Saturday, 6 October 2018

R.E.M. - Automatic For The People

Automatic for the People

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Automatic for the People
R.E.M. - Automatic for the People.jpg
Studio album by R.E.M.
ReleasedOctober 5, 1992[1]
RecordedLate 1991 – mid 1992 at various locations
LabelWarner Bros.
R.E.M. chronology
The Best of R.E.M.
Automatic for the People
The Automatic Box

Singles from Automatic for the People
  1. "Drive"
    Released: October 1, 1992
  2. "Man on the Moon"
    Released: November 21, 1992
  3. "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite"
    Released: February 5, 1993
  4. "Everybody Hurts"
    Released: April 15, 1993
  5. "Nightswimming"
    Released: July 15, 1993
  6. "Find the River"
    Released: October 21, 1993
Automatic for the People is the eighth studio album by American alternative rock band R.E.M., released on October 5, 1992 by Warner Bros. Records. Upon release, it reached number two on the US albums chart and yielded six singles. The album has sold 18 million copies worldwide and has been received well by critics.


Background and recording[edit]

What would become Automatic for the People had its origins in the mixing sessions for R.E.M.'s previous album Out of Time, held at Paisley Park Studios in December 1990. There, demos for "Drive", "Try Not to Breathe" and "Nightswimming" were recorded.[4] After finishing promotional duties for Out of Time, the members of R.E.M. began formal work on their next album. Starting the first week of June,[5] guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills, and drummer Bill Berry met several times a week in a rehearsal studio to work on new material. Once a month they would take a week-long break. The musicians would often trade instruments: Buck would play mandolin, Mills would play piano or organ and Berry would play bass. Buck explained that writing without drums was productive for the band members.[6] The band, intent on delivering an album of harder-rocking material after Out of Time, made an effort to write some faster rock songs during rehearsals, but came up with less than a half-dozen prospective songs in that vein.[7]
The musicians recorded the demos in their standard band configuration.[6] According to Buck, the musicians recorded about 30 songs. Lead singer Michael Stipewas not present at these sessions; instead, the band gave him the finished demos at the start of 1992.[8] Stipe described the music to Rolling Stone early that year as "[v]ery mid-tempo, pretty fucking weird [...] More acoustic, more organ-based, less drums".[9] In February, R.E.M. recorded another set of demos at Daniel Lanois' Kingsway Studios in New Orleans.[10]
The group decided to create finished recordings with co-producer Scott Litt at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York, starting on March 30.[11] The band recorded overdubs in Miami and New York City. String arrangements were recorded in Atlanta.[12] After recording sessions were completed in July, the album was mixed at Bad Animals Studio in Seattle.[5]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Despite R.E.M.'s initial desire to make an album of rocking, guitar-dominated songs after Out of Time, music critic David Fricke noted that instead Automatic for the People "seems to move at an even more agonized crawl" than the band's previous release.[7] Peter Buck took the lead in suggesting the new direction for the album.[12] The album dealt with themes of loss and mourning inspired by "that sense of [...] turning 30", according to Buck. "The world that we'd been involved in had disappeared, the world of Hüsker Dü and The Replacements, all that had gone [...] We were just in a different place and that worked its way out musically and lyrically."[13] "Sweetness Follows", "Drive", and "Monty Got a Raw Deal" in particular expressed much darker themes than any of the band's previous material and "Try Not to Breathe" is about Stipe's maternal grandmother dying.[14]
The songs "Drive", "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite", "Everybody Hurts" and "Nightswimming" feature string arrangements by former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. Fricke stated that "ballads, in fact, define the record", and noted that the album featured only three "rockers": "Ignoreland", "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" and "Man on the Moon".[7]
"It pretty much went according to plan," Litt reported. "Compared to Monster, it was a walk in the park. Out of Time had an orchestral arrangement—so, when we did Automatic, judging where Michael was going with the words, we wanted to scale it down and make it more intimate."[15]


The album name refers to the motto of Athens, Georgia eatery, Weaver D's Delicious Fine Foods.[16] The photograph on the front cover is not related to the restaurant: it shows a star ornament that was part of the sign for the Sinbad Motel on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami, near Criteria Studios, where the bulk of the album was recorded. The motel is still there, but the star is not. The slanted support where it was once attached is still present.[17] "The album was going to be called Star at one point, hence the object on the cover that Michael had photographed and really dug," Scott Litt told Mojo. "It helps to have some kind of focus in the studio, so the photo was stuck up."[15]
The interior jacket shows a two–three story circular platform that was the sign for the old Bon Aire Motel on the former Motel Row on Miami Beach. The Bon Aire and other motel row establishments have mostly been demolished for new high-rise condominiums.
The front cover of the album shows a greyed-out photograph of a Miami motel sign placed over an embossed image, which is also included inside the album's booklet distorted on a white background. The back cover features a photograph of an old building with the track listing written over at the same angle from which the building is viewed. Other photographs, taken by Anton Corbijn, feature the band members on a beach.
The compact disc was issued in a jewel case with an odd yellow translucent spine/CD tray. The cassette shell was also issued with the same color. The yellow was made to match the colour of the CD disc. The band would later use a similar method for Monster which was released in an orange spine/CD tray (though this matched the album cover).


