on archival events, the film traces R.E.M. and MTV in real time, which makes it feel as exciting and immediate as it did when it was happening. ‘All the energy and momentum of both the band and the network come roaring through,’ writes Anthony DeCurtis in the set’s liner notes.”

Boy howdy to that. So we are giving away the two vinyl albums along with the MTV DVD (plus accompanying poster) to a very lucky reader. Here’s how you can enter the contest:

-email us at blurteditor@gmail.com

-tell us all the correct lyrics to R.E.M. classic “Gardening At Night”—just kidding! Tell us your favorite anecdote about the band; it can be a concert experience, a personal encounter, your first time hearing/seeing the group, etc. (Please note that we may decide to print one or more of the fan stories, so let us know if you object to having your name published, in which case we still might use it but will use a pseudonym.)

Deadline is June 15. The fan who get the thumbs up from our editorial committee will receive the swag in the mail not long after. This offer is limited to fans in North America. Make sure you include your snail mail with your entry.


For more information please visit:

R.E.M. by MTV’:
Blu-ray – http://smarturl.it/REMbyMTVBR
DVD – http://smarturl.it/REMbyMTVDVD

Fred Mills: Dreams So Real – the Last Great Southern Pop Band?

Dreams So Real crop

Quite possibly so… everybody has some favorite bands and enduring memories to go with ‘em—here’s one of mine, from the late ‘80s college rock era. Hey, just because grunge came along and wiped a lot of folks’ slates clean doesn’t mean I had to go along with it!


In the aftermath of my last move, I was faced with, literally, hundreds of U-Haul boxes of records, CDs and books, and once all the available shelf space was occupied I still had, ahem, more than a few unpacked boxes. Procrastination—or perhaps denial—being what it is, I chose to ignore those boxes, at least until the significant other started making discordant noises on the other side of the room. (Memo to spouses and partners everywhere: the person you are sharing living space with does not buy the argument, “But it’s my shit, honey…” so don’t even attempt it. Just clean up your mess.)

So among the better-late-than-never unpacking yield was my stash of Dreams So Real CDs and tapes. Damn, I’d wondered where all that was. For those of you who arrived late to the table, Dreams So Real was an Athens-based trio who emerged in the wake of the Athens scene success spearheaded by the likes of the B-52’s, Pylon, R.E.M. et al, releasing their first LP, the Pete Buck-produced Father’s House, on Hoboken’s Coyote label in 1986 and going on to snag a deal with Arista for 1988’s Rough Night In Jericho and 1990’s Gloryline. The ’88 album managed to hit #28 on the Billboard album charts and also landed DSR on MTV, but the followup was a commercial disappointment and after getting dropped by Arista the band soon split up. In ’92, DSR self-released an odds-and-sods posthumous collection, Nocturnal Omissions, and the lingering impression for fans was that here was a group that had huge potential—handsome guys, exuding confidence onstage, and most important, they had some frankly brilliant, hook-draped tunes—but was done in by the vicissitudes of the industry, which was at that point in time making an inexorable shift away from the poppier “college rock” of the time and towards the harder-edged sound that would come to define the Northwest scene and, ultimately, the alternative rock era.

Me, I dearly loved ‘em, every note they played, and whenever they came up from Georgia to Charlotte, NC, where I was living during the mid and late ‘80s, I would catch ‘em live. I’m proud to have called the three guys—guitarist/vocalist Barry Marler, bassist Trent Allen (also on quite prominent backing vocals; in addition to hooks, DSR had harmonies out the wazoo), drummer Drew Worsham—friends, too. I vividly recall one night in ’90 or ’91 when I found myself in Atlanta, near the tail end of a long road trip, and upon learning totally by chance that they were playing that evening, I shelved my weariness and headed out to the club. After buying my ticket and a drink, I wandered towards the rear of the venue, intending to go say hello, only to be blocked by your stereotypical meathead bouncer. He flatly refused to send a message back, but I was able to get word via a roadie or someone in the vicinity, and within seconds Barry had come out to grab me, giving me a bearhug and asking me what the hell was I doing in Atlanta? (Below: the band doing “Golden” in the film Athens GA Inside Out)

