Sunday, October 2, 2011

R.E.M.: "Cassette Set" (1981 demo tape, RARE!!!)

(June 7, 2012 edit:  IFPI has DMCA'ed me for the FLACs "linked" below.  Screw them.  The mp3 set is still available though...)

Unfortunately it took the breakup of the band to start seeing some of these ultra-rare deals come to light.

Thanks to a gracious reader of the blog, it's my honor to present to the R.E.M. community a basically-unheard artifact:  the Cassette Set from Spring 1981.

In April 1981 the band began their relationship with Mitch Easter by visiting his Drive-In Studio in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to record a few songs for a demo.  They had done a few demo sessions previously, but were not satisfied with the results (mainly at Joe Perry's Bombay Studio) and eventually hooked up with Easter.

On April 15, 1981 Easter and the band recorded (at least) three tracks: "Sitting Still", "Radio Free Europe" and "White Tornado".  On the next day they mixed the tracks, and eventually had a demo cassette run (approx. 400 copies, according to Peter Buck) to send to journalists, clubs and labels ahead of their initial visit to New York City.

On May 24, 1981 the band returned to the Drive-In Studio and laid down some overdubs onto "Radio Free Europe" and then Hib-Tone label owner Johnny Hibbert mixed both "Radio Free Europe" and "Sitting Still" on the 25th.  Easter felt the Hibbert mixes were seriously lacking, so he, on his own time, mixed his own versions for consideration.  The band, Easter and Hibbert then had a mixing bakeoff of both "Radio Free Europe" and "Sitting Still", and as famously (well, relatively speaking) known, despite everyone but Hibbert liking the Easter mixes better Hibbert pulled rank and used his mixes on the band's debut 7" on Hib-Tone.  Something went awry in the process, the record was mastered terribly, and Buck famously smashed his copy and put it on his wall (following the "Radio Free Europe" lyric).

(I place the call out now:  I've never heard an original Hib-Tone "Radio Free Europe", so I can't speak for the mastering/pressing quality or Hibbert's mixes, so if anyone cares to feed me with a transfer of their Hib-Tone 7", I'm all ears.  I will gladly tart it up for the blog and post it too.)

Easter's proposed mix for the 7" is the only one the band has seen fit to issue since then, on 1988's Eponymous compilation, and then on 2006's compilation of the I.R.S. years And I Feel Fine...The Best Of The I.R.S. Years 1982-1987.

Stepping back a bit:  before issuing the 7", the band chose the original, pre-overdubbed, recordings of "Sitting Still" / "Radio Free Europe", with "White Tornado" added in, to make up their demo cassette.  Jokingly, "Sitting Still" was prefaced by a few seconds of a *fast* run through of the song done in Polka-style, and "White Tornado" was followed by an aborted "White Tornado" take where Buck lays down a huge stinker of a mistake, the song grinds to a halt, and Buck is heard apologizing before Easter's voice appears.  On the final 100 copies the band added a hilarious "Radio Dub" mix of "Radio Free Europe", done by Easter on April 23, 1981 on a lark with instruments/voices/effects dropping in and out of the mix, dub-style.

I don't think the "Sitting Still" or "White Tornado" snippets have ever been collected on bootleg, and if they have, I've never heard them.  "Radio Dub" is a bit more known, but still fantastically rare.  And of course this Cassette Set is the only place to get the very original Easter mixes of "Sitting Still" and "Radio Free Europe", both of which are far better than any subsequent issue of these tracks.

Blog friend Chris H. is the owner of an original Cassette Set, given by Michael Stipe on June 20, 1981 to a member of the band Bunny Drums when that band supported R.E.M. at Emerald City, in Cherry Hills, New Jersey.  Chris obtained it in 2001 and then subsequently transferred it to CD-R, and then offered it to the blog for the public.

The Cassette Set was self-assembled by the band, using photocopied cardstock for the J-card inlays, and handwritten cassette labels by Stipe.  Some copies featured color photograph inserts all cut up, but Chris' copy is missing these.

