Thirty years ago today (7/8/81), R.E.M.’s first single, “Radio Free Europe” b/w “Sitting Still,” was released by the small independent Atlanta-based label Hib-Tone. The label’s owner Jonny Hibbert mixed both tracks. The A-Side was subsequently re-recorded, the B-Side remixed and remastered, and both included on the band’s classic 1983 I.R.S. Records debut Murmur. Why we’re here: The updated version of “Radio Free Europe” was Michael Stipe & Co’s first charting single, making it to 78 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It also clearly established R.E.M.’s sound and approach, one that’s influenced a ton of artists (and non-artists) since. Here’s the 1981 original:
The video for the version that opens Murmur:
Finally, the guys doing it live on Letterman in 1983. It was their National Television debut.
Happy Birthday, “Radio Free Europe.” Feel old yet?
[Original pressing images via a Popsike auction]