Over the years I moved around and, inevitably, lost touch. One day in 2003 I received the shocking news through a mutual friend that Drew had been in a tragic accident, surviving a gunshot wound from the ex-boyfriend of his girlfriend, who shot and killed both her and himself. It turns out that only Drew had remained regularly active in music, with Barry going into biochemistry and bioinformatic systems and Trent founding an acclaimed graphic design company. Meanwhile, I would return to my DSR albums from time to time—Jericho remains, in my opinion, as powerful and lasting a document of the Southern pop sound as R.E.M., dB’s and Let’s Active albums of the mid ‘80s, still holding up today without a hint of “eighties sound syndrome” (save a bit of reverb on the drums) to date it. Out of the blue one day a small package arrived in the mail: an old associate had transferred Father’s House to CDR for me, additionally shrinking/copying the artwork and, as a bonus, including a CDR of a gig I’d attended, Charlotte’s Milestone Club on Nov. 11, 1988. I well remember that show (still have a flyer from it, in fact), and at one point on the recording the band even gives me a shout-out from the stage. Quite a little thrill—a private thrill, but the kind of personal memento any music fan can appreciate.

Dreams So Real now

Revisiting Dreams So Real over the past couple of days has been a genuine treat… likewise, a private treat, but also the kind that any music fan can appreciate, I suspect. Inspired, I took to YouTube and found some great clips of the band at a 2012 reunion concert in Athens that I had been completely unaware of. They’d done a reunion once before, in 2009 for the annual Athfest, and this time around they did a pair of shows, one in their hometown and one in Atlanta. They’re all older of course—see the photo, above—but they don’t appear to have lost a lick to age. It’s pretty inspiring, actually. (The below clip of them at the show doing the title track to “Jericho” is especially riveting. It’s interesting to compare it to this clip from the early ’90s doing the same song.)

Guys, if you happen to read this, a big howdy and a salute from your old friend. A lot of great memories, and I still cherish the music. Methinks you’ve got many old friends out there as well, and that a lot of us would turn out for any more reunion shows you might be inclined to undertake, not just in Georgia but throughout the region. Keep us posted, will ya?

DSR at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DreamsSoReal

Fred Mills: Who Wants an Autograph?

Replacements crop

Yeah, I’m showing off with all these signed record sleeves. And you’d do the same. Above: The Replacements (duh).


 This weekend an old friend dropped by, and while looking through some of my records he spotted my copy of the first Replacements 45, which had been signed by all four of the original members, including the late Bob Stinson—I had gotten the single autographed in January of 1985 when the ‘mats played a punk rock club in Charlotte, NC, and subsequently wrote about the memorable night in a story for BLURT. This prompted my friend to ask me how many other records I had autographed. Well, you could say there are a few: 45s and LPs along with CDs, the stray cassette cover, and even a few napkins and scraps of paper I later inserted into sleeves. (There’s also a framed Patti Smith concert poster from ’79 that also houses the autograph she gave me at the concert.)

 Some I’ve gotten rid of over the years, either selling them or giving them to friends who were super fans, like a copy of Jane’s Addiction Nothing Shocking. I actually wish I still had the signed GG Allin 45 and the signed copy of Screw Magazine (the one with the GG pictorial) from the early ‘90s, but I had eBayed them a number of years ago because at the time memorabilia of the late scum-rocker was fetching seriously good money. But I still have quite a few, and my friend encouraged me to scan some of them and share with a wider audience. Yeah, I’m bragging, sorta, but I’m also proud that I have these. In recent years I’ve started getting records inscribed to my young son. I’m not sure exactly why, since he hasn’t demonstrated the slightest interest in becoming a record collector; maybe there’s some weird paternal ego thing going on. He will inherit them some day and maybe he will figure out what my urge was all about if and when he becomes a father.

 Anyhow, here’s a modest sampling of some of the signatures I’ve scored. Enjoy.

  U2 crop

In the early ‘80s I had started a fanzine called U2/USA (yeah, I was a U2 geek, so sue me), and, taking notice of it, the band subsequently gave the staff pretty much blanket access when touring the States. I got the double-45 for “Pride” signed by the band when I went to a concert in Roanoke, VA. Shortly after I obtained the signatures I found myself sitting backstage with Bono, sharing a bottle of wine and interviewing him for the zine. Those were certainly far more innocent times.

