How ‘Drive’ Set the Tone for R.E.M.’s Stark Opus


Earlier than R.E.M. was completed making Out of Time, that they had begun crafting Automatic for the People. They simply didn’t comprehend it but.

In December 1990, they traveled to Prince’s well-known Paisley Park Studios outdoors of Minneapolis to place the ending touches and create the ultimate mixes for Out of Time, which might come out just a few months later. The band recorded a demo model of “Drive” on the ultimate day of blending for its soon-to-be blockbuster launch.

“It wasn’t really within the operating for that album,” guitarist Peter Buck informed Melody Maker in 1992. “After we’re mixing or doing overdubs, all of us sit round with guitars and simply play. I put this factor down on tape after which [bassist/keyboardist] Mike [Mills] added some stuff. We thought it is perhaps a great B-side for that album.”

However “Drive” changed into rather more than a B-side. Together with two different tracks that may hint their origins to Paisley Park (“Nightswimming” and “Attempt To not Breathe”), the sparse acoustic guitar-propelled track ultimately would set the tone for the Computerized for the Individuals periods. Though Buck, Mills and drummer Invoice Berry initially tried to style a follow-up out of up-tempo rockers – form of counter-programming after the fragile, pastoral Out of Time – the sooner, more durable songs had much less enchantment, each to the instrumental trio of R.E.M. and the band’s frontman Michael Stipe.

The way in which the group normally recorded was that Buck, Mills and Berry would first create a slate of instrumental demos, after which Stipe would write lyrics to those that the majority intrigued him. Buck credit the R.E.M. singer for plucking the minor-key “Drive” off the scrap heap.

“I had it on a cassette of demos and I at all times fast-forwarded via it,” Buck recalled. “I assumed it was essentially the most boring factor I’d ever heard. Then, unexpectedly, Michael had these lyrics, which outlined the track for me.”

It’s ironic that, on the track that may change into Computerized’s first monitor (and lead single), Stipe helps introduce this ballad-heavy document with the road, “Hey, children, rock and roll.” The remainder of the band cherished the thought of getting rock and roll within the lyrics, however not essentially within the music, though Stipe maintained he wasn’t being snarky, however paying tribute to David Essex’s “Rock On” (a equally sparse recording that includes the identical phrase).

“There have been, earlier than punk, just a few songs that resonated with me,” Stipe informed Rolling Stone in 2009. “One was David Essex’s ‘Rock On.’ ‘Drive’ is a homage to that.”

Watch R.E.M.’s ‘Drive’ Music Video

However “Drive” was extra about telling children to rock – even “across the clock” in a nod to the daybreak of the style. The lyrics seem like about management, with “elder statesman” Stipe (he was barely over 30 on the time), reminding a youthful technology to assume for themselves. Sure strains additionally recommend a political angle. “Bush-whacked” provides you an concept of what Stipe thought then-President George H.W. Bush was doing to the nation. “Ollie, Ollie in come free” would possibly reference disgraced navy man Oliver North, whereas additionally recalling a childhood sport. Misplaced youth could be a operating theme all through Computerized.

“It’s a refined, political factor. Michael particularly mentions the time period ‘Bush-whacked,’” Buck mentioned. “However if you wish to take it like ‘Stand,’ that’s cool too. You prefer to assume which you could admire these songs on any degree you need to. I’ve lots of information I hearken to once I’m simply doing the dishes.”

With the lyrics principally in place, in early 1992, R.E.M. recorded a extra full demo model of “Drive” at John Keane Studios, a favourite institution for the band to work in its hometown of Athens, Ga. Earlier than the majority of the Computerized periods have been to happen in March and April, the group spent just a little greater than every week within the Massive Simple, enjoying and recording in Daniel Lanois’ Kingsway Studio.

“We did demos in New Orleans at Daniel Lanois’ studio, which is an outdated, haunted mansion – supposedly haunted – and stuffed with form of neat, outdated antiques, neat devices,” Buck mentioned in a promotional video. “And [we] did demos there, a few of which ended up on the document. ‘Drive’ is a reside take from there. Bass, drums, guitar and vocals – all reside.”

The demo recording was so alluring – with spindly acoustic guitar, deep bass, thunder-crack drums and Stipe’s wealthy vocals, set in opposition to a mass of empty area – that it turned the muse for the ultimate monitor. Once more, “Drive” was setting the tone for Computerized and the work that was but to happen in Woodstock, N.Y.; Miami, Atlanta and Seattle within the spring of ’92.

R.E.M. would add to “Drive” throughout a few of these periods. An overdubbed melodica seems on the 45-second mark, bringing some candy to spherical out the stark, but in addition serving because the form of piercing ring you’d hear within the aftermath of an explosion. However on this case, the explosion occurs secondary to the aftermath, when Buck’s overdubbed fuzz guitar (plucked with a nickel for blunt pressure) crashes in like a fireplace bomb, setting the vacancy alight.

