March 18, 2007

Country feedback

I went on a girls’ weekend in the gorgeous mountains of Colorado (some of them; we have many) and I was happily tasked with being the mixmaster for the affair. It was an event rife with some possibly questionable choices in the name of fun on my part (Journey), but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But that was in the car and for the going out. This stunning gem was just mine, from a moment of solitude. Very early Saturday morning I couldn’t sleep for some horrid reason, so I got up and went out on the porch of the lodge for some sitting and music-listening and looking, a favorite hobby of mine when I have time for it. As the sun rose over the mountains, this perfect song (one of my favorites) came on and it was a near ten minutes of flawless, bittersweet perfection:

Country Feedback (live) – R.E.M.
(with Neil Young on second guitar, at Bridge School Benefit 1998, also released as fan club single)

Admittedly I have been on something of an R.E.M. kick lately, but this one just popped up on my iPod on random out of the 11,000. Michael Stipe says at the beginning that (out of all the fine offerings from their 20+ year career), this is his “particular favorite R.E.M. song” — it’s easy here to see why. Gorgeous. I love the opportunity that solitude affords to really *listen* to a song, and I couldn’t help but think as this one played (a few times on loop) how a song like this is a perfection example of Stipe’s cryptic lyricism; the juxtaposition of the seemingly meaningless alongside the profound.

This flower’s scorched
This film is on
On a maddening loop
These clothes,
These clothes don’t fit us right and I’m to blame
It’s all the same, it’s all the same

You come to me with a bone in your hand
You come to me with your hair curled tight
You come to me with positions
You come to me with excuses
Ducked out in a row
You wear me out, you wear me out

We’ve been through fake-a-breakdown
Self hurt, Plastics, collections
Self help, self pain,
EST, psychics, fuck all

I was central, I had control
I lost my head
I need this, I need this

A paper weight, junk garage
Winter rain, a honey pot
Crazy, all the lovers have been tagged

A hotline, wanted ad
It’s crazy what you could’ve had
It’s crazy what you could’ve had
It’s crazy what you could’ve had
I need this
I need this

Even the times when I don’t exactly know what Stipe is saying, I kind of know what he means.

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  • Geez, I haven’t heard that song in 10 years. Thanks for making me call it up in my collection. It saddens me sometimes that I have so much music that some songs just get overlooked. At some point I need to stop and listen to what I already have.

    Phil — March 19, 2007 @ 1:04 am

  • Phil, I know exactly what you mean. When I get a chance, I usually just put the iPod on shuffle to remember all the excellent stuff I have that I forget to listen to. And gems like this one pop up! So glad you enjoyed it too.

    heather — March 19, 2007 @ 6:20 am

  • HB, nice pic and great song. One of me favorites for years. Learned to play it on acoustic guitar. Need someone to play to distorted slide guitar with it.

    I’ve always loved the song too. But I have no idea what it means. Being a lyrical archaeologist, that kills ME!

    Anyone know what he’s talking about. I imagine a break-up, drug use, or maybe just co-dependency. Nonetheless, like you say HB, I feel it in me bones even though I know not what Stipe means.

    Matthias Treml — March 19, 2007 @ 6:33 am

  • Matthias, check this slightly-tongue-in-cheek site out – REM Song Meanings FAQ

    I have no idea what it “means,” but the central theme that always sticks out for me is just the unabashed longing of the way he sings “I need this” and the unfulfilled possibilities of “crazy what you could’ve had.”

    heather — March 19, 2007 @ 6:46 am

  • For lovers of that particular tune, check out disc two from In Time:The Best of. It’s a great live version with alt. lyrics at the top of the song. Thanks for the post, this is one of the fan club tracks I have been desperately searching for. Great Post. (Oh, and Stipe’s been known to claim many tunes as ‘his favorite REM song’, one that constantly comes to mind is Fall On Me. Although for my money, Country Feedback takes the cake)

    Anonymous — March 19, 2007 @ 7:04 am

  • hi gang,

    in the newest rolling stone magazine, peter buck says these lyrics were written by stipe as a love letter that he never mailed, but decided to sing instead. i think bill berry actually wrote the song, but i could be wrong with that. really fun post. oh, the memories!

    wwjblog — March 19, 2007 @ 7:19 am

  • brilliant song, one of REM’s best. A BLAST to play!

    Tsuru — March 19, 2007 @ 7:48 am

  • My favorite R.E.M. song as well . . . .

    jennings — March 19, 2007 @ 8:24 am

  • Where’d you guys go?

    JJ — March 19, 2007 @ 10:33 am

  • That’s a beautiful photo. Wish I was there.

    Eric — March 19, 2007 @ 9:31 pm

  • Well, I’m going to put that song on right away. I had forgotten how much I love that song. Simply stunning. I got shivers just by reading the last lines in the lyrics. It also fitted really great with the song that I were listening to: Explosions in the Sky : The First Breath After Coma.

    But now, Country Feedback.

    Stian — April 30, 2009 @ 8:36 am

  • I had a friend in college who swore by this one, and for a while I thought he was nuts. But in revisiting OOT recently, I’ve come to see the error of my opinion. Maybe not their best – “I Believe,” for example, never leaves my player. But “Country Feedback” is a great one.

    Nick — April 30, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

  • Wow.

    spookycat — April 30, 2009 @ 4:37 pm

  • Thanks for the reminder H!

    Shannon — May 1, 2009 @ 4:55 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
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—Hunter S. Thompson

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