 REM crop

Similarly, in the ‘80s I wrote frequently about R.E.M., even penning the liner notes for the sleeve of the “Femme Fatale” flexidisc they did for rock mag The Bob. I have copies of that signed as well as the original Hib-Tone 45, but the double-45 for “Wendell Gee” is my favorite.

 Minutemen crop

Speaking of R.E.M., the Minutemen were guests on one of the band’s tours, and as I had backstage passes for a series of NC and VA shows I was able to strike up a friendship with the opening act as well. Rest in peace, D. Boon.

 Ramones crop

The Ramones—should I even comment? One of my greatest regrets is selling my signed copy of Road To Ruin, but at least I held on to a couple of singles that Joey, Johnny, Marky and Dee Dee inscribed. (Look closely.) The band was in Raleigh, NC, to do a show at the club The Pier and that afternoon they did an in-store at the nearby Record Bar. After the signing session they all fanned out, scouring the bins for music. Joey was particularly excited with some of his finds.

 MoB crop

Raise your hand if you were a Mission Of Burma fan. Their initial incarnation was my favorite version of the band, and when they came to Chapel Hill around the time of their first album, I had the good luck to be the one chosen to show them around the UNC campus and take them for some post-soundcheck grub at a small Greek eatery. Their “Trem-Two” 45 is my favorite record by the Boston band.


Alex Chilton: you may have heard of him. Or possibly that little band from Memphis he was in. I got him to sign a few sleeves when he came to Charlotte with his solo band. He wasn’t the crabby guy I had heard him made out to be, but gracious and easy to talk to. Rest in peace, LX.

 Joe Strummer cop

Joe Strummer: you may have heard of him or a band he was in as well. When Joe and The Mescaleros played the States in October of 2001, they appeared at Irving Plaza and I was assigned to do a profile for Magnet magazine. He signed my London Calling CD sleeve after the show and also asked if I had gotten enough material for my interview. I don’t think he was just being nice—he really seemed to care about treating journalists and fans (and, it should be said, opening bands) properly. Go here to read my interview.

 Arcade Fire crop

Around the time that Arcade Fire’s Funeral album was starting to blow up they came to Asheville, NC, to honor a previously-made booking. The 2005 show was sold out, of course, and they could have played four nights in a row. I was doing a profile on the band for Magnet (you can read the story and interview here), so I got my copy of the CD signed by everyone in the band the next day when I took them all out for lunch.

 Warren Haynes crop

I’ve seen Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule numerous times, often at the annual Haynes Christmas Jam in Asheville. Interviewing Warren for Stereophile Magazine prior to one of the Jams, I got him to sign a couple of pieces, and for some reason I asked him to autograph one to my son, setting in motion a tradition on my part that I still indulge.

 Jason Isbell crop

Ditto Jason Isbell, who I’ve also seen numerous times and of whom I have sung the praises frequently in these pages. He signed this one to my son when he came to the Grey Eagle in Asheville for a solo performance.

 Ettes crop

And ditto one of my favorite bands in the whole damn universe, garage demons The Ettes. I suspect my son might be embarrassed by all the scribbling on the sleeve dedicated to him, so Eli, if you are reading this—please don’t be. It’s all sincere (you were only six at the time anyway), and I know for a fact that the folks in the band dig you.

 Alejandro crop

Alejandro Escovedo actually asked me what my son’s name was without prompting at a show one night in Asheville. Amazingly, he’d remembered I had a young kid from when I’d interviewed him several years earlier. After the concert he came out to the merch table and patiently stood for more than a half hour for autographs and photos with fans. A class act all around.

 Rainer crop

It’s fitting that the last one I share with you is of Rainer Ptacek, who passed away from a brain tumor in late 1997. I had gotten to know the Arizona guitar maestro (and sometime member of Giant Sand) while living in Tucson from 1992-2001, and I’m proud to have called him my friend. We would often talk music down at the record store where I worked, or at the music shop where he worked, and I also interviewed him a few times for different publications. Nocturnes is my eternal Rainer favorite, a gentle and luminous album that I played in the delivery room when my child was born. This is the proverbial record I would rescue first if a fire broke out at my house. God bless you, Rainer, I still miss you deeply.