Sunday, September 25, 2011

On the turntable...Life's Rich Pageant

Lifes Rich Pageant is the fourth album by the American band R.E.M., released in 1986. Intended as an upbeat reaction to the sobering and historical Fables of the Reconstruction, R.E.M. chose Don Gehman to produce the album, which was recorded at John Mellencamp's Belmont Mall Studios in Belmont, Indiana.
The source for the title of the album is based on an English idiom. Its use is very old, but R.E.M.'s use is, according to Peter Buck, from the 1964 film A Shot in the Dark, minus the apostrophe:

Inspector Clouseau opens car door and falls into a fountain.
Maria: "You should get out of these clothes immediately. You'll catch your death of pneumonia, you will."
Clouseau: "Yes, I probably will. But it's all part of life's rich pageant, you know?"
The missing apostrophe in the title is deliberate. Nearly all contractions used by R.E.M. lack apostrophes, though "life's" in this case is a possessive.
The cover of the album depicts drummer Bill Berry on the upper part of the cover and a pair of bison, signifying an environmental theme, on the lower part. It also alludes to Buffalo Bill.
With R.E.M.'s fan base beginning to grow beyond its college rock boundaries, Lifes Rich Pageant proved to be at the time the band's most commercially successful album in the U.S., peaking at #21 on the Billboard charts and scoring them their first gold record. In the UK, the album managed a #43 peak.
The ecologically-conscious "Fall on Me" (a personal favorite of frontman Michael Stipe) and a cover of The Clique's "Superman", sung by bassist Mike Mills, were the only singles released from the album (the single version of the latter removed the sample from one of theGodzilla movies that began the album version).
Another ecologically-minded song, "Cuyahoga", refers to the once heavily polluted Cuyahoga River that flows into Lake Erie at Cleveland,Ohio. The song includes the lyric we burned the river down, which refers to the several occasions (most famously in 1969) when the river actually caught fire.
At the end of "Just a touch" Michael Stipe can be heard screaming the line "I'm so young, I'm so goddamn young", quoting longtime influence Patti Smith's live cover version of The Who's "My Generation" as recorded as the B-side of her 1976 single "Gloria" and more recent as a bonus track on some CD re-issues of her album Horses.
All songs written by Bill BerryPeter BuckMike Mills and Michael Stipe, except where noted.

Side one – "Dinner side"
  1. "Begin the Begin" – 3:28
  2. "These Days" – 3:24
  3. "Fall on Me" – 2:50
  4. "Cuyahoga" – 4:19
  5. "Hyena" – 2:50
  6. "Underneath the Bunker" – 1:25
Side two – "Supper side"
  1. "The Flowers of Guatemala" – 3:55
  2. "I Believe" – 3:49
  3. "What If We Give It Away?" – 3:33
  4. "Just a Touch" – 3:00
  5. "Swan Swan H" – 2:42
  6. "Superman" (Mike Bottler and Gary Zekley) – 2:52
1993 I.R.S. Vintage Years reissue bonus tracks
  1. "Tired of Singing Trouble" – 0:59
    • Previously unreleased
  2. "Rotary Ten" – 1:58
  3. "Toys in the Attic" (Steve TylerJoe Perry) – 2:26
  4. "Just a Touch" (Live in studio) – 2:38
    • Previously unreleased version, recorded live to 2-track during Reckoning sessions, 1984
  5. "Dream (All I Have to Do)" (Felice and Boudleaux Bryant) – 2:38
  6. "Swan Swan H" (Acoustic version) – 2:41
    • Originally released on the soundtrack to the film Athens, GA: Inside Out, 1987
  • Note: "Rotary Ten" and "Toys in the Attic" can be found on Dead Letter Office.
  • Note: Although sometimes referred to as such, the first release of this edition does not have the original tracks remastered. They follow the first print of the album and only add the extra tracks.
2011 25th Anniversary Edition reissue bonus tracks (The Athens Demos)
  1. "Fall On Me" (Demo)
  2. "Hyena" (Demo)
  3. "March Song (King of Birds)" (Demo)
  4. "These Days" (Demo)
  5. "Bad Day" (Demo)
  6. "Salsa (Underneath the Bunker)" (Demo)
  7. "Swan Swan H" (Demo)
  8. "Flowers of Guatemala" (Demo)
  9. "Begin the Begin" (Demo)
  10. "Cuyahoga" (Demo)
  11. "I Believe" (Demo)
  12. "Out of Tune" (Demo)
  13. "Rotary Ten" (Demo)
  14. "Two Steps Onward" (Demo)
  15. "Just a Touch" (Demo)
  16. "Mystery to Me" (Demo)
  17. "Wait" (Demo)
  18. "All the Right Friends" (Demo)
  19. "Get On Their Way (What If We Give It Away?)" (Demo)
Track listing notes:
  • "Superman" was listed on some early copies as "Superwoman."
  • The track listing on the back of the album is incorrect. It has never been corrected. The order is given as 1-5-10-8-2-7-4-9-3-11, which leaves out "Superman" and "Underneath the Bunker." The track listing is correct on the actual vinyl, cassette, and some CD versions.
  • Early pressings of the CD have the track number for "Cuyahoga" as "0R" instead of "04" printed on the CD itself.
  • On the vinyl and cassette releases, R.E.M. labeled side one (tracks 1-6) as the "Dinner side" and side two (tracks 7-12) as the "Supper side."
  • The UK 1993 release for 'IRS Years Vintage 1986' preserves the uncorrected album cover, but lists the unreleased tracks.

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