Monday, June 16, 2008


This weekend, I listened to a lot of R.E.M. and a lot of Iron Maiden.  Weird combination, I know. But I was thinking about what each band meant to me throughout my life. More practically, both bands were playing outdoor concerts on Saturday night and I was thinking about going to one. 

While I was deciding what to do with myself that night, I had the cartoon-like experience of one imaginary friend telling me to go to one show, and another imaginary friend telling me to do the opposite thing. Well, they're not imaginary friends, they're guys I know in real life, and both of them have read No Expiration on occasion. One guy is like the quintessential R.E.M. fan, and the other is the most hard core metal dude I've ever met. I guess to over-simplify the issue, the Maiden dude would be the devil, and the R.E.M. fan... well, I don't know if you could call R.E.M. angelic, they did force Around The Sun and Reveal onto their fans. 

Maiden were one of the first bands I ever got into. I got into them around the time of Number Of The Beast, their third album, so they weren't one of these groups where you had to find all of their old stuff and spend tons of money. But they did always release cool singles with b-sides, and they always had the cool Derek Riggs artwork. They had nothing to do with the goofy hair metal of the era, they seemed serious as hell, but with a sense of humor. They seemed like the heaviest band in the world for a few years, and yet they were ambitious. Some of their songs, like "Run To The Hills," "The Trooper" and "2 Minutes To Midnight" showed a sort of social conscience that I could get with. 

R.E.M. I discovered in college, around the time of Document. It took me a while to really get into them, but once I got into them, I really got into them. They always just seemed so unusual, yet they wrote great songs. I remember being surprised whenever I heard them on rock (or pop) radio. And yet, eventually, they became a huge band, and totally on their own terms. And (like Maiden), they often released singles with cool b-sides. (I've always appreciated bands that do b-sides: it's like giving a little bit extra to the hard core fans). After Bill Berry left, I just didn't like the band as much; I wanted to, but their albums didn't really move me. I loved a few songs - notably "The Great Beyond" and "Bad Day" - but their albums left me cold. Until Accelerate. It's easily their best post-Berry album, and one of the best albums of the year. I'm actually moved whenever I listen to it. 

I guess R.E.M. is more like wine, and Maiden like beer. I love both, for different reasons. I run to R.E.M. and lift weights to Maiden. So, which show did I go to? Well, the answer is very un-rock and roll, but as I've mentioned, I haven't been able to buy all the concert tickets I'd like to, and I don't get freebies like I used to. Plus, it was raining that night (I would have hated to be at Jones Beach for R.E.M.'s show) and I'm training for a mini-triathlon, which takes a lot of time and keeps me away from my wife for a few hours a day.

So, I decided to stay home. R.E.M. is playing MSG on Thursday though, so I'll have another shot at catching them. But I'm pretty sure I'll be listening to both for as long as I'm listening to music.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Iron Maiden is better. R.E.M. sucks.