Today is the 30th anniversary of REM's "Lifes Rich Pageant"

Thirty years ago today, REM released the magnificent "Lifes Rich Pageant," an iconic alternative rock album of the 1980s, and forever. The source of the title is the 1964 film A Shot in the Dark:

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?"

Above, one of Michael Stipe's favorite songs from the entire REM catalog, "Fall on Me," about oppression. Below, "Swan Swan H."


Notable Replies

  1. Best REM album by far.

  2. It is a wonderful album, and I've listened to it many times over the years, but it's debatable as to whether it's the best by far.

    I would argue that the much-loved Reckoning and criminally underrated Fables of the Reconstruction are at least close.

    Over the years Fables has emerged as my personal favourite. It has just the right blend of foreboding jangle (like the first two albums), as well as the hooks, clear vocals and tight playing of Pageant. But those clear vocals deliver lyrics as cryptic as anything on Murmur.

    It took several years for me to develop a deep appreciation of Fables, whereas Pageant was love-at-first-listen. I suspect it's similar for a lot of people, and even many who were big fans at the time may not have given Fables its due because it was so strange, right from the opening notes of Feeling Gravitys Pull.

  3. holy crap 30 years... I AM OLD.
    I played the hell out of that and Fables way back then.

  4. xzzy says:

    All their stuff is pretty good, they were one of those rare acts where they reinvented themselves with each album and it was all worth playing. Too many acts write a hit and spend their career trying to remake that song.

    Stipe has one heck of a set of pipes, hopefully he keeps on using them because he only sounds better as he ages.

  5. In junior-high, the kids all liked Motley Crue and Slippery When Wet.

    I started high-school in the fall of '88. My new friends were listening to R.E.M.
    Green had just come out and Dave let me listen to Document on his walkman in I.P.S.
    I dubbed it off him.

    The next year, I was riding my bike around near the Vandy campus and some students were having a yardsale on their porch. I went through the records and found Violent Femmes s/t (I already had the tape), Bauhaus' "Bela Lugosi's Dead" 12" and their greatest hits lp, and Reckoning. I brought them to the young woman to pay. They were priced at a pittance, but when I took out my wallet, I still didn't have enough. She let me have them all, anyway.

    My first girlfriend was obsessed with playing the soundtrack tape to Athens, Georgia, Inside Out on the boombox in her kitchen, and had the poster for Eponymous above her bed. It was the first bed I ever made out with a girl on. We tried to be excited about "Losing my Religion" and "Shiny Happy People" when Out Of Time came out but something wasn't clicking.

    Three or four years ago, a record store briefly re-located to a space a few blocks from me. The stacks were all a-jumble. While flipping through the sleeves I found my copy of Lifes Rich Pageant. As a middle-aged man, I gave myself the gift of perhaps the finest R.E.M. album. In sessioning it, I was able to return to a very specific part of myself that time has tried to erode. Time is not on my side, but I can still remember.

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