R.E.M. 30: The Airwaves

(Mike Mills at WUOG circa December 2008)

I’ve been a deejay for quite a while now. While I’m no professional, there’s a familiar pattern to playing a song, announcing dialogue, and then taking a call from a listener that you develop over time. It becomes routine. You often don’t realize that anyone is even listening in. Just play what you’ve got prepared and let it ride. This was different. People were talking back. And not just one or two. A whole planet seemed to be tuned in to our small station to hear our little tribute to R.E.M.

From France: “I met my wife during Moon River at an REM show. We danced to it at our wedding”
From Chicago: “Please play Walk Unafraid. It helped me through college.”
From Spain: “Thanks for Tom’s Diner! Makes my day. Love from Spain.”
Poland, Brazil, UK, Switzerland….

It just floored me to see all these comments popping up on the Meebo chat. People weren’t just requesting songs. They were telling stories. Stories about R.E.M., how the band touched their lives, had become part of them. Some were incredibly sad, usually “Nightswimming” requests, others were pretty funny and involved copious amounts of alcohol (“Narrator”).

A lot of laughter was shared when we played “Furry Happy Monsters.” Most of our staff had been introduced to R.E.M. via Sesame Street. When you get 20 something year old college students bouncing around like idiots in a radio station using old Flagpoles as muppets, you’ve really done something. Thankfully, no one caught that on camera!

Many a cupcake was devoured (though the few survivors are now sitting in my fridge) and we ended up receiving tons of calls to win the Finest Worksongs cds. Even the trivia questions we figured were pretty hard were answered within two minutes of us asking the question. Kudos to the lucky winners.

We hit our greatest number of listeners ever recorded online for WUOG. We even got to debut a song from an upcoming R.E.M. remaster. And William and I got to curate five hours of bootlegs, b-sides, deep cuts, and random stuff from 30 years of R.E.M. It was so much fun but nothing can compare to sharing that experience with people around the world.

When you feel a strong connection to a song, you own it. Doesn’t matter who holds the copyright, gets the royalties, wrote it… The song means something to you. Sometimes you get to find another person who feels just as strongly about it as you do. Then another. And another. And before you know it, there’s a whole group of people who can relate to one another without ever having met. You can laugh together, cry together, banter back and forth about what “Sing for the Submarine” really means…

And that’s what it’s all about. The connection. Bringing people of different backgrounds and lives together through music. Being together, en mass, in concert.

The complete setlist for R.E.M. 30 at WUOG can be found here.

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4 comments

  1. I listen only 2 hours of the marathon, but I'd have liked to listen to the whole marathon…

    It was a great marathon, I really enjoyed what I listened to and I'm looking forward REM's 40th birthday celebration.

    Thanks for all, David (Alicante, Spain).

  2. Oops, I meant to say “I listened to only 2 hours of the marathon…”. Sorry for the mistake πŸ™‚

  3. Anonymous · · Reply

    Late but sincere thanks from Finland!
    raya

  4. This post, in particular, was quite well written. I couldn't have put it better, or thought of a better point to focus on than the community that R.E.M. fosters through vehicles such as AMJ, Murmurs.com, and Athens as a whole. Thanks for this and for the significant role that you've played of late in my ever-developing R.E.M. experience. πŸ˜‰

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