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REM's 'Radio Free Europe' joins National Recording Registry



R.E.M.'s first big hit, 1981's Radio Free Europe, is among the 2009 inductees into the National Recording Registry.

Criteria for this honor are that the song or recording be"culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" and be at least 10 years old ... or include the nearly incomprehensible mutterings of Michael Stipe, I guess. (Seriously, though, I'm an R.E.M. and Radio Free Europe is a good start on honoring the band, even if it wouldn't be the first song that comes to mind.)

"The original Hib-Tone single of this song set the pattern for later indie rock releases by breaking through on college radio in the face of mainstream radio's general indifference," the registry said in the induction of the R.E.M. single. "Although a more elaborately produced version of the song appeared on the band's first album Murmur, the original -- recorded by Let's Active frontman Mitch Easter -- maintains a raw immediacy that undoubtedly contributed to its overwhelmingly favorable critical reception. Singer Michael Stipe's elliptical lyrics and guitarist Peter Buck's arpeggiated open chords would not only become signatures of the band's future output, but they added greatly to the song's enigmatic appeal."

There are 300 songs now in the registry, with 25 new ones added this year. (Other honorees include Willie Nelson and Tupac Shakur.) Follow the link below to see what '80s recordings are already inducted.

'80s RECORDINGS IN NATIONAL RECORDING REGISTRY (By year; including official comments from the registry):

He Stopped Loving Her Today,  George Jones (1980): George Jones has said that he initially thought “He Stopped Loving Her Today” was too sad to be very popular, but, at one of the lowest points of his career and personal life, he made it one of country music’s most defining and enduring songs. Billy Sherrill’s restrained production highlighted the plaintive yet highly nuanced vocals that are the hallmark of Jones’ mature style but which also stretch back to his days singing for tips in the streets of his hometown, Beaumont, Texas, in the 1940s. Selected for the 2008 registry.

Thriller, Michael Jackson (1982): Michael Jackson’s second album with legendary producer Quincy Jones attained stratospheric national and international success. Featuring outstanding guest performances by Paul McCartney on “The Girl is Mine” and Eddie Van Halen on “Beat It,” the album’s influence on the record industry and subsequent popular music is immeasurable. The album also includes the strong disco-inflected “Billie Jean” and the compelling title track “Thriller,” featuring an eerie voice-over by Vincent Price. Jackson’s keen pop sensibilities, the performances by a wide range of talented musicians and Quincy Jones’ expert production all contributed to making “Thriller” the best-selling album of all time. Selected for the 2007 registry.

The Message, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (1982): Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five was a pivotal group in the early days of rap, developing crucial aspects of the genre. Their 1982 hit, "The Message," is significant because of its focus on urban social issues--a course followed by many later rap artists. Selected for the 2002 registry.

Recordings of Asian elephants, Katharine B. Payne (1984): Katharine B. Payne's recordings of Asian elephants revealed that the animals use infrasonic sounds to communicate with one another. Such acoustic monitoring of the mammals has provided important insights into the mechanisms by which matrilineal groups of elephants maintain distance among one another over time and how males locate receptive females. In addition, the use of recordings has proven a very effective method for surveying populations of elephants. It has opened new windows into the complex lives of elephants and provided a tool for conservation. The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at Cornell University holds this important collection. Selected for the 2004 registry.

Graceland, Paul Simon (1986): On "Graceland," Paul Simon not only incorporated a great number of musical styles, including zydeco, Tex-Mex and African vocal music, but also showcased the talents of many accomplished musicians. The recording features Linda Ronstadt, Adrian Belew, Los Lobos, the Everly Brothers and Youssou N’dour. The album is probably best known for Simon’s collaboration with the South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. “Graceland” fueled that group’s rise to international fame. Selected for the 2006 registry.

Daydream Nation, Sonic Youth (1988): Pioneer members of New York City's clangorous early 1980s No Wave scene, Sonic Youth are renowned for a glorious form of noise-based chaos. Guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo had previously performed with Glenn Branca's large guitar ensembles, and their alternative guitar tunings and ringing harmonies attest to this apprenticeship. On "Daydream Nation," their breakthrough album, the group's forays into outright noise always return to melodic songs that employ hypnotic arpeggios, driving punk rock rhythmic figures and furious gales of guitar-based noise. Bassist Kim Gordon's haunting vocals and edgy lyrics add additional depth to the numbers she sings. Selected for the 2005 registry.

[Last modified: Thursday, June 24, 2010 7:14am]


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