Chris gave me his raw transfer of the tape, I worked my magic on it, and here we are.  There are few times when I'm so confident as to say you'll not find something better out there quality-wise, but this is one of them.  I expected something that I would need to do a lot of cleanup work on, but barring a bit of EQ, this set came to me in absolutely stunning, beautiful condition.  I think the results speak for themselves and I am honored to have the chance to give this to the community, as it's a very unique, special part of the band's history.

The inlays:


  
The cassette:


The songs:

R.E.M.
Cassette Set
April 15/16/23, 1981 (recording/mixing)
April/May 1981 (assemblage/packaging)

01 Sitting Still (fast "Polka" version, snippet)
02 Sitting Still
03 Radio Free Europe
04 White Tornado
05 White Tornado (take 2, aborted)
06 Radio Free Europe (Radio Dub)


Enjoy!  And as always, if anyone has more rarities for me to massage and host, you may email me at analogloyalist at gmail dot com and we'll get on it.

For the readers who prefer to have their rarities in damaged MP3 format, I - this one time only - will help you here.  I strongly disagree with sharing these uber-rarities as MP3 as it pollutes the trading pool.  There's nothing I dislike more than when I finally find something I've searched years for, only to find it as MP3-only.  Let me make my own MP3 listening copy, if I choose, from the FLACs (or other lossless format) you're providing.  There are converters everywhere to cross-convert between formats, and one ridiculously easy (and free!) one for Windows is dBpoweramp which I use daily.

41 comments:

  1. This is fantastic, thank you. Great work on the restoration. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Totally agree with Blogmeister, this sounds really good. Love the RFE version on this. Thanks a lot man.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you so much for posting these gems.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Many thanks to Chris H. for making this elusive set available and to AL for unselfishly sharing the fruits of his labour over it!
    Now, the only thing still missing from this era is Jazz Lips. A good alternative source is the "Chestnut" flexidisc, from the early nineties (I believe).

    ReplyDelete
  5. Somewhere I have the flyer for that bunny drums/R.E.M. show in Cherry Hill...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Word comes via murmurs.com that an upgrade may be available. Fingers crossed. I hope to work with the upgrade source to provide this upgrade via the blog.

    Not that an upgrade is purely needed, because I remain blown away by the quality of this set - but the Murmurs poster indicates they have a copy run directly off the master reel. I will provide updates as needed.

    And wow, Slicing Up Eyeballs featured post. Pretty cool!

    ReplyDelete
  7. So the possible upgrade is, alas, not so. Our source here is far better, but, that said, IF anyone has something "direct from the reel" please let me know! Though this is assuming Mitch didn't run these tapes for the band "direct off the reel"; it's entirely possible they were as the quality is so high.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks to both Analog Loyalist and Chris H. for getting this out there. I think there is a level of energy on the Radio Free Europe versions that are truly impressive. If you were one of the individuals owning a club or in the media and you heard this tape you would have wanted to search out this band.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Are you sure White Tornado wasn't released on Dead Letter Office?

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm confused, "Radio Free Europe" on Eponymous is listed as the "Original Hib-Tone Single" and is distinctly different than either the Murmur / I Feel Fine compilation version.

    So your comment that "Easter's proposed mix for the 7" is the only one the band has seen fit to issue since then, on 1988's Eponymous compilation, and then on 2006's compilation of the I.R.S. years And I Feel Fine...The Best Of The I.R.S. Years 1982-1987." seems completely wrong, unless I'm missing something here.

    ReplyDelete
  11. To the best of my knowledge the band has disowned the Hibbert Hib-Tone 7" mix and never reissued it. Eponymous has always been known to have Easter's unused mix.

    What would settle this is a known copy of the Hib-Tone 7" with the Hibbert mix to compare, which I don't have.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Are you sure about that? ;) I am almost certain it was the Hibbert Mix. Realize that Eponymous came out after the band left IRS. I am not sure they had much control over that.

    ReplyDelete
  13. @rackster: a mix of WT was indeed issued on DLO. A version also appeared on the Superman 12". These versions were slightly different to one another, but I can't confirm whether either are the original demo featured here. Anyone?

