One of my top favorites off Fables, probably second after Driver 8. I love the R.E.M. train songs, and I love the speed and urgency of this song–with the discordant sounds of the chorus. It’s a great song. I’ve never known how to properly play much of it except the fairly obvious notes in the second part of the verse and the “bridge” after the chorus.
This is probably the first song I’ve done on the blog here where Peter Buck uses some effects when played live. The song was not played before Fables. I am assuming that it was written in 1985. We know Peter Buck had the Ibanez UE400 multi effects unit since the early 80s.* That is probably how he got his sound on this song–the distortion may have been supplied from this unit or from the Mesa Boogie amp he used on this tour. I think the distortion from Ibanez UE400 sounds pretty good on this song when I try to replicate it. He was trying to get some noise, so maybe he has the compressor on. Not sure that it sounds like he has the chorus on.
You can really see what he is playing here in the beginning of the song in the 1985 West Germany video (I love that Mapleglow Ric he’s playing with 3 pickups–I know he had that one early on since he plays it in the February 1982 Atlanta video – they had been a band for less than one year at that point):
Hand position is confirmed in the Meredith College video:
One thing is clear from the videos–when Peter Buck plays this live, he is not worrying about hitting each of the notes in the first part of the verse like he does on the studio version. He’s just banging all the strings and jamming out!
It looks like he does not move his hand on the neck for the chorus. I’ve been sliding my hand down a position to get the right sounds. But in the videos, Peter Buck is clearly not moving his hand. See 48:50 in the West Germany Video
Bridge After the Chorus:
Here at 49:00 in the West Germany video we can see clearly how this is played–not too difficult. Just on the bottom two strings. In the live versions, he bends that last note.
So putting it all together, not a bad little song–a lot of fun to play live, too. Fast.
*Peter Buck plays a custom black Telecaster: a Rickenbacker 330 hollow-body “for rhythm and more rock ‘n’ roll loud stuff; and a Fender Telecaster thin-line with an t-hole. He also has a Guild electric-acoustic, and a Rickenbacker 360 twelve-string. The studio amp is a Fender Twin Reverb; onstage Buck uses a Simul-Class Mesa Boogie with a Sa/Boo 4×12” speaker cabinet. He likes heavy-gauge Dean Markley strings, “.013 at the high end, .058 at the low end. The thicker the strings are, the more resonant tone you get, like an acoustic guitar. I put new tuning heads on; I use Gotoh, and Schallers are pretty good.” He doesn’t use his Ibanez 4001E effects unit that much. There’s fuzz on “Feeling Gravitys Pull”; a chorus effect “I have on every once in a while to get that little ringy sound, and a compressor I use only if I want to get feedback or noise.” His acoustic guitars are “cheapo Yamaha imitations.”
History Of R.E.M., “Fables Of The Reconstruction”, By Scoft Isler, Musician Magazine, Photography by Steve Marsel, July 17, 1985
Peter Buck has only two main guitars, a Rickenbacker 330 and 301 [is this supposed to be a 360?] both dated 1981, that he puts through a Fender Twin Reverb amplifier with two JBL speakers. He also uses a 12-string ’81 Rickenbacker in the studio and has a 1981 Gretsch Chef Atkins Tennessean at his disposal. Besides the Twin Reverb, Buck has a Marshall amp that he sometimes borrows from his producer Mitch Easter to make a more heavy metal racket. As for effects, he has only one- an lbanez VE400 [sic–should be a UE400] pedal that he uses live though he isn’t too sure what it actually does.
R.E.M. Hits It Big With “Murmur”, 07.12.84, Musician Magazine