Today is the 30th anniversary of REM's "Lifes Rich Pageant"

Originally published at:


Best REM album by far.


Buffalo Bill.

about oppression

I guess you could call acid rain oppression.


It is a wonderful album, and I’ve listened to it many times over the years, but it’s debatable as to whether it’s the best by far.

I would argue that the much-loved Reckoning and criminally underrated Fables of the Reconstruction are at least close.

Over the years Fables has emerged as my personal favourite. It has just the right blend of foreboding jangle (like the first two albums), as well as the hooks, clear vocals and tight playing of Pageant. But those clear vocals deliver lyrics as cryptic as anything on Murmur.

It took several years for me to develop a deep appreciation of Fables, whereas Pageant was love-at-first-listen. I suspect it’s similar for a lot of people, and even many who were big fans at the time may not have given Fables its due because it was so strange, right from the opening notes of Feeling Gravitys Pull.


Awesome topic, thanks!

Great example of that wonderful Mills/Stipe harmony, a sound that is featured heavily in the soundtrack to my young adult memory montage.


holy crap 30 years… I AM OLD.
I played the hell out of that and Fables way back then.


Still my favorite album of theirs. I wore out the vinyl.


All their stuff is pretty good, they were one of those rare acts where they reinvented themselves with each album and it was all worth playing. Too many acts write a hit and spend their career trying to remake that song.

Stipe has one heck of a set of pipes, hopefully he keeps on using them because he only sounds better as he ages.


One of the very few albums I’ve owned in every format I could get my hands on. An absolute favorite. Hard to pick a “best” R.E.M. album (I could make a case for Document or Automatic for the People depending on my mood) but Lifes Rich Pageant’s a masterpiece.


grumble grumble

Actually, it’s G.R.E.E.N. I’m not the type of dog that would keep you waiting, brah.


brah it's GREEN brah

In junior-high, the kids all liked Motley Crue and Slippery When Wet.

I started high-school in the fall of '88. My new friends were listening to R.E.M.
Green had just come out and Dave let me listen to Document on his walkman in I.P.S.
I dubbed it off him.

The next year, I was riding my bike around near the Vandy campus and some students were having a yardsale on their porch. I went through the records and found Violent Femmes s/t (I already had the tape), Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” 12" and their greatest hits lp, and Reckoning. I brought them to the young woman to pay. They were priced at a pittance, but when I took out my wallet, I still didn’t have enough. She let me have them all, anyway.

My first girlfriend was obsessed with playing the soundtrack tape to Athens, Georgia, Inside Out on the boombox in her kitchen, and had the poster for Eponymous above her bed. It was the first bed I ever made out with a girl on. We tried to be excited about “Losing my Religion” and “Shiny Happy People” when Out Of Time came out but something wasn’t clicking.

Three or four years ago, a record store briefly re-located to a space a few blocks from me. The stacks were all a-jumble. While flipping through the sleeves I found my copy of Lifes Rich Pageant. As a middle-aged man, I gave myself the gift of perhaps the finest R.E.M. album. In sessioning it, I was able to return to a very specific part of myself that time has tried to erode. Time is not on my side, but I can still remember.


Thanks for noting this anniversary @pesco! I bought this album on vinyl at age 14, somewhat randomly, and it probably has had a greater influence on me than any other piece of music.

Life’s Rich Pageant completely changed my view of music at the time. I didn’t have any cool friends or older brother or sister to introduce me to bands like the Replacements or Bad Brains or Husker Du or anything like that, so I just listened to whatever crap was spewing out of FM at the time.

Listening to this album, I just remember thinking, “Why don’t they play this music on the radio? Why doesn’t everyone love this? Why do people settle for shitty pop music when there’s so much better available?”

30 years later I’m still wondering those questions, but at least there’s much easier access to good music nowadays compared to back then.

I just wonder what today’s 14-year-old listens to as their musical gateway drug to something better than mainstream pop.


Full disclosure: I discovered R.E.M. via “Get A Life”. I was listening to a lot of U2 and Beatles. Hearing “Stand” knocked me out, what was this? I asked some kid at school – 7th grade – and he happened to have a spare copy of Green that he’d gotten from the Columbia House music club. I listened to that album non-stop before working my way backwards; I got Lifes Rich Pageant for Christmas and I doubt it left my CD player (and tape deck) for many months.


ha, awesome! it was definitely on the timeline I was composing in my head for my post that “Stand” was the Get A Life theme, but I cherry-picked my REM-specific memories in the interest of time and impact. Awesome show, too. [sidebar: and the source of the name of the Prince Paul/Dan the Automator project Handsome Boy Modeling School]

I’m fairly certain that my copy of GREEN was a Columbia House tape, too.

something else I left out of that post, my college buddy had this poster

He flat-out told his high-school’s librarian that this poster belonged to him and that he would be taking it, thankyouverymuch. We were all more than a little jealous.


i was a relative latecomer to them, but this was the album that made me notice them. i have friends who saw them for the Murmur tour. i’m eternally jealous.


My only chance to see them was the Monster tour. On one hand, it was sort of a weird version of R.E.M., doing their glam-rock impression. But on the other, they were touring with Grant Lee Buffalo, and the combination of the two bands was magical.


Absolutely hate to be pedantic, but the first usage of the phrase ‘life’s rich pageant’ is attributed to Arthur Marshall in a comedy monologue recorded in 1937. The Sellars reference is considerably later than this - by which time the phrase was already in common usage.

Great album though!


This song was my entry point into REM, I absolutely loved it and taped it off the radio. Slowly acquiring their albums was a delight. Reckoning was the first, I wasn’t disappointed.


Michael Stipe interviewed in Rolling Stone:

Like “Fall on Me” is still believed to be about acid rain. Initially, it was. But then I rewrote the song. If you listen to the second verse, there is a countermelody underneath it. That’s the original melody to the song; that was the part about acid rain.

In fact, the “Fall on Me” that we all know and love is not about acid rain. It’s a general oppression song, about the fact that there are a lot of causes out there that need a song that says, “Don’t smash us.” And specifically, there are references to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the guy dropping weights and feathers.