Monday, September 26, 2011

R.E.M.: Revealing Murmur

OK crap post title, I get it.  Mostly because I buck the common trend and place not Around the Sun in the esteemed "worst R.E.M. album" position, as that rarefied spot is held for Reveal.

Anyway... as referenced the other day, a whole stonking pile of Murmur session mixes, outtakes and the like from Reflection Studios, late 1982/early 1983 recently came to Dime.  OK you say, so what.

1) We got the Stephen Hague "Catapult", for starters.
2) There are different mixing/recording sessions for the Murmur tracks here
3) Some of the vocals appear to be different Stipe takes, sometimes with more legibility
4) The mixes are (for the most part) much more experimental than the final album would portend
5) "Romance"!

Don Dixon (L) and Mitch Easter (R), Reflection Studios, early 1983
I'm not going to go out and list out all the differences from track to track, because that's boring, and because it removes the suspense.  Each track is different to the final mix, and you know, had the band used these mixes (or a combination thereof) for the final record, I don't think it would have been as strongly received.  Not that they're shitty, because they're not, it's just that the band, Mitch Easter and Don Dixon perfected the mystique so damn well on the final thing that anything less seems more pedestrian (for lack of a better word).

OK that made these seem terrible.  They're not.  They're certainly different, but Murmur mixed like this would be a different record.  Some would like it more than the actual LP, some wouldn't.

These are taken from the recent Dime seed and were used to test some new restoration techniques I've been working on, but not used "in production" until now.  I think anyone who's pulled the Dime seed, and then this, could vouch for how much better this sounds in comparison, in virtually all areas.

So enjoy.

Murmur/Reflection Studios sessions/outtakes/mix candidates
(how's that for an album title?)
Fall-Winter 1982 / Winter-Spring 1983

Fall 1982
01 Catapult (Stephen Hague demo)
02 Pilgrimage (Mitch Easter / Don Dixon demo, mix 1)

Feb. 16, 1983 mixing session with Mitch Easter
03 Pilgrimage
04 Catapult
05 Perfect Circle
06 9-9
07 West Of The Fields

Mid-session live to two track
08 studio chatter
09 That Beat
10 All The Right Friends
11 There She Goes Again

In-session basic and rough mixes (probably very early monitor/guide mixes)
12 Talk About The Passion
13 West Of The Fields
14 Moral Kiosk
15 Sitting Still
16 Ages Of You
17 Perfect Circle
18 We Walk
19 9-9
20 Shaking Through
21 Romance
22 Laughing (cuts at end)

Some observations (even though I said I wouldn't...):

Track 2 is, I believe, the exact version submitted by Easter/Dixon as their demo to produce the LP (and that it was batched with the Hague demo supports this).  According to most sources, the actual demo was liked so much by all parties it was issued unchanged on the LP.  That said, there are minor differences between Track 2 and Track 3 here, but nothing to get excited about.

The 2/16/83 mixing session (tracks 3-7) appear to be near-final mixes.  I say this because for the most part the tracks are basically what we get on Murmur.  There *are* differences, to be sure (for example: click-ins over the bassline intro to "9-9"), but if you're looking for something truly unique, it's not in this part.

Tracks 8-11 (missing "Moon River" / "Pretty Persuasion" / "Tighten Up" due to official release policy on Dime) were recorded after a few beers live to two-track, and the Dime seeder missed that track 11 is actually the same as the B-side track (on Dead Letter Office), with the re-done ending (preserved here) punched in by Dixon/Easter.  The band flubbed the ending, and Dixon had them re-do the final da-da-da-da-da, da da-da-da, da da daaaaa outro, and the entire "do it again" bit is preserved.  We get to be flies on the wall...  "All The Right Friends" from this set was also officially released on the European I.R.S. Years Dead Letter Office CD in the early 1990s.

