Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Two-Fer-Tuesday: Mike Mills Takes The Spotlight

Listening to the new R.E.M. album, Accelerate (which I reviewed Saturday), I was once again reminded of the importance of Mike Mills in the band's overall scheme of things. His backing vocals are once again absolute essential in creating R.E.M.'s sound, as is (of course) his innovative work on the bass.

Sure, Michael Stipe and Peter Buck get most of the press. But really, Mike Mills is the unsung hero of the group, in my opinion.

I remember the time my friend Andy, his future wife Katie and I took a roadtrip to Charlottesville, Va. to see R.E.M. perform during the Reckoning (1984) tour. We had actually watched the band perform the night before at George Washington University's Smith Center in Washington D.C., but for reasons I can't remember we were unable to get backstage in time to meet R.E.M and interview their opening act, the dB's, for our Georgetown University radio station, WGTB. (Katie was the GM, Andy was the program director and I was the music director). So we decided to head south.

This time, we were successful. Not only did we catch another great concert, but did a nice little interview with Peter Holsapple and introduced ourselves to three of the four members of R.E.M. Stipe politely declined to do a station ID for us, saying he didn't do it for any radio station. Buck was more forthcoming and did a great station ID where he acted the part of an early 70s AM DJ. (It's still in my tape collection and I may rip it for you guys some day, along with a lot of great goodies from my brushes with the great and not-so-great during my college radio years)

But the guy who seemed most down-to-earth was Mills and the three of us had a genuinely enjoyable conversation with him. Not sure what it was about, but I still rember how pleasant he was with us, despite the fact that we were lowly college kids.

Anyway, I thought I'd throw the spotlight on Mills today by highlighting two great R.E.M. songs that feature Mills on lead vocals. His voice goes with everyman persona: Nothing too special, but nothing too annoying, either. And yes, Stipe helps along both songs with his necessary contributions.

Anyway, here's to you Mike. Long may you play the bass. (And sing occasionally).

Play "Near Wild Heaven" by R.E.M.

Play "I Am Superman" by R.E.M.

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