A live version of "Drive" recorded at this 11/19/1992 show appears on Alternative NRG.
A live version of "Drive" recorded at this 11/19/1992 show appears on Alternative NRG.
Automatic for the People was released in October 1992. In the United States, the album reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 album charts.[18] The album reached No. 1 in the United Kingdom, where it topped the UK Albums Chart on four separate occasions.[19] Despite not having toured after the release of Out of Time, R.E.M. again declined to tour in support of this album. Automatic for the People has been certified four times platinum in the US (four million copies shipped), six times platinum in the United Kingdom (1.8 million shipped), and three times platinum in Australia (210,000 shipped).[20] The album has sold 3.52 million copies in the US, according to Nielsen SoundScan sales figures as of 2017.[21]
Automatic for the People yielded six singles over the course of 1992 and 1993: "Drive", "Man on the Moon", "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite", "Everybody Hurts", "Nightswimming" and "Find the River". Lead single "Drive" was the album's highest-charting domestic hit, reaching No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. Other singles charted higher overseas: "Everybody Hurts" charted in the top ten in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.[20]
A live, harder, version of "Drive" appears on the Alternative NRG, recorded at Athens' 40 Watt Club on November 19, 1992, during an invitation-only concert supporting Greenpeace Action. A re-recorded, slower version of "Star Me Kitten", featuring William S. Burroughs, was released on Songs in the Key of X: Music from and Inspired by the X-Files.
The music videos from the album were included in Parallel.
In 2005, Warner Bros. Records issued a two-disc edition of Automatic for the People which includes a CD, a DVD-Audio disc containing a 5.1-channel surround sound mix of the album done by Elliot Scheiner, and the original CD booklet with expanded liner notes.[citation needed]
A 25th anniversary edition was released on November 10, 2017 by Craft Recordings, featuring four discs of live recordings, demos, and the album remixed in Dolby Atmos, making Automatic for the People the first music release on this format.[22]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[23]
Chicago Tribune3.5/4 stars[24]
Entertainment WeeklyA[25]
The Independent5/5 stars[26]
Los Angeles Times3.5/4 stars[27]
Q4/5 stars[30]
Rolling Stone5/5 stars[31]
R.E.M. biographer David Buckley wrote, "Automatic for the People is regarded by Peter Buck and Mike Mills, and by most critics, as being the finest R.E.M. album ever recorded."[33] Rolling Stone gave the album five stars. Reviewer Paul Evans wrote, "Despite its difficult concerns, most of Automatic is musically irresistible."[31] Melody Maker reviewer Allan Jones commented, "It's almost impossible to write about the record without mentioning the recent grim rumors concerning Stipe's health," in reference to the rumors at the time that the singer was dying of AIDS or cancer. Jones concluded his review by noting, "Amazingly, initial reactions to Automatic for the People in this particular vicinity have been mixed [...] Psshaw to them. Automatic for the People is R.E.M. at the very top of their form."[34] Ann Powers, reviewing the album for The New York Times, noted that only three of the songs on the album went beyond mid-tempo and said, "Only 'Man on the Moon' shines with a wit that balances R.E.M.'s somber tendencies." Powers finished her review by saying, "Even in the midst of such disenchantment, R.E.M. can't resist its own talent for creating beautiful and moving sounds. [...] Buck, Mills and Berry can still conjure melodies that fall like summer sunlight. And Stipe still possesses a gorgeous voice that cannot shake its own gift for meaning."[35] Guy Garcia, for Time, also noted the album's themes of "hopelessness, anger and loss".[36] Garcia added that the album proves "that a so-called alternative band can keep its edge after conquering the musical mainstream" and that it "manages to dodge predictability without ever sounding aimless or unfocussed."[36]
Automatic for the People placed third in the Village Voice Pazz & Jop year-end critics' poll.[37] The Village Voice's Robert Christgau later gave the album a three-star honorable mention rating, indicating "an enjoyable effort consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well treasure."[38] The album was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards of 1994.[39] It was later ranked number 247 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[40]Rolling Stone also ranked it at number 18 on its "100 Greatest Albums of the 90s" list. In 2006, British Hit Singles & Albums and NME organised a poll of which, 40,000 people worldwide voted for the 100 best albums ever and Automatic for the People was placed at number 37 on the list.[41] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[42]
"I'm not so crazy about 'The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite'," Buck reflected in 2001, "but overall I think it sounds great."[43] Buck added in 2003, in regard to the song, "We included this song on Automatic in order to break the prevailing mood of the album. Given that lyrically the record dealt with mortality, the passage of time, suicide and family, we felt that a light spot was needed. In retrospect, the consensus among the band is that this might be a little too lightweight."[44]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Bill Berry, except where noted.
Side one – "Drive side"
  1. "Drive" – 4:31
  2. "Try Not to Breathe" – 3:50
  3. "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" – 4:06
  4. "Everybody Hurts" – 5:17
  5. "New Orleans Instrumental No. 1" – 2:13
  6. "Sweetness Follows" – 4:19
Side two – "Ride side"
  1. "Monty Got a Raw Deal" – 3:17
  2. "Ignoreland" – 4:24
  3. "Star Me Kitten" – 3:15
  4. "Man on the Moon" – 5:13
  5. "Nightswimming" – 4:16
  6. "Find the River" – 3:50

