Heroes III

My third hero in row is Mr. Michael Stipe. I talked about him and R.E.M. already at length on this blog, so there’s not much for me left to say. Somehow I never really came to know much about Stipe, although he always was in my life somehow. It was not until the last couple of weeks that I started to read a lot about him and the band and trying to understand more about all this. A strange thing somehow, to be able to call somebody your hero without knowing much about him. But somehow that worked out quite well – maybe it was more about what his music and his appearance triggered in me, than what his lifestyle would have told me. A different kind of hero, but nonetheless my hero.


Day 01: Top five favourite bands & musicians.

Ok, this decision wasn’t too hard, because there always will be this big five in my heart:

  • The Beatles – because they were my first real music love and I know every album and can sing along to every single song of theirs.
  • Oasis – because it was the logical conclusion after being a Beatles fan for years and because, as born in the early 80s, being in the middle of Britpop when I grew to be teenager. This vain bastards just rock my world.
  • Green Day – my first digression into Punk Rock and also a big love since early teenage years.
  • R.E.M. – a band I discovered a little later on. I don’t know them as well as The Beatles or Oasis but they always accompanied me through life.
  • Tocotronic – the only German band on my list, even though I got into “Hamburger Schule” quite strong for some time. When I listen to Tocotronic many lovely teenage memories come to my mind and Tocotronic kind of grew with me, from this wild Punk boys to something a little bit more grown-up.

The End of Dreams.

“Rapid eye movement sleep is a normal stage of sleep characterized by the random movement of the eyes. (…) REM sleep in adult humans typically occupies 20–25% of total sleep. (…) During REM, the activity of the brain’s neurons is quite similar to that during waking hours. (…) Vividly recalled dreams mostly occur during REM sleep.” (Wikipedia)

I try to remember the first time I got in touch with R.E.M.’s music. It must have been quite early in my life, but I can’t seem to get hold of a particular moment. I think my sister had one of their albums in her record collection and maybe this was the first time – me going through her stuff and finally playing the record. If I’m not totally wrong, I think it was “Life’s Rich Pageant”. And it must have been the early 1990’s.

The first R.E.M. album I bought was “New Adventures in HI – FI” – and this was a moment in my life I remember quite vividly: I surely bought it at the record store in the town I went to school. Brought it home and played it on my small CD-player. I remember sitting in my childhood-bedroom, listening to it over and over again and thinking: “This is something absolutely different. This is thrilling.”

It must have been 1997, I was 14some years before I had discovered the Beatles and was absolute addicted to them. But I was starting to spread my view, got into Punk and listened a lot to Green Day, The Levellers and some Sex Pistols. R.E.M. had been some kind of background noise all the time – they were all over the radio and music television and I always liked their music. But it was not until then, that I really wanted to now more, hear more.

I bought some of their other albums – “Automatic To The People”,  “Monster” and “Reckoning” as vinyl. And starting with “Up” every record they released over the years to come. My record collection of R.E.M. absolutely isn’t complete and I also can’t say, that I heard all the songs they made. I always wanted to, but other bands came in the way. When I look back, I had some very intense music crushes in my teenage years and strangely it was never as intense with R.E.M. – which doesn’t mean I didn’t liked them as much or wasn’t fan enough. I really think I was and am – but there is something different about them and their music. They’ve been there for such a long time (I was born 1983, they started making muic 1981) and they seemed to always be there. It kind of felt like family to me. I knew I always could come back to them and feel at home.

Then, on 8th of July 1999, I was lucky enough to see R.E.M. live at the Viennese Staatsoper. It’s the best location you can imagine for a concert – this old place with it’s golden adornments, red carpets and wooden seats holds so much grandeur and elegancy in it, that if you combine it with, what seems quite the opposit, a rock-concert, you get an atmosphere that’s breath taking.

At first, my sister, who always accompanied me willingly to all sorts of concerts when my parents didn’t approve of me as old enough to go there alone, and I didn’t seem to lucky. All tickets were sold months before the concerts and I didn’t saw a chance for us. I nearly had forgotten about the concert when one day shortly before the date of the concert, my sister called me, standing in line in front of a ticket office. She had heard on the radio, that there were tickets left and that they would be sold now. So my wonderful big sister waisted no time and went there to stand in line with many other hopeful fans. And we got lucky!

I remember being very nervous on the day of the concert. I remember my sister buying me the program, with many pictures of R.E.M. in it and I remember of being in a state of absolute happiness. We had amazing seats on which my sister must have spent a fortune. We sat on the very right side, in the fourth row in front of the stage. There was a big old-fashioned carpet on the floor of the stage and many vintage looking amplifiers with little toy dinosaurs on it. Beeing in the middle of my Punk phase I wore a bright yellow t-shirt with Snoopy on it (don’t ask me why) and my hair was dyed in a beamy green color, tuned up into thorny spikes. I was 16, my face covered with pimples and I must have looked really out of place.