Tracks 12-21 are where the fun lies.  These are, for the most part, markedly different from the final versions.  The true gems here are "Sitting Still" with some very prominent, GORGEOUS harmonies that are buried (or nonexistent) in the LP version and what appears to be a guide Stipe vocal, and "9-9" which features some truly aggressive guitar/mix "wiggles" (for lack of a better term) which really gives it more bite than the final LP version.  "Shaking Through" also is a different Stipe vocal and truly shines.  "Ages of You" was remixed for B-side release in '84, but the Dead Letter Office version roots from this.  "Romance" never has been released from here; I have no idea if it ever was bootlegged in the past.  If it has, I don't have it to hand and it's not on my various sets of "IRS demos" / "Chronic Town demos" / etc that all collect various Easter session tracks.

The Dime seed also was quite off-pitch, some tracks more than others; that has been corrected here.

Lastly, the Stephen Hague "Catapult" recording is much, MUCH improved from the last version I posted, which was a "bang it up and blog it STAT!" effort just to get it out there.  You need this version though, it's better in all worlds, inclusive.

Grab yer FLACs here, and put that put that put that on your wall...

here's hoping for more stuff to come out of the woodwork!  Elliott Mazer Reckoning demos from the master, anyone?


  1. I have not had a chance to listen to your upgrade yet but my feeling after listening to these was that Mitch Easter and Don Dixon deserve a ton of credit for their work in putting this album together. To me, that is what these demos show.

  2. The Stephen Hague Catapult is great. I hope from their retirement home, REM can look upon all their children, especially the ugly 80's children, with love and respect and give them a home.

  3. Looking forward to listening to this, thanks very much.

  4. "Elliott Mazer Reckoning demos from the master, anyone?"
    Yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah...... do it! Awesome work.

  5. @The Robster: I wish I had them! Here's hoping someone does and frees them!

  6. I wish these were available in mp3 format; I understand why you don't offer them, but I have zero ability to listen to them.

  7. j metaphor,

    there are converters. i know i am in the same boat.


  8. I've tried well over a dozen, and no luck whatsoever.

  9. If someone can get me the complete RAR I'll host somewhere not MediaFire (I hate giving them any form of advert money considering the shadiness). I'll foot the bill on it :)

  10. @ethank: you know me, at least you did (virtually) in the glory days of '99/'01 when I was very active on the old webboard. email me @ and I'll get you the full fileset.

  11. Many thanks for all your work on these tracks and for sharing it so graciously. Highly appreciated!

  12. THANKS!
    by the way... any chance we'll see some 'remasters' (or at least a sharing here on the blog) of their 90's material? (I think I'm one of the few people who prefers this era of their career)

    specifically, things like:

    • an actually good recording of the "Monster" tour - I always thought "Road Movie" was a bit too ... "echo-y", and I'm pretty sure even if you combined all the live b-sides from that era, you still wouldn't get an entire show

    • those "Up Demos" without that horrible digi-noise

    • that alternate / "better" version of Reveal (w/ the track 'Fascinating' on it... I've heard that individual song, but not the rest of the album)

    ...and is there ANY way to get "R.E.M.ix" that's not sourced from 128kbps mp3's????

    OH - and... the "Tibetian Freedom Concert" performance (and possibly Radiohead's as well....?)

  13. I second all the requests above, please!

    And add the demos from Chronic Murmurings and the ones from Document, in all their lossless glory.

    1. You guys might be interested in my reconstruction of the Chronic Town EP -- in (mostly) demo form.

      It's HERE at my blog:

  14. Man, I'd love to hear these. Would love to find these on mp3. I know I know, however I'm still stuck with dial-up and FLAC takes me forever.
    I need to dig up the Mitch Easter demo tape a friend of mine made me years ago, there's some Chronic Town stuff at the end of it, don't know if they differ from whats out there already.

  15. ARRRRGH. And it's gone. I'm punching myself in the head.

  16. ARRRGH. And it's gone. I'm punching myself in the head, and then looking elsewhere.

  17. Hey man - really need your help with a special R.E.M. post I'm cooking up for my blog. Trying to get hold of your re-worked lossless files for this (I only have the Dime version). Please email me at THANKS.