The October 1984 issue of Record magazine featured an article by R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck called “The True Spirit of American Rock.”
Back in those days, R.E.M. didn’t want for press—there were reviews and profiles in just about every issue of every rock magazine around this time. This article was different. It was someone from R.E.M. talking about what mattered about music, about “the alternative scene,” as he called it.
“Music simply doesn’t mean that much to most of the people who buy records. I’m 27 and I own one piece of furniture, a ratty old couch given to me out of pity by R.E.M.’s manager, Jefferson Holt. I’m sure there are people who’d be shocked by the way I live, just as I’m shocked when I got to someone’s house and see nothing but John Denver, Barry Manilow, and Chicago records. How could they listen to that? Well they don’t. That’s their version of my crummy couch.”
This article affected me deeply, in one of those ways it’s hard to explain because I was 16 and you’re not 16 forever and you can’t care about things like records and rock music as much as you were 16 forever. Along with providing a list of bands to check out next trip to the record store—dB’s, Minutemen, Mission of Burma—Buck’s article helped me adopt a live-and-let-live credo about non-record nerds, and also to content with being “moved by music made by real people for real reasons.”
I’m writing about Negative Capability and R.E.M. for my book and how loving this article helped me to not worry about having everything by a band or an encyclopedic knowledge about a band, that I could just love music. I lost the magazine in the move upstate, but bought the issue off of eBay. Here it is, scanned in its two pages, and made into a PDF.