10 songs to get you into R.E.M.

12 April 2023, 14:43 | Updated: 12 April 2023, 14:58

R.E.M. in 1994: Peter Buck, Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Bill Berry.
R.E.M. in 1994: Peter Buck, Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Bill Berry. Picture: Santiago Bueno/Sygma via Getty Images

There's a lot more to the band than Shiny Happy People. Here are some tracks that could make you fall in love with them.

40 years after the band's acclaimed debut album Murmur was released on 12th April 1983, R.E.M. remain one of the greatest ever alternative groups.

In the 1990s, they were the American rock band to beat, with a collection of bestselling albums, No.1 singles and the biggest record deal in music history.

In a 31 year career that spawned 15 studio albums, it can be hard to know where to start - which is why Radio X has pulled together 10 of the very best tracks the band made for you to sample.

  1. Radio Song (1991)

    When they did decide to ditch their "indie darlings" tag and make music that could top the charts, R.E.M. did it with surprising ease thanks to big hits like Losing My Religion and Shiny Happy People. They never lost their ambition to play with expectations though and on Radio Song they even threw in a guest rapper with KRS-One. Stipe has since said the song was a piss-take of the band itself. Either way - and despite the pretty basic rap - it holds up surprisingly well.

    R.E.M. - Radio Song (Official Music Video) [This Film Is On Video Version]

  2. Perfect Circle (1983)

    One of the highlights of their remarkable debut album Murmur, Perfect Circle stood out instantly. For one thing, you could actually hear what lyrics Michael Stipe was singing on this one - for most of the rest of the album we were all just guessing.

    Perfect Circle

  3. A Month Of Saturdays (2011)

    One of the very last songs the band made before their split is also one of the liveliest pop tracks they ever recorded. From Stipe's deadpan delivery to Peter Buck's inventive guitar work, even a simple ditty like this is full to the brim with idea and attitude.

    A Month Of Saturdays

  4. Seven Chinese Bros. (1984)

    Before they embraced the mainstream, R.E.M. were indie darlings who helped pioneer what came to be known in the States as "college rock" - basically poppy alternative tunes with smart lyrics. The album Reckoning was intended to capture the sound and energy of the band's live performances and 7 Chinese Brothers is one of the best examples of that.

    7 Chinese Bros. (Remastered 2006)

  5. Discoverer (2011)

    This live version of Discoverer is one of the last ever clips of R.E.M. performing together and closes out the recent documentary charting the band's career called R.E.M. by MTV. There's a reason: it showcases the magic chemistry between Stipe, Buck and Mike Mills that carried them through the tough times in the mid-1990s after Bill Berry departed.

    R E M Discoverer Live @ Hansa Studios, Berlin

  6. E-Bow The Letter (1996)

    Mean and moody, this was the first single that R.E.M. released after re-signing to Warner Brothers for around £50m in today's money. It was a statement of intent: the weirdos had made it to the big leagues, but they were determined to stay strange.

    E-Bow The Letter

  7. (Don't Go Back To) Rockville (1985)

    Ah Mike Mills. He started off as one of the coolest members of a pretty cool band, but by the time he started wearing rhinestone jackets in the 1990s, all was lost. Still, he produced some real songwriting gems - including this plea to his girlfriend not to move to Rockville in Maryland. Although Stipe sings it on this intimate, unplugged version, Mills took over live performances of the song soon after.

    R E M - Don't Go Back To Rockville

  8. Find The River (1992)

    The final single off the band's biggest album Automatic For The People, Find The River struggled in the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. That's a pity, since it's undeniably one of the best songs on an album of incredible tracks. Each band member gets a chance to shine and the harmonies are a chance for Bill Berry to show off.

    Find The River (Official Lyric Video)

  9. Radio Free Europe (1981)

    It's impossible to tell what the words are but it's equally impossible not to get caught up in the beat. This was R.E.M.'s first single and marked them out as ones to watch: hence this nervous but thrilling appearance on David Letterman's chat show. As debut singles go it really set down a marker for what was to follow - a band whose influences were clear but who tried to do things their own way.

    R.E.M. Performs "Radio Free Europe" & "So. Central Rain" | Letterman

  10. Fall On Me (1986)

    The environmental concerns of late-80s R.E.M. are more relevant than ever, and this track from 1986's Lifes Rich Pageant was an early entry. Fall On Me concerns the threat of acid rain, but Stipe's lyric widens out to cover oppression of all forms. The duelling vocals between Stipe and Mills are just gorgeous.

    Fall On Me