Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tricky Beats: Untitled 11th Track

R.E.M.: Untitled


I should preface this post by saying that I don't play any instruments, can't read music, and know nothing of time signatures or any other technical musical jargon. That's why most of my writing here and at my own site tends to deal more with the story behind the music, the history of the artist, or some personal connection I have to the music itself.

I must apologize then if this song is in 4/4 time. I really don't know if it is or if it isn't. I just know it has what I consider to be a tricky beat... or at least a strange one. At least one member of R.E.M agrees with me.

Peter Buck does not play drums. Not usually anyway. He's the guitar slinger... the axe man. But on this song... the untitled hidden track on 1988's Green... R.E.M.'s usual drummer Bill Berry relinquished the reigns of the drum kit to his friend Buck.

The story goes that Buck was messing around on the drums and somehow came up with the beat for this song. When it came time to record the song for Green, Berry attempted to duplicate Buck's beat, but couldn't get it quite right.

Buck explained the track to music reporter Julie Panebianco thusly. "I don't think you can listen to the record without realizing which song it is that I play drums on. Bill is still amazed. He says it's impossible to play that drum part, not that it's hard, it's just so bad, no one can play it perfectly all the way through. It's one thing to make a mistake like that, but it's another thing to do it on purpose."

So that's it. The story of one of the more unique beats in the R.E.M. discography. As for why the song itself doesn't have a title? I have no idea.

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