R.E.M.’s “Out of Time” 25 Years Later

25 years ago, I was the label manager for Warner Bros. in Tel Aviv. I’ve written about this a little bit before; it was a gig I fell into because I was in the right place at the right time, spoke English and had been working at the outer edges of the U.S. music business for a couple of years. There was a lot of music I was continually told would not ever be popular in Israel, and R.E.M. was one of those bands.

Except that it wasn’t true. We broke them in the territory during Out of Time and sold so many records (relatively) and I campaigned hard to get the band to do a promo tour of the country for Automatic For The People, back when it was hard for bands to play the country, much less come over to do promo. I was one of the many indie kids who came of age when R.E.M. were college radio darlings (I published the first R.E.M. fanzine, radio free europe and some day I will digitize the fucking things), and then later moved up in the business, and we were all busy opening the door as wide as we could for the music that we loved…which in this case, now happened to be beyond enormous.

I wish I could dig out the photographs (and I wish I had more of them) but the one pertinent story I will offer was later retold by Mike Mills at the 40 Watt Club in Athens in 1992, when the band played a benefit for Greenpeace. I came into work the next morning and found a fax from one of my BFF’s/old-time R.E.M. road compatriot, with the setlist in full, and “STORY ABOUT CARYN” written next to “Losing My Religion.” I then had to wait interminable months until I got a tape of the show.

Anyway, you should buy the anniversary release because it has amazing liner notes from the great Annie Zaleski and you should check out this fantastic BBC Radio documentary. And I can’t believe it’s been 25 years.