Michael Stipe Reveals Sad Concert Attendance


R.E.M frontman Michael Stipe recently revealed how the band played for a show to an audience of a few people. On the latest episode of the Broken Record Podcast, Stipe recalled the experience of opening for The Police at Shea Stadium in 1983 after three years of playing small venues.

Michale Stipe reveals playing for seven people

The band is regarded as one of the first alternative rock bands but they had previously spent seven years incessantly working the underground club circuit before catching the big break.As a result, R.E.M. was already a well-experienced, professional group when they swapped playing local clubs for selling out huge venues.

During the podcast, Stipe explained that his distinct vocal style was developed along a similar contrarian vein  although the people he was opposing were his own bandmates. He then revealed how nobody knew about R.E.M and they played for few people at the clubs. He further revealed how they were disrespected by the audience on several shows.

Stipe said:

“We were playing clubs to seven people… Nobody knew who R.E.M. Nobody cared. And that’s fine. It was just it was like throwing raw meat to dogs. [The audience] had no idea who we were. We were on and off before they could get angry and like throw bottles at us.”

He then reflected on adjusting his singing style according to the band members. Stipe said that he started singing slowly and that became his style. Here is what he said:

“And you know, everything was very [tight], very like Ramones speed at that point with R.E.M. So actually, I kind of developed a singing style because the band refused to play slower than they did. Mike [Mills, bassist] really loved the Ramones and really loved a really fast bass part. So everything was really like rockabilly, Ramones kind of fast. And I got tired of singing that fast and I thought it was boring.

“So I started slowing down my part. It’s one thing I could do, they wouldn’t slow down. So I slowed down my part and that actually became a singing style for me. By the time we recorded our first album and a song like talking about the passion, they were playing everything really fast and gangly, and I was just singing very, very slowly and holding my vowels and that became something like a singing style, I guess.”