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by (@unclegrambo)

R.E.M.emories: VH1 Staffers Reflect Back On Their Favorite Songs From The R.E.M. Catalog

R.E.M.‘s announcement earlier today that they’re “calling it a day as a band” after 31 years together hit the VH1 offices even harder than that earthquake did a few weeks back. As a means of aiding everyone accelerate through their own personal Kübler-Ross grief cycle, we reached out to a number of VH1 staffers and asked them to share their favorite R.E.M. memories. We sincerely hope that this feature is as instrumental in helping you reach your own personal Acceptance stage as it was for us. And if you have your own memories, please share them below in our comments section; we’d love to hear them!

“BEGIN THE BEGIN” (LIFE’S RICH PAGEANT, 1986) by TOM CALDERONE, PRESIDENT (@tomcalderone)
I was the program director of my college radio station, Buffalo State College’s WBNY, when Murmur came out. “Radio Free Europe” was the single, and R.E.M. was opening for the English Beat and Squeeze; that’s kind of what the pecking order was for them at the time. One day, their label called and said, “Hey, we’re selling a lot of records in Buffalo, and you’re the only radio station playing them, we want to have them come play Buffalo.” We said “Great!” So they played this place called the Lackawanna Sky Room. They told us, “We don’t really have much to play, we could use an opening act.” So we offered to help. At the time, the Goo Goo Dolls were so metal that it wasn’t the right call, but there was this other little band from Jamestown called the 10,000 Maniacs. We suggested them, explaining to them that this Natalie Merchant girl, she’s great, and the band’s really cool, and you guys will get along. That’s how the friendship between the bands began, back at the Lackawanna Sky Room. They were the nicest guys, incredibly giving to the college radio stations all across the country.

My favorite song by R.E.M. is “Strange,” which is actually a Wire cover. Of their originals, “Begin The Begin” is my probably my fave. It had a really cool edge to it, and sounded a little bit different than what they normally had done. It recently came to life to me again, about a year and a half or so ago, when The Decemberists did it live with Peter Buck on stage. I thought to myself, ‘I forgot how good that song was!’, so I revisited it again. Of their later material, “Crush With Eyeliner” was my favorite.

“EVERYBODY HURTS” (AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE, 1992) by SANDY ALOUETE, SVP MUSIC & TALENT RELATIONS
One of my former boyfriends was hellbent on buying the identical neon star from the cover of Automatic For The People, and he finally tracked one down outside of an abandoned motel in upstate NY. I loaned him the money to have it professionally cut down, I housed it for him in my parents? garage until he could clear out enough space in his Greenpoint apartment/recording studio, and then not long after he got the star, we broke up. Did I ever get the money back? Nope. Shouldn?t I by rights take the neon star for my very own? Yep. EVERYBODY HURTS.

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Last Lap: Wednesday’s Odds And Ends In Music News

Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen!
Leonard Cohen turns 77 today. To celebrate, read Mike Barthel‘s chronicle of Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” and how it became a television-montage staple, or listen to “Suzanne” or “Everybody Knows,” or pre-order the Complete Leonard Cohen box set that’s on the way. [Pitchfork]

Wilco, Coldplay Live on Letterman
This morning we mentioned that Coldplay had appeared on The Late Show to perform “Paradise.” They also recorded a full concert for Live on Letterman that streamed last night and is now available on demand. Tonight at 8PM ET, Wilco (featuring a newly jolly Jeff Tweedy) will do the same. [Live on Letterman]
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R.E.M. In Memoriam: Their Top Five Videos

R.E.M.‘s first single “Radio Free Europe” came out less than a month before MTV’s first broadcast, and since then their videos have been by turns innovative, fun, and artistic, in ways that were often uncommon at the time but totally normalized as the band (and MTV and VH1) grew old together. Their decision to call it quits is, for people of a certain age, the end of an era. To commemorate the band’s long and successful run, we went back through their music video catalog and selected their five best.

5. “Electrolite” (1996)
R.E.M. worked with basically every major music video director in the 1990s?most notably for the singles from Monster and New Adventures in Hi-Fi. (In the case of “Electrolite” it was Spike Jonze.) It’s easy to think of this as the band catching up after a decade of making music videos on their own or with Athens friends like Jim Herbert, but in retrospect what’s most striking about any of the videos from this period is how much they still feel like R.E.M. videos. The voice of a director like Jonze (or Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who gave their 1970s nostalgia a dry run in R.E.M.’s underrated “Tongue” video a year before perfecting it with the Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979″) can easily overpower an artist’s own visual aesthetic, but despite R.E.M.’s seemingly gentle touch, that never happened. The inflatable deer inhabiting “Electrolite” should make clear, though, that this was not due to too much reverence for the band. Bonus points for Mike Mills plays an accordion and a keytar.
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Big Boi Joins Rally For Death Row Inmate Troy Davis, Spearheading More Vocal Hip-Hop Support

Big Boi has arrived in Jackson, GA to join the scores of protesters outside the Pardons & Paroles Board after Troy Davis was denied a stay of execution by the board yesterday. The Troy Davis case has been a cause c?l?bre for artists of all stripes (as well as activists and political and religious figures) because Davis’s conviction largely rested on evidence provided by eyewitnesses who have since recanted their testimony. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons‘s website Global Grind has a rundown of the case’s facts as well as Rick Ross affiliate Pill. Lupe Fiasco also spoke on the case at an Atlanta show last night. The case is not new, nor is the support of those who are protesting his execution, but the opposition has grown more vocal as time continues to run out for Davis. Many others not named here have also spoken on this issue, but as yet those who have the power to grant clemency have shown no signs of relenting.