    ReplyDelete
  14. Right. I thought of that too, but it confuses me why Eponymous would label RFE as the "Original Hib-Tone Single," unless they intended that to be a deliberate kiss-off to Hibbert - sort of Easter making fun of Hibbert's mix. That's a possibility.

    Regardless, I'm filled with love for your blog for posting this cassette! Seriously, thank you. R.E.M. was always very important to me as a young and old(er) music fan. I'm just a detail person; so I try to figure out what seem like discrepancies. But, those details are meaningless to me compared to the music. This is appreciated so very much!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Liner notes from Eponymous on RFE: "RADIO FREE EUROPE"
    recorded spring 1981 at Mitch Easter's Drive-
    in Winston-Salem, NC. Later "made over" for
    Murmur. This is the original track released
    as hibtone 45 in July 1981. Check "Cattle
    Call" vocal available on bootleg. Mike and
    Jefferson think this one crushes the other
    one like a grape. Produced by Mitch Easter
    and R.E.M. original version appears on
    Murmur (sp 70014)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Eric's comment and quoted liner notes would certainly seem to argue that it is indeed Hibbert's mix on Eponymous, not Easter (and the band) poking fun at Hibbert. I can't believe they'd call it the "original track released as hibtone 45," but, then again, they might have made that part of the joke to make it more elaborate. I don't know. I like both versions. The Eponymous mix is faster and louder, but the guitars are higher-pitched, clipped and chiming in a hollow way. The Murmur version is a little more balanced, the bass seems more prominent. (Sorry, I'm not a sound guy; that's just how they seem to me.)

    By the way, the And I Feel Fine compilation has both versions of RFE and Sitting Still on it; again labeling the 2nd disc versions of both as "Hib-Tone."

    ReplyDelete
  17. I didn't have any luck playing these files. Any special trick or software needed?

    ReplyDelete
  18. I have the Hib-Tone single--I'll e-mail you.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I just compared the White Tornado on this tape to the Dead Letter Office one and is definitely the same recording. This tape dub runs a little slow, otherwise is identical. So you have officially released material here.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thanks so much for this...
    Will compare it (mentally) to my Hib-Tone version...

    ReplyDelete
  21. Easter himself has confirmed his mix(es) were used on all issues after the Hib-Tone release. See the extensive chapter and interview with Easter in the 1st edition of It Crawled From The South.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thanks a lot for the audios.

    can I ask you a question?
    We are trying (on murmurs) to improve the quality of the REM lyrics available. We are working now on the song "Stumble". There is a part between 3:45 to 4:15 that is horrible to listen to. Is there any way to work on that part of the audio so we can figure it out what michael is saying? I try to work on the file using audacity but it is a freeshare version, I cant cut and work on that (and I don´t know anything about audio). Any tips would be helpful.

    thanks
    my email is michaelpe73@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thanks a million, and thanks to my good friend Marianna from Brazil for pointing me in the right direction ;))
    OH and @DAD..try using VLCMediaPlayer...it's free to download and plays all kinds of files.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Many thanks.A fascinating listen,especially to a big R.E.M. fan like me.
    I saw about your blog here-
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/oct/05/rem-feist-nicola-roberts-halloween-mash-ups?fb=optOut
    Nice one!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Is this really a direct transfer of the original cassette? Spectral analysis shows some strange phenomena. There is high frequency noise up to the top of the spectrum but there is a blocky, segmented sharp cutoff happening in the 17-18kHz range that looks characteristic of ATRAC compression. Was it sourced from minidisc?

    http://i.imgur.com/8aRtL.png

    ReplyDelete
  26. I noticed the same thing spectrally and questioned my source. He was adamant this was a direct transfer from an original '81 cassette via Yamaha deck, into a cd recorder via analog interconnects, in 2003. I put it down to wonkiness in the A/D converters.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thanks for uploading the Cassette Set.

    Comparing versions, I see that both "Sitting Still" and "Radio Free Europe" on the cassette feature a very "handclappy" sound to the drums. This seems to be missing from the mix of SS released on And I Feel Fine: The IRS Years and the mix of RFE released on Eponymous. Also, the mix of RFE on Eponymous seems to have the right and left channels reversed. Finally, the 7-second electronic "ringing phone" sound in the intro to RFE was evidently a later addition by Mitch Easter as it is not present on the cassette.