The concert was amazing. They were brilliant and Michael Stipe just made my day with his exceptional eye-make-up, his massiv stage presence and his outlandish dancing moves. I was as happy as one can get – ever. Then they played “Everybody Hurts”. I love this song very much, but back then it meant the world to me. It was about everything I felt in this crazy years of adolescence and it always comforted me that it should be that everybody felt the same some times. And that I maybe wasn’t alone.

I took the courage and waved to Stipe, when he was looking in our direction during the song. And something amazing happend: He looked me right in the eye and smiled. I still get shivers when I think about that and the following moments: As the song ended, Stipe walked to the very right side of the stage and gestured to come to him in my direction. I didn’t move – I couldn’t even begin to think, that he meant me, it was not an option to me. He gestured again, and as I still wasn’t moving he climbed down the stage, walking through the star struck crowed right on to me.

I never believed in blackouts and I still am skeptic about the concept. But I had one back then. I still can’t remember what happended next. The thing I do know, is that I suddenly held in hands the lyrics of “Everybody hurts”, that my sister and the people around me were kind of hysterical screaming and that Stipe was moving back up the stage again. But I don’t have any memory of him giving the sheet of paper to me. My sister later explained, that he made his way through to me, handing me the sheet with the lyrics on it, and that some girls in front of us grabbed it, as I still wasn’t moving. He took the sheet away from them, and again tried to give it to me. I’m relieved, that finally I must have managed to move and take it.

I don’t think that I have to explain that this was one of the most amazing moments of my life. I don’t have to mention, that I never saw a better concert and I don’t need to tell you, that I will remember this day for ever.

Four years later, in 2003, I saw them again, together with my big sister, at their open-air concert at Schloss Schönbrunn in Vienna. We both were thrilled to go there, remembering that amazing last time. But as with all things, you can’t repoduce such an astonishing evening. The concert was okay, but we weren’t so happy – standing in the very rear of the audience and filled up with the memories that didn’t wanted to be overwritten with something new.

I never saw them in concert again. But I always hold them dear to me. I remember the excitement, when their new, and now to be last, album was released this year in early spring. It felt so fresh and full of energy. I recall talking to my partner about it, and being proud of the guys for still making such great music.

Yesterday, lying in bed, chatting with my partner and checking facebook on my iPhone I saw this message of a former working colleague: “wtf? OH NO! R.E.M. split :( DISKLIKE!!! ” I first didn’t believe it. Then I paniced and told my partner about it. We both started searching the internet for more information. And it was true.

I wasn’t yet born when the Beatles split. When Oasis announced their breakup last year, it wasn’t much of a surprise to me and I just waited for their solo projects, hoping that they would be good. But it never occurred to me, that R.E.M. could do the same. As mentioned before, they were my constant. They were always there. I really was in shock as the news came through to me last evening and I’m still filled with emotions and a kind of sadness you get, when something big in your life ends. Their breakup feels like the final end of my youth, which, being 28 was coming sooner or later. A part of my family is gone, the one, that told me to hang on and that it is okay to cry sometimes.

Music & Words.

Last monday my boyfriend and I had the great chance to see Patti Smith at the Burgtheater in Vienna. First of all – this is a top location for a Rock concert and I love the special mood that arises from old and dignified walls when they open their doors for something a little different from time to time.

Some years ago (I must have been 16 back then…) I had the pleasure to see R.E.M. at the Vienna Staatsoper – it was beyond words and still my favourite concert. Back then I saw Patti Smith for the first time, not quite sure who she was. She supported R.E.M. on only two or three songs but she left a lasting impression on me. And I decided to learn more about here.

Sadely I acutally never really did, apart from listening to her now and then… there were other things for me at that time, my head and heart was all stuck in to Beatles, R.E.M., Green Day, Tocotronic or Bob Dylan – what is, when I look back now, a quite strange mixture of taste in music. But it fitted me fine back then and it always stayed with me and made me a quite wide ranged adult music lover. One that seems now ready for digging his head into her songs and work.

So – 12 years later my boyfriend, who is just reading Patti Smith’s new book “Just Kids”, took me out to see this grande dame of Punk and Rock again. And we had a great evening of music and energy and deep thankfullness that someone like Patti Smith is out there, still living her fascinating way of life. She had a quite awfull cold and drank tea all the time. Sometimes she had to start songs again because of her bad voice and now and then her voice broke a little more than usual… But it didn’t make it a bad concert – on the contrary it seemed to benefit it: Patti Smith’s whole performance is, for me, about imperfections and rawness and the fact that she was not on top of her form just made her more tangible and true.

I think Patti Smith is one of the strongest and at the same time most vulnerable women I ever saw: She takes the whole room over and shouts with her wonderfull voice for freedom and love. But she also stands there, suddenly seeming a little bit smaller and thinner than she is, crying for her dead friends and lovers. And all this makes her so special to me and to so many people. She was such a important voice of her generation and I hope she also is for ours. We couldn’t do better…