[Image: Getty Images]

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R.E.M. Break Up

R.E.M. have announced on their site this morning that they are breaking up. They posted the following message:

To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening.

More to follow.

R.E.M. Call It A Day [REM HQ]

[Image: Getty Images]

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Michael Stipe Shares Pictures Of His Junk On Webcam

Did you know Michael Stipe of R.E.M. had a Tumblr? Neither did we, but Stipe found a way to spread the word: he posted a time-lapse video of his bedroom and himself featuring a couple of full-frontal nude snapshots. Yikes! We’re kidding about Stipe’s intentions, of course?in fact, the video took almost two months to go viral?but you have to admit that the “artistic” presentation is sort of belied by the appearance of a cursor in each of the stills. The rest of Stipe’s Tumblr largely contains photographs of statues, but there’s also a cute post in which he gushes about “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies. If you’re just looking for the explicit stills, you can click through below for screengrabs.

Ever Wanted To See Michael Stipe’s Dick? Here It Is. [Fleshbot via Stereogum]

[Image: Getty Images]

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Tuned In: Kelly Clarkson Brings “Mr. Know It All” To Leno

Yesterday’s late night music lineup may as well have been a VH1 showcase. The only musical performer we haven’t explicitly championed at some point appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon?after an interview with this month’s Posted artist Demi Lovato. Such a jam-packed lineup does make it difficult to choose the best performance of the night, but we have to give the edge to Kelly Clarkson, who made her first appearance in support of Stronger yesterday on The Tonight Show, where she performed single “Mr. Know It All.”

Clarkson has always had a great voice and an even better sense of how to use it?a fact that makes her live performances thrilling (and certainly contributed to her Idol win). So we were excited to hear her breathing more life into “Mr. Know It All,” a song that we already like but that she opened up for us further with her performance last night. (If we don’t sound quite as enthusiastic as we could, that might be because we not-so-secretly think that, were the situation not so dire out there for rock bands, we think that Clarkson would be a killer frontwoman with serious riffs behind her. But we try not to let that affect our judgment too much.) We are definitely looking forward to Stronger (and to the “Mr. Know It All” video, which should arrive somewhat sooner).

After the jump, see Demi Lovato’s interview on Late Night (introduced by The Roots with a reworded Styx cover: “Domo Arigato, Demi Lovato”) and links to the other performances.
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Last Lap: Tuesday’s Odds And Ends In Music News

Rick Ross: Gentleman Rap Boss
Devin Friedman admits that he’s “basically eating out of [Rick Ross's] hand” for the majority of his time with the rapper, but manages some good insights (e.g. “Rick Ross is always both inside and outside a joke he’s making about hip-hop music”) and many more entertaining observations about the kindly boss, whom he describes as “the fat black McConaughey,” in his profile for October’s GQ. [GQ]

Complex On Kreayshawn In Brief
Ernest Baker‘s profile of Kreayshawn for Complex is less intriguing; luckily for us (and you), Katherine St. Asaph sums it up at Popdust. Key facts: she wants to slap The Game in the face, and she bought that Game Boy Color she always wanted after she got signed. [Popdust]
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by (@unclegrambo)

Video Premiere: Fitz And The Tantrums, “Don’t Gotta Work It Out”

Fitz And The Tantrums are putting in WORK to get the word out about their fantastic debut LP, Picking Up The Pieces. Since being named our You Oughta Know artist back in April, the funky soul revivalists have been touring relentlessly, earning kudos from industry insiders like Bob Lefsetz and winning scads of new fans at festivals like Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. We have no idea when they found themselves with enough time to shoot another music video, but lo and behold, we just got our mitts on the brand new “Don’t Gotta Work It Out” video.

The video begins with a curious homage to Pulp Fiction (or maybe Repo Man?), as lead singer Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick stumbles onto a briefcase of indeterminate origins and opens it up, resulting in him being bathed in golden light. He then proceeds to walk/jog through a series of urban alleyways in search of vocalist Noelle Scaggs and the rest of the Tantrums, while lens flares invade the frame at a clip that would make even J.J. Abrams blush. Along the way, a slew of feathers begin floating down through the atmosphere, which makes us think that either Sully Sullenberg was in the vicinity exacting more revenge on the geese population or there was an explosion at a nearby down pillow factory. Just when we think we might have an idea where this video might be going, Fitz falls to his knees in an alleyway and gets drenched by a raincloud that only has eyes for him.

So, what does it all mean? Well, even after watching it a few times, we’d be hard pressed to explain the video treatment, but we are certain of one thing: This song is totally boss.

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Posted: Demi Lovato Takes Good Morning America By Storm To Celebrate The Release Of Unbroken

Unbroken, Demi Lovato‘s new album, is in stores today, and to celebrate and promote the record, this month’s Posted artist is back in New York City. She played the Hammerstein Ballroom on Saturday night, and today she’ll be visiting our offices as today’s episode of The Ellen Show airs (featuring an interview and performance), before appearing on tonight’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. But thanks in part to an enthusiastic crowd of Lovatics outside the ABC studios, Lovato’s appearance on Good Morning America yesterday has made the biggest splash thus far. Nicole James gushed about the appearance for MTV’s Buzzworthy blog this morning, and below the jump you can see the interview with Robin Roberts, and her performance of “Skyscraper,” for yourself. And don’t forget to stay tuned for our exclusive coverage of her visit to VH1 today, and her own missives via Posted.
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