    As for "White Tornado", the version here seems to run roughly 1% slow compared to the version on Dead Letter Office. They sound like exactly the same recording, but the one on the cassette runs ~ 1.5 seconds slower out of almost two minutes. Did you notice this? Should the DLO version or this cassette version be considered as having the "correct" speed? Also, I notice that the version on DLO does have an extra bit buried in the fadeout - it sounds like the drummer slamming down his sticks.

    Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Thanks for this!

    BTW, this is how I thought it went down with RFE -

    1. Hibbert's bad mix released as single (Easter's original - aka this one - never officially released).

    2. Easter and band re-record song for 'Murmur' LP.

    3. Hibbert's mix quickly phased out/forgotten in favor of Easter's LP mix.

    4. Hibbert's mix makes first reappearance on 'Eponymous'.

    5. Hibbert's mix makes second appearance on second disc of "deluxe" 'And I Feel Fine...' compilation...

    ReplyDelete
  29. may I ask when can we expect the next leak Analog???

    ReplyDelete
  30. may I ask when can we expect the next 'leak' Analog???

    ReplyDelete
  31. This might be a stupid question, but do you really have to delete these files after 24 hours? Are they really going to "explode?"

    ReplyDelete
  32. This might be a stupid question, but do you really have to delete these files after 24 hours? Are they really going to "explode?"

    ReplyDelete
  33. sorry, I don't know your name. I have the first REM demo tape with three songs on side a and one song on side b. I also have a tape that REM gave me from the recording session they made with RCA in Manhattan as an audition. This tape has 20 tracks although some are different versions of the same song. I would like it if someone could help me identify the titles of some of the tracks.


    Let me be clear. I am offering my copy of an original demo tape by REM. The music on the original demo tape has been transferred to a CD. I have a second tape that is not offered, but the music from THAT tape is on second CD. One can get the original demo tape, two cds and a signed photograph from me.

    Some of the songs on the RCA sessions demo tape are difficult for me to determine the title. There are also different versions of the same songs.

    If you read my notes and know the actual title when I am wrong about title, I would appreciate it if you let me know the actual song's title.

    Track One
    ...chatting with the engineers and background music from the first use by the RCA engineers to record another band. This is audible in the quiet moments.

    Don't know the title of this one,
    Chorus: Remember...about me...

    Track Two: Pretty Persuasion

    Track Three: I Don't Want to be with you anymore?

    Track Four: Tighten Up by Archie Bell and the Drells

    Track Five: There She Goes

    Track Six: Moon River

    Track Seven: Easy Come, Easy Go?

    Track Eight: I could live a million?

    Track Nine: Pretty Persuasion different version

    Track Ten: Pages of You?

    Track Eleven: Pilgrimage

    Track Twelve: House in order?

    Track Thirteen: Laughing

    Track Fourteen: I could live a million (different mix?)

    Track Fifteen: Pages of you or Ages of you???

    Track Sixteen: Gardening at Night?

    Track Seventeen: Boxcars Burning out of town???

    Track Eighteen: Fall and Chant???

    Track Nineteen: Shaking Through

    Track Twenty: This is nothing I ever heard. It is like "Radio Demo" but not from Radio Free Europe" this track is total noise. I don't hear any lyrics. Very psychedelic. Hand claps

    George DuBose

    ReplyDelete
  34. Your 20-track "RCA" tape actually seems to be sourced from three different sessions. I came to this conclusion by cross referencing your notes against the REM Timeline website. Your Tracks 1-6 are from 17 February 1983 - Studio A, Reflection Sound Studios, Charlotte, NC. Tracks 7-13 are from 2 October 1982 - City Gardens, Trenton, NJ. Tracks 14-20 from 3 October 1981 - Drive-In Studio, Winston-Salem, NC. All twenty tracks are in circulation among collectors, although you may have a very good quality/low-gen source.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Replies
    1. Sorry, no. Not with the shitstorm this caused (DMCA and account suspension) and not without explicit written permission of the band itself.

      Delete