Thursday 18 March 2010

Icon #45 Michael Stipe

Topic: Most iconic Mike or Michael
Michael Stipe is, in my eyes, a complete legend.  For at least two albums REM were probably the biggest band in the world and it was those (Out of Time and Automatic for the People) that turned Stipe from indie outsider legend and into an icon.  They were already a massive band for anyone with a vaguely alternate bent, if you don't own any early REM albums get hold of the IRS years best of, it's a great place to start, but Out of Time sent them through the stratosphere.  Automatic would only serve to make them even bigger.

I guess the first time I heard REM would have been around 1987, The One I Love being probably the only tune I was aware of.  I was still pretty heavily into Queen, was discovering U2 and Led Zeppelin and had just got Appetite for Destruction, I probably wasn't quite ready for an REM phase.

The album Green literally passed me by.  I know this is a bit cack.  I have it now of course and love it.

For my eighteenth birthday, way back in 1991, my best mate and I took a trip to Liverpool and Out of Time was everywhere.  Every shop, every bar, every club.  One song to be honest, but what a song.  Losing My Religion was the track that led me to REM and that led to Stipe, this weird, almost a-sexual character, who spun lyrics around some of the greatest pop songs ever recorded over at least three albums.

Stipe is a rare beast.  Yes there's clearly a big ego, but there's never been that preachy aspect to any of the campaigning that he's done and unlike some of his peers he oozes class and intelligence.  He is one of those people that if I saw in the street I'd just be awe struck by him.  He just has a presence and dignity that you see so little of these days.  And there's talent of course, as a song writer and a performer, it's just a pity that later REM albums have suffered in the wake of Automatic.

REM gave the best performance I have ever seen by any band ever in 2005 at the Isle of Wight festival.  The sun was setting as they played Everybody Hurts and they made it feel like a camp fire sing along with thousands of us invited.  It's up there as one of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed.  This pic was taken by The Giant during their set.
Forgive the sun spot.
It was emotional and life affirming and at the centre of it was Stipe, blue stripe painted across his face, taking us through REM's back catalogue like this gig was the most important he'd ever played and not a warm up date for their UK tour.

Michael Stipe is MY most iconic Michael by some margin.  Michael Jordan was a close second and the recently deceased Michael Jackson was never in the running I'm afraid.

Stipe's star has faded in recent years.  REM albums have failed to capture the public's imagination in the same way they did nearly twenty years ago.  The bands personnel changed after Monster and the sound and direction changed as a result.  There are still tracks that are amazing, 'Daysleeper' is just one example, but Stipe continues to have an aura around him that few in the music industry have.

If you ever get a chance to see them live, take it with both hands, they are truly one of the best live acts ever, led by one of the great poets of his generation.

'My feeling is that labels are for canned food. I am what I am.  And I know what I am.' - Michael Stipe.

Tonight's post is dedicated to @QM79.*

*Yep just one person suggested him.  I am about to get lynched by twitter.  YIKES!

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