The venerable Pylon cover by REM:
REM’s version is a little different. I love Pylon, and I really like the original. Some argue that REM’s version was even better than the original. Certainly, it exposed the song to a wider audience. I can see the argument, but I think Pylon’s version rocks! And I know that the energy of Pylon playing live really inspired REM*. It inspires me as well. Can you deny this energy? But this blog is about the REM version, not the Pylon version.
I’d never even heard this song when someone taught it to me at a church retreat (yes, in middle school and high school I lugged my Fender Strat and extremely heavy Fender twin to almost all church retreats–and acoustic where that was not possible–my parents probably figured if that encouraged me to go, then why not).
Was what I learned from him all those years ago right? I know that Pylon used alternate tuning, but I learned it in standard tuning. Here is REM playing it in later years:
It is hard to make out much anything here except hand position and the “D” chord which is the last chord in the in the chorus. All of this is positive confirmation of what I was playing. The major difference between this version and the original Pylon song is the note Pylon’s guitarist, Randy Bewley, played on the high E string in the verse at the end of each repetition (watching Randy Bewley closely and listening, I think it is an Am chord, with the high E emphasized). I think that by leaving it out, Peter Buck created a less discordant version. I am not partial to either–just making the observation.
Here is a 1989 video
There is nothing here except more hand positions–especially during the “lead” riff. The sound was a little iffy. That’s all I could find live.
It seems to justify the way I had been shown how to play it. Not sure where that guy was from. Maybe he had seen them numerous times and watched Peter Buck play it. That was often the case in those days.
To more closely examine the song and especially the lead we can examine Pylon again and ask how did Randy Bewley play it (considering that we know Pylon used alternate tuning, of course)? After all, the way Randy Bewley played it would certainly have been well known to Peter Buck. Live, all I could find was a 2008 video shot not long before Bewley’s tragic and untimelydeath:
Judging from the way Randy Bewley is playing it above, the guy who taught me this learned it by seeing Pylon. And I realize there is probably no alternate tuning here.
Not sure you can see much here, but it is interesting:
So one big takeaway is that Pylon has 5 parts to the song. REM only does 4 of them. They exclude what I term the “Listen” section of the song (though this is a variation on the chorus, it is the same chords played differently). Another is the solo riff. Peter Buck has truncated it and combined it in a way with the Pylon “Listen” section. Peter Buck plays the riff through once, then the second time only plays half of it and ends on the D chord. Pylon’s lead singer, Vanessa Briscoe Hay, sings the chorus through the lead solo riff. Michael Stipe does not (though he does make some noise). Peter Buck starts the solo riff right after the bridge. Randy Bewley plays a verse after the bridge and then plays the solo riff.
I like Pylon’s version a lot–it makes the original song what the original song is–great. But we are going with the REM version here.
Part 1: Verse & “Listen” part
Part 2: Chorus
Part 3: Bridge
Part 4: Lead riff
The 2nd & 4th times through, play it halfway and then end it with the D chord
And you get the REM cover of a great Pylon tune:
*With some help from the members of R.E.M., Pylon’s reputation as one of the great underground bands of the new wave era was solidified in 1987. When Rolling Stone named R.E.M. “America’s Best Band” in November 1987, R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry said, “We’re not the best rock ‘n’ roll band in America.” Pylon, he said, was the best. Wikipedia
REM playing Crazy in 1983 and Michael Stipe saying Pylon is about to break up: