Michael Stipe: Let Me In track was plea to Kurt Cobain

2 November 2019, 09:00 | Updated: 2 November 2019, 09:01

The former R.E.M. frontman has told Radio X that he "did everything he could" to help the late Nirvana legend.

Michael Stipe has explained how he wrote one of the songs on R.E.M.'s Monster album as a plea to his friend Kurt Cobain to accept help - but a plea that came too late.

The singer told Radio X's John Kennedy that the song Let Me In was an imagined phone call to the Nirvana frontman, who took his own life in April 1994.

Kurt Cobain in 1991; Michael Stipe in 1998
Kurt Cobain in 1991; Michael Stipe in 1998. Picture: Michel Linssen/Redferns/Niels van Iperen/Getty Images

Stipe explained: "There were a lot of phone calls before that imagined one... [I was] really trying to pull him out of a very, very dark place. We all knew it, and we were doing everything we could to help - but it wasn't enough.

"I wrote the lyrics in five minutes and recorded it in as much time. It was our - my - plea to Kurt. Too bad."

Peter Buck, Bill Berry, Michael Stipe and Mike Mills of R.E.M., 1994
Peter Buck, Bill Berry, Michael Stipe and Mike Mills of R.E.M., 1994. Picture: Chris Carroll/Corbis via Getty Images

R.E.M. considered Monster to be an album that the band could take on tour - more rock-based than the previous two outings, Out Of Time and Automatic For The People, which hadn't been performed live.

25 years after its release, Monster has been reissued in an expanded edition, which includes a remixed version of the album.

As the group moved to a studio in Atlanta, Georgia in the Spring of 1994, the recording stalled due to the news that Cobain had taken his own life at his home in Seattle.

Bassist Mike Mills recalled that "Kurt's death shook us to our core and froze the recording in a moment.

"At some point not long after that I was sitting with a guitar. I guess I was 'angrily melancholic' and I started writing these chords. They kind of just came out. I didn't really even play it more than three or four times before it was done. We threw it down and Michael heard it and was inspired."

Kurt Cobain in Rotterdam, August 1991
Kurt Cobain in Rotterdam, August 1991. Picture: Niels van Iperen/Getty Images

Luckily, one of the production team was around to get the new song on tape. Stipe's anguished lyric to Let Me In pleads: "I only wish that I could hear you whisper down..."

The musician explains: "It just completely embodied at that moment the feeling of helplessness and grief and sadness and darkness. We sat down for a good ten days at least - we were not able to do much. But that broke the spell."

Courtney Love and Michael Stipe at the MTV Movie Awards, two months after Cobain's death
Courtney Love and Michael Stipe at the MTV Movie Awards, two months after Cobain's death. Picture: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc/Getty Images

Performing the song live was "incredibly cathartic", Stipe recalls. "Live, it took on a different feeling. It was quite clear what that song was doing to people."

25 years on since the release of Monster, Mills prefers to remember Cobain the person, rather than the legend: "I think of this song and I think of all the great music that Kurt made and what a really cool guy he was. So when I hear it it makes me smile, rather than makes me sad."

WATCH: R.E.M. On Their Classic LP Automatic For The People