The Classic Album at Midnight – REM’s Automatic for the People

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The Classic Album at Midnight – REM's Automatic for the People

 

Tonight (March 28th) on the world famous Classic Album At Midnight on Radio Nova we’re playing REM’s Automatic for the People.

The album is presented in full with no commercials or interruptions.

Formed in Athens, Georgia in 1980 by vocalist Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, drummer Bill Berry and bassist Mike Mills, REM were acclaimed by critics from their 1983 debut Murmur. Despite building a cult following, commercial success eluded the band until they signed with Warners for the release of 1988’s Green.

It was 1991’s Out of Time that propelled the band to superstardom, topping the US and UK charts and selling over 18 million copies worldwide.

After wrapping up the promotion for Out of Time, REM began work on their next album, Automatic for the People, in June 1991. Working on new material, the band’s three musicians would often swap instruments, with Mills exploring keyboards and Buck switching to mandolin while Berry played bass.

The original plan was to follow Out of Time with a more hard rock album, but the band struggled to come up with material in such a vein. 30 demos were recorded by the musicians, who then presented Stipe with their work in early 1992. Further demos were recorded in February 1992 at New Orleans’ Kingsway Studios. In March the group began the final recording sessions with producer Scott Litt at Woodstock’s Bearsville Studios. Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones was enlisted to provide string arrangements for several tracks. The sessions wrapped in July and the album was mixed at Seattle’s Bad Animals Studio.

Thanks largely to Jones’ orchestration, Automatic for the People has a more sweeping sound that previous REM albums. Lyrically it explores melancholy themes like the death of Stipe’s grandmother, the aging process and the changing face of the indie music landscape.

In its original release, Automatic for the People features 12 tracks. On Side A are Drive; Try Not to Breathe; The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite; Everybody Hurts; New Orleans Instrumental No. 1; and Sweetness Follows. On Side B are Monty Got a Raw Deal; Ignoreland; Star Me Kitten; Man on the Moon; Nightswimming; and Find the River. Side was labelled the Drive side while Side B was the Ride side.

Released on October 5th, 1992, Automatic for the People topped the UK chart on four separate occasions and reached number two in the US. Six singles were released from the album, with Everybody Hurts becoming a Top 10 hit in the UK.

Critics awarded Automatic for the People several five star reviews in prominent publications. Rolling Stone called it “musically irresistible” while Melody Maker said it represented REM at “the very top of their form.” Rolling Stone rank it at number 96 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 1994 it was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards.

Both Peter Buck and Mike Mills have called Automatic for the People REM’s best album.

You can hear it in full at midnight on Radio Nova.