Sunday, October 24, 2010

How I received permission from REM to use their lyrics in my novel

While writing Killer Commute, REM’s album Accelerate was released. The fourth song on the album is titled Mr. Richards; the music jumped out at me. I wanted to use some of the mysterious lyrics, as well as the name Mr. Richards in the novel. You should know; I’ve been an REM fan since walking the five miles to buy a copy of their album Murmur, and saw them for the first time open for The Police at Shea Stadium. In order to use the lyrics I needed permission and I was directed to the right source through REM’s manager, Bertis who was very helpful.
This is how my mind worked: how can I use the lyrics in the murder mystery? From the hypochondriac veteran Detective’s point of view, “they know what’s going on.” From the insane killer’s perspective, “We’re the children of the choir.”
Please allow me some conjecture on the song; Mr. Richards is a full blown assault, a constant pulse pulling me into a wall of sound. It is very different from a typical REM song. Though who can pigeon hole them anymore? Almost thirty years ago critics would recall the Byrds when REM’s guitarist Peter Buck broke onto the scene with his sparse guitar playing. Compare the song HarborCoat from their 1984 release Reckoning, to their 2004 release Under the Sun, the song Leaving New York. I could speculate on the changes and write something didactic - the transformation is attributed to age and advanced technology, but both are bull shit responses. We evolve. Our tastes and our lives move on. Which brings me back to Mr. Richards and the reason for this entry; I’d love to learn the musical influences for the song. I recently listened to their album Green, and thought of Turn You Inside Out – it is the closest REM song to compare to Mr. Richards.
If you’re an REM fan and interested to read my novel Killer Commute, it’s available as an E Book and paperback on Champagne Books. I’m considering running a contest; the person who counts correctly the number of REM references that are in the book will win a signed REM item. Hint: John Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills appear as well. Let me know if you’re interested, but you’d need to buy the book. Look for details of the contest early next year.

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