Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Second Guessing

Second Guessing used to be one of my least favourite songs on Reckoning. A lot of the things I loved about early R.E.M. songs – the obscure lyrics, the discordant chord changes – were missing from this song. I've also always found the production of this song very trebly and thin, like there is no bottom end. That said, I find this an exciting song to hear played live and I thought it sounded great at the Dublin rehearsals.

The hardest thing about covering this song was getting the guitar sound right. On the album it sounds, to me, like there are layers and layers of guitars all playing the same thing. So I went for the same approach, playing it four times and panning each one slightly differently.

I've often played this on guitar but only recently did I play along with the album version and realised just how fast it is. Fortunately there are no intricate guitar parts so I was able to record it in real time.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018


The first time I heard this song was on a 1982 bootleg of their Merlins, Madison show in April of that year. I instantly fell in love with the song thinking the "easy come, easy go" part was hit single material and it baffled me that the song was never included on an album. But, as time has gone on I've realised my first impressions were a bit over-the-top. There's not been another live or recorded version since that has matched it (with the possible exception of the recently leaked Murmur demos). I strongly dislike the Eponymous version, which completely zaps the song of everything I once loved about it. I consider it massively over-produced.

So my aim was to stay more true to the Murmur demo version. I actually found this song really difficult to work out on guitar and then play. The riff is easy enough although would sound so much better on a Rickenbacker, but the verse involves some awkward chord shapes that are hard to reach and it's only very recently that I figured out what is going on in the middle 8.

Working on this song has made me realise it's quite sparse, there's really not that much to it. So this, coupled with the obscure lyrics (which Stipe himself couldn't sing with a straight face at the 2007 Dublin shows!), might explain why the band abandoned it. I do think, in the hands of a more mainstream band and with more accessible lyrics, this could have been a minor 80's hit!

Monday, 6 August 2018


I don't know why I've left it so long to cover this song. I think it's just because I've always struggled with playing this on guitar, I've followed guitar tablatures online and it's never quite sounded right. In terms of guitar style it's very much along the lines of 7 Chinese Brothers and Green Grow The Rushes but with this one it's imperative you mute the G string otherwise it sounds awful (note how Peter Buck keeps making this mistake on the 1985 Athens demo).

It's also ridiculously fast! It's not the easiest song to play anyway but at the pace of the album version it's close to impossible.

I may be wrong, but I can't recall this song ever being played live after the 1986 Pageantry tour which strikes me as odd as they played it live frequently in 1984 and 1985 before the song even made it on to an album. Maybe they just got tired of playing it.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Shaking Through

To cut a long story short this recent batch of backing tracks is born out of a desire to feature my new 12 string acoustic guitar in one of my recordings! So I racked my brain for R.E.M. songs that I hadn't already covered that feature, or would benefit from, a 12 string acoustic guitar part. Annoyingly, the main one, Swan Swan H, I had already completed a while back. 

I'm 75% sure that Shaking Through uses a 12 string acoustic guitar, either that or it's Peter Buck's 12 string Rickenbacker but with very little amplification. Either way I saw an opportunity! I also like the way the two lead instruments, guitar and piano are panned far left and far right leaving plenty of room for the bass guitar in the middle. Putting together the piano part was quite laborious but I think I've got it pretty close.

The 12 string acoustic being a clunky instrument to play I'll admit to recording the guitar part at a slower speed and then speeding it up afterwards. That riff in the first verse and at the end of the middle 8 is played way too fast for me to perform it in real time. Stuff like this further discredits Peter Buck's claim that he wasn't very competent on guitar when they first started out.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Time After Time

Though I suspect Time After Time is often regarded as one of the weaker songs on Reckoning I have always had a soft spot for this song from the moment I first heard it. I always liked it when R.E.M. slowed things down in their early days and, while this is nowhere near as strong as Perfect Circle, I do think it's a lovely song and a nice sonic departure from the rest of the songs on side 1 of Reckoning.

This was always going to be quite a complex song to put together and yet I was determined to get it right. From the way the tribal drums are panned right to the way the ringing guitars fluctuate in volume sporadically throughout the song I wanted to pay attention to these little details. I learnt early on that the song is played with a capo on the first fret which explains why I could never play along with the CD previously (incidentally Harborcoat is also performed in a different key on the album version).

The only thing I'm still not happy about is the loud acoustic strum that introduces the song and then repeats throughout the verses. I did this on a 12 string acoustic but on the album it sounds far more eastern-sounding.