I have a nasty habit. Periodically - indeed, at least once a day - I'll hop over to RedState, or even the detestable FreeRepublic, just to see what the other side is up to. As many of you know, it's generally an infuriating experience, and I often end my visits to the underworld feeling as though I need a shower. How is that people can be so wrong, and so hateful, all at the same time?
One of the chief complaints of the right wing - and this has been the case for decades - is the involvement of celebrities in politics. They seem to have no problem with the Toby Keiths or Charlie Daniels of the world, but they frequently, loudly, and unfairly hurl insulting, rude rhetoric at entertainers I respect (Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, the Dixie Chicks) and entertainers I love (most notably, the Boss).
This year (last month to be exact), marks the 25th anniversary of the release of HibTone Records 0001, that outfit's first and only release. "Radio Free Europe" b/w "Sitting Still", a 7" 45 rpm single from little known Athens, Georgia band R.E.M. While the pressing was very limited (1,000-5,000 copies, depending on the source), the record made considerable waves on college radio and further cemented Athens as a so-called music hotbed.
What's more, it was - and is - one of the catchiest "pop" songs I've ever heard. Grab yourself a copy of Eponymous (the re-recorded version on Murmur can't hold a candle to the original), and drop the needle. The song sounds just as fresh now as in 1981. Concise, punchy, even hum-able (and you kind of have to hum unless you want to go through the pains of deciphering those early Stipe mumbles) - all the things a pop song should be.
Granted, I'm biased - I grew up a middle class slightly off-center kid in the South. A new R.E.M. record was like Christmas, and more than once I skipped school to be at the record store early.
And how does this relate to the opening couple of paragraphs? Over the past quarter century, few bands have been as active in seeking to advance progressive causes as R.E.M. Be it historical preservation work in Athens, or their work in the dread 1980's with groups opposing the Reagan agenda, or their appearances at the big swing-state concerts two years ago, they have consistently sought to use their influence (such as it may be) as a force for good. And for that they should be commended.
And so I post this diary - as a tribute to some of the good guys on the anniversary of slapping something on vinyl and thus making it "official". Thanks, R.E.M., for the music and otherwise.