beat a drum for me

REVEAL – Notes, Quotes, and Anecdotes

  • Released: May 14, 2001+
  • Recorded: May 2000 (The Warehouse Studios, Vancouver, BC, Canada), August–October 2000 (Dalkey Lodge and Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin, Ireland), October 2000 (John Keane Studios, Athens, GA, USA)+, and November 2000 (The Hit Factory/Criteria Studios, Miami, FL, USA)
  • Length: 53:43
  • Label: Warner Bros.
  • Producer: Patrick McCarthy and R.E.M.
  • Additional Musicians: Scott McCaughey, Ken Stringfellow, Joey Waronker, Jamie Candiloro, John Keane, Glen Brady
  • Peaked on the 2001 Billboard 200 at 6 (10 weeks on chart); Peaked on the 2001 UK album chart at 1 (15 weeks on chart)+
  • “Probably our most underrated album.” -Mike Mills^
  • I think all of us would agree it represents a turning point for us. With this one I think that we’ve proven to ourselves that as a trio we can be a successful creative unit.” –Michael Stipe#
  • more focused than [UP] because we didn’t have an ongoing crisis to contend with as we made it. We were free to concentrate on having fun. We produced a great album.” –Mike Mills#
  • ”Reveal is extraordinary. I know it’s extraordinary because I felt ill when I heard it. It’s a very beautiful, awe-inspiring record.” –Bono of U2#
  • “”When a band that’s been around as long as R.E.M. are still doing their best work, that’s really unusual,” said U2’s Bono in 2003. “I think Reveal is one of the best records they’ve ever made: beautiful melodies, beautiful singing, and really evolved songwriting.” –Bono of U2+

1. The Lifting – 4:39

  • Originally known as “Tabla Demo”
  • Recorded at John Keene’s Studio in Athens, Georgia in October 2000

2. I’ve Been High – 3:25

  • Music written by Peter Buck
  • Recorded in a rented house in Dulkey, Ireland
  • Contains the line “Have I missed the big reveal?” from which R.E.M. manager Bertis Downs suggested the album title The Big Reveal which Peter Buck refined to just Reveal
  • I honestly don’t know if ‘I’ve Been High’ is a real capture-the-moment thing, or someone thinking they’re capturing the moment. It’s kind of a sad-sounding song, so maybe the sadness has to do with the fact that it’s not. You’re supposed to read it and be distanced from it. That’s one of the things that I like about [Stipe’] writing.” –Peter Buck#
  • Regarding UP’s “Walk Unafraid” and REVEAL’s “I’ve Been High”: “I love both those songs, they just feel very real.  Beyond that I can’t really say much, there’s probably an element of real me in there“-Michael Stipe~

3. All The Way To Reno (You’re Gonna Be A Star) – 4:43

  • 2nd single from Reveal; peaked at #24 on the UK Singles Chart+
  • Also known as “Glockenspiel” and “Reno”
  • The bass line is one of my favorites. It just started from Peter’s guitar parts and the bass line came to me right away. It was the first thing I played and it just seemed perfect. I love what Michael did with it.”-Mike Mills#

4. She Just Wants To Be – 5:22

  • First song recorded for REVEAL during May 2000 recording sessions in Vancouver
  • Mike on bass, Joey on drums and Michael singing. In the afternoon I put overdubs on. At the end of the first day, we had what sounded like a good song.”-Peter Buck#

5. Disappear – 4:11

  • Originally known as “Underwater Acoustic”
  • I think there’s a little bit of Michael’s trip to Israel in there…It’s about self-effacement, obviously.”-Peter Buck#

6. Saturn Return – 4:55

  • …nominated by Stipe as his favorite track on the album...”*
  • “Departure felt like a storm spinning out of control, and saturn return otherworldly, ethereal, but based in dirt, mundaneness, humanity and a desert convenience store”-Michael Stipe~
  • “…For me [the main subject of the lyrics] is young and smart but has this temp job and a shit family life and literally finds something new in the sky that sets her off on a path of greatness.  The ladder in the wrist is the skin on the underside of the wrist; I don’t know about you but mine looks like a dna ladder.  She also uses an actual ladder to climb onto the roof of the convenience store late at night to look at the desert sky and think and get away from the florescent light; that sets off her discovery”-Michael Stipe~
  • I feel like I know [the main subject of the lyrics] really well,  or at least her spirit.  It surprised me the line about her Mother, but there are obvious metaphors to the saturn part of the lyric[…breaking from home etcetera].  I always hate it in movies when something is explained by a crap childhood or bad parent, but in this lyric I surprised myself.  It became one line and I thought that was ok.  It just seemed to help make her look outside of herself, to not be so internal thinking all the time.  That can be helpful.”-Michael Stipe~
  • I sat at the piano, showed everyone the chords and said, Find the craziest sounds you can because we’re going to play this only once.”-Peter Buck*