The emotion isn’t just carried in Stipe’s cavernous voice, but in addition within the symphonic strings that pair with the melodica a few minute and a half into the track. Based on Berry, the band was in Miami once they determined that strings would possibly profit a number of the Computerized materials, together with “Drive.” As followers of John Paul Jones’ orchestrations as a member of Led Zeppelin, they contacted the multi-instrumentalist, who agreed to rearrange and oversee the additions.

“Doing the string preparations for that album was an amazing expertise, really,” Jones informed Uncut in 2010. “They despatched me the demos of their songs, and we went right into a studio in Atlanta, with members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. They have been nice songs, one thing you’ll be able to actually get your enamel into as an arranger.”

The strings raise “Drive,” but in addition swirl round its main devices, typically tangling with Buck’s fuzzed-up slashes. What started as a comparatively subdued, haunting acoustic quantity changed into one thing rather more vigorous: a monitor that constructed and constructed and constructed over the course of four-plus minutes, solely to set down gently as soon as extra. Scott Litt (who had co-produced R.E.M.’s earlier three LPs and would work on this one and the following two) thought that the form of dynamism on show on “Drive” was a results of the band’s love of Queen.

Watch R.E.M. Dwell on the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards

“The association of ‘Drive’ was, partially, impressed by Queen,” Litt informed Mojo in 1995. “Pete and Mike are huge Queen followers. Queen information, for all their bombast, seemed like every participant had a persona.”

Within the last levels of labor, “Drive” was chosen to be the monitor that may lead off the album. It will even be the primary single to be launched from the album, on Oct. 1, 1992, just some days earlier than Computerized for the Individuals hit shops. As soon as extra, “Drive” was setting the tone.

As a track with out a refrain, “Drive” was a curious selection for the lead single. Maybe R.E.M. thought that that after “Dropping My Faith” – a tune with a mandolin riff – had change into a pop smash, something was potential. “Drive” didn’t fairly attain these heights, though this darkish gem went to No. 28 on the Billboard Scorching 100 (and did even higher in Canada and Europe), turned plastered on rock radio and served because the gateway for followers to Computerized.

The track’s video, featured prominently on MTV, additionally served as a signpost. Directed by frequent collaborator Peter Care (from Stipe’s idea), the black-and-white clip appeared to take its cues from Anton Corbijn’s crisp band photographs discovered within the Computerized CD booklet, however added a component of hazard. Strobe lights flash, a crowd of outstretched arms swells like a stormy sea and R.E.M.’s frontman seems to be collaborating in a single disagreeable crowd-surf or the sufferer of an offended mob. Cutaways are made to Buck, Mills and Berry, every blasted with a fireplace hose, in a wierd appropriation of civil rights period pictures.

Computerized’s music movies turned extra essential for the band’s picture following R.E.M.’s determination to not promote the album with a tour (which had additionally occurred the 12 months earlier with Out of Time). Nevertheless, the band did knock out one present in Athens for a Greenpeace profit. On the live performance, R.E.M. performed a handful of tunes from the brand new document, together with “Drive,” which featured a dramatically completely different method. As a substitute of starting with the haunting acoustic intro like on the document, the efficiency took the track’s identify actually, launching with a pile driver of electrical guitar and organ. The reside model of “Drive” metastasized into herky-jerky funk-rock exercise.

Though the reside reimagining was recorded and launched on 1994’s Various NRG (additionally to learn Greenpeace) and have become a B-side, most followers have been launched to the high-energy “Drive” throughout R.E.M.’s efficiency on the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards. It continued to be the way in which the band performed the track on its huge Monster tour in ’95.

“We’ve performed it rather a lot, it’s been in just about each present that we’ve carried out since we’ve put it out, and after some time, you realize, you need to give issues just a little little bit of a distinct remedy,” Mills informed Stereogum in 2007. “The MTV Awards we did, it was enjoyable to do, that was an opportunity to shock a complete lot of individuals at one time. Music shouldn’t be immutable, it’s natural, and whereas there are some songs we by no means change reside, that was one that would do with just a little transferring round.”

The reside model of “Drive” was launched on the bonus disc of rarities and B-sides that got here with particular editions of In Time: The Better of R.E.M. 1988-2003. Regardless of “Drive”’s standing as a success single, the unique recording was left off the primary version, in addition to the career-spanning compilation, Half Lies, Half Coronary heart, Half Fact, Half Rubbish 1982-2011 – out-shouldered by Computerized for the Individuals’s different notable singles.

But it surely remained a reside favourite via to the tip of R.E.M.’s performing days, and the band ultimately reverted to enjoying “Drive” in a rendition that extra intently resembled the unique recording. It was considered one of 5 Computerized choices the group carried out at its final full concert in 2008 in Mexico Metropolis. “Drive” was performed early within the present, once more serving to to set the tone.

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