R.E.M. Lifes Rich Pageant
“I really like Lifes Rich Pageant. It was sort of an embarkation for us. It took us from willfully obscure records to a lot more clarity. Don Gehman (the producer) was certainly very interested in bringing out Michael’s voice and the sounds of all the instruments. One of the reasons we picked him was because he’d got such a good acoustic guitar sound for John Mellencamp. Then, of course, we went and made a rock record with not that many acoustic guitars, but it was a great experience.
It was a real learning experience for us. Don Gehman opened our eyes to a lot of things that we were not aware of and he forced Michael into a slightly different direction vocally, which was a good thing at the time.”
Mike Mills, Bass, Vocals
Life’s Rich Pageant was by no means REM’s most successful album. Their sixth album, Green, helped the band break into arenas while their two subsequent releases, 1991’s Out Of Time and 1992’s Automatic for the People, represented a zenith, with each album selling more than 18 million copies. However, there is a strong argument that the band reached a creative peak in their perfectly poised and deliciously confident fourth album. It marked the transition point between their indie-college roots and the international success that lay ahead. It was also the album that saw the emergence of R.E.M’s political voice with Michael Stipe’s vocals and lyrics pushed to the forefront of the band’s sound. Lifes Rich Pageant was released in July 1986 and just one year later the band were named America’s best rock ‘n’ roll band in Rolling Stone magazine. The album was the band’s biggest selling US album up to that point, reaching 21 on the billboard charts. It helped REM to move towards their status as one of the world’s biggest rock hands. Their early success inspired a generation of new bands including Nirvana and Pavement.
The album cemented the band’s reputation and set them on course for their next album Document – their first to sell a million copies. It was REM’s transitional record, one that build on the spunky, upstart energy of their first three records and hinted at the greater songwriting powers that emerged during the middle of their careers.
Lifes Rich Pageant found REM at a mid-way point in their career, moving from small clubs to large arenas, stepping out from the underground and heading into the mainstream.
Mike Mills, REM / Don Gehman, Producer / Clint Boon, Inspiral Carpets / Tim Abbott, REM Author / Doctor Paul Long, Birmingham School of Media / Mark Bettis, REM Fan (…and handy guitarist!) Dr Oliver Carter, Birmingham City University /Presenter; Ian Camfield / Assistant Producer; Oliver Carter / Exec. Producers; Andy Ashton, Mike Walsh
Here’s the full, extended interview with Mike Mills (apologies for the poor phone line);
…And this is an extended interview with the producer of the album Don Gehman;