The One I Love
Rebel Songs, Volume 1
R.E.M. was one of my earliest music crushes, right along with The Cure, New Order & U2. Their debut album Murmur landed in April of 1983, only a few weeks after U2's War dropped. "Alternative" music was gaining a toe-hold in the culture, fueled of course, by MTV. R.E.M., with their vocally folksy approach, also appealed to the "college rock" scene, and helped make that the indy-cred niche for the next two decades.
Murmur and Reckoning are still my favorite r.e.m. albums, but Document - which featured The One I Love, pushed them into the mainstream. That album dropped in the fall of '87, right as I was starting college.
The song couldn't be simpler in its lyrical and musical approach, but for r.e.m. it has a certain kind of aggression that some of their earlier music didn't.
And Michael Stipe, what can you say? Slightly pretentious, overtly artsy, lyrically nebulous, and really not the world's greatest singing voice... yeah, all those things inspired me and gave me hope as I started to shift my attention away from drumming to songwriting and singing.
My first college band, The Bradys, was a rock/punk trio (get it? like the Brady Bunch brothers?). The other two players and I would all exchange instruments and duties during gigs, taking turns playing drums, bass, guitar and singing. One of my first contributions behind the mic was absolutely this song!
30+ years later, it's still the one I love. ;-)
Image credit: superiorshit.blogspot.com
This song is one of the multiple songs that came off possibly one of the greatest back to back album releases in modern rock/college rock history. Document and Green came out 1 year apart and this song was sandwiched in between so many other classics they had. Michael Stipe, it could be argued, was one of the loudest voices of the late 80’s & early 90’s rock era and he was way out in front of social, political, and religious issues. Regardless his whimsical yet serious approach to being a front man was refreshing as it wasn’t overtly masculine yet commanded attention. Unfortunately the 80s and 90s were not a kind period for an artist who had to work really hard, and probably in many cases against his will, to keep certain basic components of his life secret.
Which leads one to have to believe this songs lyrics were truly heartfelt from Stipe. Peter Bucks fingerprints are on this song as well. He always had an earthy, almost Americana, approach to his riffs and music. Their sound also was copied by a legion of 90’s bands. Lyrically it pales in comparison to other R.E.M classics, coming in at 30 total unique words used I could almost be critical of it as being lazy songwriting. What transcends that is this was a song that helped catapult REM to a mainstream band - probably against their will - that allowed the masses to appreciate a college band from Georgia that almost assuredly wouldn’t have found a home on the radio formats of the time.
Out of the gate, this one's been interesting. I've played this song for years at countless coffee house gigs, small bars - occasionally with a band but usually just solo voice and acoustic guitar. I'd pretty much play it straight up like the original record.
I wanted to see if I got a different vibe by changing keys and coming at it from the piano side... no dice. Nothing was really gelling. Back to the guitar!
I started to play with some different rhythms to bring a different feel to this, and was leaning into adding a bongo or cajon track. A few more hours of occupying my time... but resulting in false starts and dead ends.
Close to throwing in the towel, I've salvaged hope for this one by going with a percussive rhythm on the acoustic and understating the "Fire" chorus. I'm liking where it's heading, but will be interesting to see how it translates in the recording studio.
I may have to start over yet again!