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"R.E.M.": Fiction - An Alternative Biography Hardcover – 5 Sep 2002

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Virgin Books; 1st ed edition (5 Sept. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852279273
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852279271
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 15.8 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 960,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Buckley has created a straightforward and enjoyable document -- Record Collector, October 2002

From the Author

From the author, David Buckley, September 2002.

As a journalist once told me, to be successful, rock biographies have to be one thing or another. They have to be either quick cut ‘n’ paste jobs, published in time to ride the commercial wave of the latest pop phenomenon, or they have to be as weighty, as well-researched and as serious as, say, a biography of Field Marshal Montgomery. Well, my new book on R.E.M. hopefully isn’t too weighty (it’s a good two hundred pages shorter than my previous book, on David Bowie), and it’s not always serious either (witness Peter Buck’s refrigerated pants in Chapter 1!) either. As far as the research was concerned, I was fortunate to have many willing helpers, all bubbling over with enthusiasm.

Although this isn’t an authorised biography, I was granted interviews with several key figures. I was able to speak to R.E.M.’s urbane and hardworking manager, Bertis Downs, and two of the band’s original members - the warm and self-deprecating Mike Mills, and the wonderfully garrulous Peter Buck. In fact, I interviewed Mike twice and Peter on three separate occasions. These interviews form the backbone of the book. I also was helped by dozens of musicians, producers, business executives, friends of the band, journalists and fans, who shared their R.E.M. stories with me. Their generosity of spirit made the book possible.

The first third of the book tells an astonishing tale of hard work and curmudgeonly determination, as four ragamuffin college drop-outs based in Athens, Georgia built up one of the biggest cult followings in rock. Part Two details the band’s huge global success in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when those classic singles such as ‘Losing My Religion’ and ‘Everybody Hurts’ became the soundtrack to so many lives. And the third part looks honestly at the interpersonal problems that have since befallen the group, whilst putting the case for the claim that the band might just be producing some of the best music of their lives. With a rumoured tour and new album to follow in 2003, expect a busy time ahead.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Of all the rock giants that have dominated the airwaves over the past 15 years, its is REM that have remained the most aloof and mysterious. I always found this refusal to play the celebrity game refreshing and was sceptical when I heard of Fiction's release. It was out of respect for David Buckley - author of the excellent Strange Facination (a David Bowie autobiography) - that I bought the book and I've loved every page. Buckley cuts through the myth and gets close to the real REM (if such a thing exists) and its a really refreshing take on the tired rock biog formula. You can read as a serious muso or as someone with an intererst in the bizarre world of rock and roll - either way its a winner.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been an REM fan for as long as I can remember and I came away from this book feeling like I had got so much closer to the band . I have been going back listening to the cds and interpreting them differently knowing what was going on in the band at the time . There is some fascinating information including talk of an REM and Nirvana colloboration (unfortunately kurt put a stop to that ever taking place:() . The only reason im not giving it 5 stars is there are no new contributions from michael stipe , he's not that keen on interviews but it would have been nice to have some non archive words from him seeing he is the sole figure on the books cover.
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Format: Hardcover
Being of a prior generation, and with a somewhat cynical view of galactic sized rock bands, it was with some prejudice that I approached 'R.E.M. - Fiction' ...but I just fell in at the deep end and I loved it. This is a hugely accessible book, readable and gripping while, hooray!, avoiding all the commonplace, big band biog pitfalls of minutely detailed facts or off-the-planet opinions. Instead David Buckley slips you into the complete world of R.E.M., starting with the wonderfully evocative early years, delivering you into the middle of the quietly budding music and youth culture of Athens, Georgia, USA in the 80s, then sliding you along the bumpy but always fascinating road to rock iconism, across more than 22 years.
David Buckley is plainly a big R.E.M. fan, witness the careful research, but it doesn't stop him being critically analytical. He dives into battle on the impacts of rags to riches, of experimental to mainstream rock, of political involvement and private lives and on R.E.M.'s musical ambitions. Yet the writing is seamless, comfortably herding the action along without a blink. Every album is considered in context, exploring the tracks, the atmosphere and the direction, crafted with pithy insights from all involved. The big issues which have progressed and blighted the band are also chewed around; the integrity of their move from indie to major label, the ethics of their political tinkering, the 'did he jump or was he pushed' questions, even interrogating the quality of their belief in themselves and their music.
Given the importance place of R.E.M. in the history and credibility of superstar rock music I expected a heavy, serious, learned tome.
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Format: Paperback
As I picked it up for a quid from a car boot one shouldn't complain but I see the price on the jacket was considerably higher so someone will have paid the asking price for what is effectively an extended, standardised Mojo retrospective, padded out with borrowed quotes often from the music monthlies. The workmanlike trudge through the catalogue becomes very tiresome after the first 100 pages. there must be a better book on REM, one of the most creative and innovative groups of the late 20th century. This ain't it. Always amazes me how weak so much writing about pop music is.
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