7. Beat A Drum – 4:21

  • Originally known as “All I Want”
  • Music written by Mike Mills
  • Recorded at John Keane’s Studio in Athens, Georgia in October 2000

8. Imitation Of Life – 3:57

  • First single released from REVEAL, April 30, 2001 (UK); peaked at 6 on the UK Singles Chart; peaked at 83 on the Billboard Hot 100+
  • Also known as “Fake Trumpets Chorus,” “Between Roskilde,” and “Dalkey”
  • Michael had three different choruses and he wasn’t sure if he liked any of them…One of them was really like The Rubettes – Baby, oh bayy-by…It was kind of cut, but he didn’t think he could get away with it.” –Peter Buck*
  • Regarding Stipe’s introduction of a new chorus to Buck and Mills while on their way to a restaurant together: “Michael goes, Oh, I’ve got the melody for you. We put the tape on in the care and he sang along to it. I though, Goodness! This is pretty amazing.” –Peter Buck*
  • “I remember we were not really concentrating on it until some of the people from the record company said, ‘You know, I love that song.’ Everyone seemed to like it but it was not particularly in the running at that point. So we said, ‘OK, we’ll just buckle down and work on a chorus and come up with something.”-Peter Buck#

9. Summer Turns To High – 3:31

  • Originally known as “32-Chord Song”
  • That was one I wasn’t sure I was going to show the band. It had so many chords…I didn’t think it was right for how this record was going. But I just played it once and the band just fell in and played it amazingly well. At that point it was in 6/4 time and had a real Irish feel. It was acoustic guitars, accordions, really kind of a sea-shanty type thing with a ton of chords…Michael loved it, but it was too busy for him. So we stripped everything off, brought it down to just drums and bass and one keyboard, and then Michael threw this melody on top that pushed it completely out to left field.”-Peter Buck#
  • “Some people have told me they hear the Beach Boys on Summer Turns To High, too. Believe me, that was not intentional at all. I think it sounds more like Roxy Music.” –Peter Buck*

10. The Chorus And The Ring – 4:31

  • Written in Vancouver
  • Recorded in a single take
  • The discerning listener can probably hear [Buck shouting the chords to Mills] on headphones.”-REVEAL Producer Pat McCarthy*
  • “Chorus and the Ring is my elegy to William Burroughs and Kurt Cobain, and basically follows a conversation I had with William one afternoon in his backyard about Kurt [ I was presented to William at his home in ‘95 by Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore].   The 2nd verse is among my most favorite lyrics that I’ve ever written, topic being instinct,  and feels like the man who sold the world to me.  But I’m complementing myself there.  William, to be clear, was truly shocked that such a smart, beautiful and sensitive man as Kurt could take his own life.  Shocked.   Not exactly the WSB that I expected.  Brilliant..,The blackbirds in the last chorus is an obvious nod to the Beatles.” -Michael Stipe~
  • Peter just started playing it and we all joined in…Mike came into the room literally just in time to pick up his bass…None of us had any idea what this song was.”-Scott McCaughey#

11. I’ll Take The Rain – 5:51

  • 3rd single from Reveal; peaked at 44 on the UK Singles Chart+
  • Originally known as “Pedal Steel”
  • Reveal was our summer record…the winter song, the only one. I wanted to write a lyric that matched the tone of the music, but I felt that the record needed something to balance all that sunniness.” -Michael Stipe#

12. Beachball – 4:14

  • Regarding the original lyric written by Michael Stipe in relation to the view out the window of the Vancouver recording studio: “The first line was ‘In a foggy seaside town…’…The rest of it was all about the people he saw when he looked out the window. But he said, You know, I don’t really want to write about these junkies on the street. He threw it away and wrote a beach song instead.”Peter Buck*
  • The song is about “these people having fun at the beach. The ‘well-tequilaed guys who smile at strangers.’ I find that line kind of threatening, personally. But then it ends, ‘You’ll do fine.’ And I like the record ending with ‘You’ll do fine.’ I tend to take that song at face value, that it is kind of an expression of joy.”-Peter Buck#

*“The Genesis Of Revelation: The Making Of Reveal,” by Bob Whittaker, Q Magazine: REM Special Edition 2001 – available at

#Reveal: The Story Of R.E.M., by Johnny Black


^Brief personal conversation with Mike Mills after the BIG STAR’S THIRD tribute show that he played in at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC on December 10, 2010.

~Pop Songs 07-08: Ask Michael Stipe


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