R.E.M.: 5 Career-Defining Videos

3:22 PM PST 09/21/2011 by Shirley Halperin
Marcel Antonisse/AFP/Getty Images

In addition to introducing indie-rock to the masses, the band, which just announced its breakup today, were pioneers in music videos.

R.E.M. were nothing if not pioneers -- not just in exposing the music-loving world to so-called “indie-rock,” but in creating more than a dozen music videos that remain as poignant as the songs that inspired them, even decades after they first premiered on MTV. It’s the mark of a truly timeless band. As news of R.E.M’s breakup registers in the hearts of minds of millions of fans, The Hollywood Reporter runs down five career-defining videos from Athens, Georgia’s favorite sons. 

“Radio Free Europe” (1981)

The song that got R.E.M. signed to I.R.S. Records is a sludgy masterpiece that spit in the face of traditional radio and would come to define the indie rock sound. Produced by Mitch Easter, the track eventually made its way to the 1983 album Murmur after which MTV requested a video be shot. Arthur Pierson directed the clip in the garden of artist Howard Finster, who would later paint the album art for the band's second album, Reckoning.

“It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” (1987)

It only reached No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100, but R.E.M.’s apocalyptic anthem from 1987’s Document, also released as a 7-inch and cassette (or would that be a cassingle?), spoke to millions of pre-grunge rebels looking for a rock sound that didn’t involve slick guitars and power ballads. The video was directed by James Herbert, who was singer Michael Stipe’s art teacher at the University of Georgia and had filmed several clips with the band prior.

“Losing My Religion” (1991)

Many say it was R.E.M.’s mainstream breakout, and for good reason: the lead-off track from the 1991 album Out of Time reached No. 4 on the Billboard  Hot 100 and topped the modern rock tracks. It also followed a flurry of hits from their major label debut Green, the first album released by Warner Bros., which included polar opposite rock radio staples “Stand” and “Orange Crush.” The video for “Losing My Religion” was directed by Tarsem Singh and said to be inspired by Sinéad O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U.”

“Man on the Moon” (1992)

The second single off the Automatic album, which eventually sold 4 million copies in the U.S., the hit made several references to late comedian Andy Kaufman and incorporated footage from some of his classic clips. The video was directed by Peter Care in the desert outside of Lancaster, Calif.

“Everybody Hurts” (1993)

The video for this song off of 1992’s Automatic for the People was directed by Jake Scott and shot on highway I-10 outside of San Antonio. In the liner notes to a Best Of collection released a decade later, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck said the song was aimed at teenagers. “I've never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the idea that high school is a portal to hell seems pretty realistic to me,” he wrote.

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