Rare REM shots peek at band’s earliest days
by Joe Kirby
October 27, 2011 11:50 AM | 9133 views | 4 4 comments | 108 108 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo courtesy of Jerome Calderone.
Photo courtesy of Jerome Calderone.
Photo courtesy of Jerome Calderone.
Photo courtesy of Jerome Calderone.
Photo courtesy of Jerome Calderone.
Photo courtesy of Jerome Calderone.
It’s always a thrill for fans and historians when previously unknown photographs surface of the likes of Marilyn Monroe or the Beatles or Abraham Lincoln.

Previously unknown pictures of legendary Athens, Ga., rock band REM from its earliest days don’t quite meet that threshold of rarity, but are interesting in their own right.

And three such pictures came to light in recent days after I wrote a column in late September about the band’s surprise demise.

The three pictures were snapped at a Dec. 6, 1980 concert I attended at The Fox Theatre in Atlanta, which I wrote about in that column (and which, as an aside, took place two nights before former Beatle John Lennon was murdered in NYC).

REM opened for The Police that night at The Fox. And although I had never heard of REM to that point, they left a definite impression on me (as did The Police, I should add). Their raw energy was captivating, as were their songs.

REM had formed just nine months earlier, had not released any vinyl as yet, and had not been noticed in any mainstream music magazines or newspapers. Although there probably are other photos out there taken in the earlier months of their career, I haven’t seen or heard of them. And I had never heard of any from the Fox concert.

So imagine my surprise when I got an email here at work from one Jerome Calderone, who I had never heard of, asking if I would like to see some pictures from that show.

Indeed I would, I replied, and he sent them along.

Calderone, who lives in Florida, is a collector of all things REM, had seen my column online and couldn’t remember how or when he acquired the three pictures in question, which he said were on a computer disc and labeled “Fox Theatre” with the concert’s date.

The pictures, which are poorly lit and apparently were snapped by a fan from the front row of the balcony, show the band in all its early glory. Lead singer Michael Stipe looks almost pudgy. Guitarist Pete Buck, uncharacteristically for those years, was playing a Fender Stratocaster rather than a Rickenbacker guitar. Directly behind drummer Bill Berry is Police drummer Stewart Copeland’s drum set.

The photos brought back some great memories, and I’m happy to share them with you.

Now, if I could just find a bootleg tape of that concert …

Joe Kirby is Editorial Page Editor of the Marietta Daily Journal and author “The Lockheed Plant.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
November 02, 2011
I'm not sure what year it was, but REM peformed in a hole-in-the wall bar on the backside of the Strand. They must have been just starting out. Stipe used an upright vacuum cleaner handle to hold his microphone.
brett elder
November 01, 2011
Mr. Kirby,

There's almost a smart resemblance between Stipe and yourself- of course, you being the more refined and astute looking (perhaps, like, Bertie and J.)

so much more too, but alas...
A Reader
October 27, 2011
Joe, these are great! Thanks so much.

Jerome Calderone
November 15, 2011
Thank you, for the kind words Mr.Kirby and,if you do ever find a tape of that show, you know I will be interested.
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides