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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

250. "Driver 8" by R.E.M.

To a certain segment of my readership, "Driver 8" is probably such a hoary, overplayed, and overcovered song that I shouldn't even be doing it. But there are also a lot of perfectly musically well-rounded people who consider "early R.E.M." to commence around "Shiny Happy People" and might well not recognize much on the first three IRS records. And for that reason, I doubt that "Driver 8" really is covered very much: your average cover band probably wouldn't dip into the R.E.M. songbook much deeper than "The One I Love", while all the indie bands most likely think that everything on Murmur, Reckoning and Fables is grossly overexposed and would be more likely to attempt a post-ironic take on... well, "Shiny Happy People" or something.

For my part, Fables is one of a handful of records I think I could play and sing in reasonably recognizable form from top to bottom without rehearsing. That's due to the fact that it's in the basic musical idiom in which I've worked since roughly the time it came out, and the frequency with which I listened to it in my most formative musical days. Those two things don't always go together... I listened to Peter Gabriel's melting face album almost as much, but my acoustic interpretation of that one would be a little more free-form.

Anyway, in true lightning-round form, immediately after finishing this performance, I decided to see how many Fables songs I really could do. The first one I tried was "Kohoutek", which I remember playing lo those many years ago in my bedroom back in Great Oak Valley, only to realize that while I somehow hadn't worked it out at the time, it was clearly played with a drop D tuning. That sorted, I looked up the lyrics online. Now, it stands to reason that the lyrical transcriptions of early Stipe lyrics might be dicey at best, but the lyrics to "Kohoutek" appearing on every site I checked are really weak: they just don't even bother to guess at a whole bunch of the lines, leaving you to guess at what line they're guessing at. I therefore ignored them and recorded a few takes of me mumble-moaning what I thought they sort of sounded like from memory. I got a little better each time, but ultimately it was too embarrassing to keep doing it over and over again, so I gave up, leaving me with a guitar in drop D... which is where we pick up the tale on Thursday.

Personnel: Rex

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