Friday, September 23, 2011

R.E.M.: did we miss anything?

As expected, closets are opening up, drawers dug through, rare tapes transferred and suddenly freed.

A very cool set of '82/'83-era Murmur roughs, including very early Mitch Easter mixes of Murmur tracks-in-progress, and additional tracks from the same Murmur sessions that - to now - hadn't left the clutches of a very select few, have suddenly found their way onto Dime.

I may at some point put up the balance of the set because there are some gems in there.  But, the coolest part of the trove has to be the heretofore-unknown *full take* of the Stephen Hague "Catapult" demo.  As the story goes, when time came for REM to hit the studio to record that first LP for I.R.S., they wanted to use Mitch Easter (a relative noob, as far as I.R.S. was concerned) after loving what Easter did with them on Chronic Town.  I.R.S. wanted something more commercial, so asked the band to use Stephen Hague.  Now, knowing what we now know about Hague, nothing could be further away from R.E.M.'s mindset than using that guy - he of numerous Pet Shop Boys / New Order / etc club-type sessions.  At the time though he was a fledgling Boston-based producer that was just another guy to consider.

So they set up a deal: the band would record one song with Hague, and one song with Easter.  The winner of the demo-off would produce that critical debut LP.

Hague went first, and recorded "Catapult".  It was, as legend has it, the worst recording session the band ever had; Bill being forced to re-track the drums innumerable times against a wooden click track, and Hague dropping synths all over the track.

The band then went to Charlotte, North Carolina and did a track with Easter (who had brought in Don Dixon to help): "Pilgrimage".  Even I.R.S. had to give up on Hague at that point, hearing both results.  The band (and I.R.S.) loved the Easter/Dixon "Pilgrimage" recording so much it essentially was used as-is on the record.

However, the R.E.M. fraternity hated the Hague recording so much it was essentially erased from the collective memory, except in the occasional interview.  But it *never* saw release, at all.  Only a few years ago, a short snippet was suddenly unleashed, just to give a tasting of the atrocity.

So today we get the whole deal, the full-length Hague "Catapult".  It truly is laughable and a very wonderful find; not that anyone's going to drop it in their Murmur playlist as a direct replacement for the version recorded with Easter/Dixon, but it's a nice thing regardless.

*** EDIT *** I've replaced the targets with the final, best-ever mastering which supercedes anything you may have downloaded previously.  Download it again for the full Hague-orama!

FLAC / MP3 (LAME 320k)

I took the version from Dime and ran it through my wringer, it's a pretty good (read: tremendous) improvement over the Dime version.


  1. LOL - it really is awful, isn't it? Thank god IRS agreed and did the decent thing. I have all kinds of tapes, CDs and vinyl lurking around here packed with REM rarities and live shows. I have little means (or time) to digitise and share them. If, however, there's anything you want/need, get in touch and if I have it, we could work something out. I'd love to hear some of it restored.

  2. Nice touch putting "Retired" in the genre column.

  3. Very good post! And thanks for the info on the competing demos, which I had never heard before.

    Our blog is fortunate to have a friend of the band, and I really like his tribute:

  4. Wait till you hear the final Hague Catapult mastering! This was only a quick job, the final will blow your socks off.

  5. OK, this version has been superceded by the encompassing post above this one. I'm updating the link so if you've pulled "Catapult" down before, do so again as you'll want to toss out the previous version.

  6. @Jon Hyland: that post on your blog is one of the most beautiful, if not THE most, I've had the pleasure of reading about this band - or any band, for that matter. In the Great Blog In The Sky beers are on me.

    Now if I can only get Bertis to bless my writings… ;)

  7. The Hague track has been the UNholy Grail for REM nuts. As noted that snippet had people going bonkers. Can't wait to hear this.