25th Anniversary Edition[edit]

Live at the 40 Watt Club 11/19/92
  1. "Drive" – 4:51
  2. "Monty Got a Raw Deal" – 3:21
  3. "Everybody Hurts" – 7:18
  4. "Man on the Moon" – 6:27
  5. "Losing My Religion" – 4:31
  6. "Country Feedback" – 4:52
  7. "Begin the Begin" – 3:27
  8. "Fall on Me" – 3:34
  9. "Me in Honey" – 4:06
  10. "Finest Worksong" – 5:28
  11. "Love Is All Around" (Reg Presley) – 3:23
  12. "Funtime" (David Bowie, Iggy Pop) – 2:16
  13. "Radio Free Europe" – 4:39
  1. "Drive" – 4:43
  2. "Wake Her Up" ("The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" demo) – 4:37
  3. "Mike's Pop Song" – 4:33
  4. "C to D Slide 13" ("Man on the Moon" demo) – 5:35
  5. "Cello Scud" ("Sweetness Follows" demo) – 4:20
  6. "10K Minimal" ("Find the River" demo) – 3:33
  7. "Peter's New Song" – 3:15
  8. "Eastern 983111" – 4:02
  9. "Bill's Acoustic" – 2:53
  10. "Arabic Feedback" – 4:55
  11. "Howler Monkey" ("Ignoreland" demo) – 4:38
  12. "Pakiderm" ("New Orleans Instrumental No.1" demo) – 3:33
  13. "Afterthought" ("New Orleans Instrumental No.2" demo) – 3:56
  14. "Bazouki Song" ("Monty Got a Raw Deal" demo) – 3:04
  15. "Photograph" (Berry, Buck, Natalie Merchant, Mills, and Stipe) – 3:31
  16. "Michael's Organ" ("Everybody Hurts" demo) – 4:32
  17. "Pete's Acoustic Idea" – 1:05
  18. "6–8 Passion & Voc" ("Try Not to Breathe" demo) – 3:45
  19. "Hey Love" (Mike Voc / Demo) ("Star Me Kitten" demo) – 3:02
  20. "Devil Rides Backwards" – 5:16


Additional musicians
  • Scott Litt – harmonica, clavinet
  • John Paul Jones – orchestral arrangements on "Drive", "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight", "Everybody Hurts", and "Nightswimming"
  • George Hanson – conductor on "Drive", "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight", "Everybody Hurts", and "Nightswimming"
  • Denise Berginson-Smith, Lonnie Ottzen, Patti Gouvas, Sandy Salzinger, Sou-Chun Su, Jody Taylor – violin on "Drive", "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight", "Everybody Hurts", and "Nightswimming"
  • Knox Chandler, Kathleen Kee, Daniel Laufer, Elizabeth Proctor Murphy – cello on "Drive", "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight", "Everybody Hurts", "Sweetness Follows" [45], and "Nightswimming"
  • Reid Harris, Paul Murphy, Heidi Nitchie – viola on "Drive", "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight", "Everybody Hurts", and "Nightswimming"
  • Deborah Workman – oboe on "Drive", "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight", "Everybody Hurts", and "Nightswimming"
  • Scott Litt – producer, mixing engineer
  • Ed Brooks – second engineer (Seattle)
  • George Cowan – second engineer (Bearsville)
  • Adrian Hernandez -Second assistant engineer (Hollywood)
  • John Keane – recording engineer (Athens)
  • Mark Howard – second engineer (New Orleans)
  • Tod Lemkuhl – second engineer (Seattle)
  • Ted Malia – second engineer (Atlanta)
  • Stephen Marcussen – mastering engineer (Precision Mastering)
  • Clif Norrell – recording engineer, mixing engineer
  • Andrew Roshberg – second engineer (Miami)

Charts and certifications[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

RegionCertificationCertified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[69]4× Platinum280,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[70]2× Platinum100,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[71]7× Platinum700,000^
France (SNEP)[72]Platinum225,700[73]
Germany (BVMI)[74]5× Gold1,250,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[75]3× Platinum300,000^
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[76]2× Platinum200,000^
Sweden (GLF)[77]2× Platinum200,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[78]2× Platinum100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[79]7× Platinum2,350,000+^
United States (RIAA)[80]4× Platinum3,520,000[21]
*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

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