R.E.M. is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its debut single, “Radio Free Europe,” by releasing a replica of the original seven-inch vinyl 45-rpm disc.
The single, which was released on the independent Hib-Tone label in July 1981 and also included an early version of “Sitting Still,” was housed in a sleeve featuring a photo taken by R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe.
The band also is offering a limited-edition reproduction — on cassette — of its previously unreleased 1981 demo tape. It’ll be packaged as a bundle with the “Radio Free Europe” vinyl single and made available exclusively at the group’s official online store.
The cassette features early versions of “Radio Free Europe,” “Sitting Still” and the rarity “White Tornado,” with packaging that recreates Stipe’s original hand-written labels.
R.E.M. recorded the original versions of “Radio Free Europe” and “Sitting Still” with producer Mitch Easter at Easter’s Drive-In studio in Winston, North Carolina.
“We were all just kind of finger-painting,” Easter tells Rolling Stone, recalling working with the band for the first time. “They weren’t super-deliberate about anything. I loved that about the sessions.”
Mitch went on to work on R.E.M.’s 1982 debut EP Chronic Town, and their first two albums: 1983’s Murmur and 1984’s Reckoning. Murmur features updated versions of “Radio Free Europe” and “Sitting Still.”
Reflecting on the original version of “Radio Free Europe,” Easter says, “Those guys just hit the right note. There’s a lot of good stuff that falls through the cracks, or it’s discovered later and enjoyed briefly, then it goes away again. But this stuff, it just stayed alive.”
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