Dickie Felton

I write about music and football

I badgered my local record shop for weeks.

Stalking around for a piece of REM to hang in my bedroom.

Quirks Records kept their word - and a few weeks after the release - I was the proud owner of the cardboard sign advertising one of the greatest albums of all time. 

People who know my perchant for hoarding will be unsurprised to learn that after a quarter of a century, I still have the sign (pictured above with our Frank).

In 1992 I was 19 and heading off to university.

I was also one of the 18 million people to buy Automatic for the People. 

In those days only three formats were available - LP, cassette and CD. 

We'd all fallen in love with Out of Time and there was a massive sense of expectation for what REM would do next.

And in October 1992 we were about to find out. 

Everything about the new album seemed brooding and cool...

The weird pointy star ornament thing on the cover, blacks, greys, yellows, capped up letters.  

Even the title was a revelation: Automatic for the People

With the digital wasteland of today, no-one really seems to release albums anymore. At least not in the conventional sense. 

So it's difficult to explain what a huge thrill it was to go to your local record store and buy a new vinyl release (or in my case cassette).

On first play Automatic just sounded immense. 

If the first three tracks - Drive, Try Not to Breathe and The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight - don't have you dizzy with delirium, shock and awe, them nothing will. 

Everybody Hurts, the great (est?) ever song to the underdog and the lost. 

In the same year Morrissey went for a similar theme with Hold onto your Friends.

But nothing Morrissey ever released in the 90s could match the power of Everybody Hurts.

There's a lot of death in this REM album.

Try Not To Breathe is about the last agonising hours of Stipe's grandmother.

In 1992 there was death close to home and Automatic in some way offered support. 

Fifth song on Automatic is an instrumental which works like a dream. Maybe Stipe and co did it to give the listener a breather.  

Sweetness Follows, Monty Got a Raw Deal, IgnorelandStar Me Kitten...

And then one of the greatest songs ever produced by an American band - Man on the Moon

Nightswimming and Find the River crown one of the most significant albums of the 90s. If not the entire century. 

I was lucky enough to meet Michael Stipe 16 years ago in Dublin and told him what I thought of REM.

The softly spoken genius would only speak enthusiastically about my home city of Liverpool rather than the songs of Automatic. 

I got his autograph on the only thing to hand - a £20 note.

I've never spent it. Even when I've been totally skin. See pic below if you don't believe me.

December 2017 and it feels like REM are back - despite them clearly not being back.

There are documentaries and interviews.

There are even 'new' songs - as unreleased demos get an airing for the first time. 

There's boxsets, limited edition re-issues and £300 Automatic Paul Smith  tees. 

To be honest, It feels absolutely brilliant. 

Despite ending six years ago, the legacy of REM is loud and clear.

The REM website has been maintained and thrives. As does @REMHQ  Twitter.

It seems that REM HQ has done a magnificent job of maintaining what is essentially an online museum to one of music's most special bands.

It's Christmas and I'm dusting down my old REM tees, playing Automatic endlessly and teaching the next Felton generation about amazing music.

That cardboard shop sign has lasted the test of time.

Just like the album.


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