R.E.M. and MTV came of age together. From the start, their fates were intertwined, with the band releasing its first single in July 1981, just weeks before the network premiered its first music video. From that point on, MTV documented everything about R.E.M, their music, their stories, and ultimately, their decision to disband in 2011.
This entire story, beginning to end, is chronicled in REMTV, a new six-DVD set that includes live performances, award show highlights, and television appearances, as well as a new documentary about their shared history. REMTV will be available on November 24th.
“It occurred to us that there’s all this footage of some of the band’s absolute career highlights sitting in some MTV vaults in London and New York– and thanks to a lot of effort and digging and arranging, this is our chance to share that music with various generations of R.E.M. fans in a pretty unique release,” said longtime manager Bertis Downs. “And Alexander Young’s documentary is a fine way to tell the story of R.E.M. through its various twists and turns, as captured in real time by MTV’s cameras– it has some great funny bits too!”
The first disc combines both of the group’s performances on MTV Unplugged (1991 and 2001) and features the outtakes that debuted earlier this year on the audio release Unplugged: The Complete 1991 And 2001 Sessions, including songs like “Get Up,” “The One I Love” and “World Leader Pretend.”
“This is the first DVD project to unite material from all across Viacom’s networks,” said Bill Flanagan, EVP of the Viacom Music Group. “Not only are we drawing from the vaults of MTV – domestic and international – but from VH1, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon. I don’t think anyone realized just how much terrific R.E.M. footage we were sitting on. To gather the best of it in one collection is pretty overwhelming. R.E.M. started great, stayed great and ended great – here’s the evidence.”
The band’s 1998 appearance on VH1’s Storytellers opens the second disc, and has been expanded with unaired performances of several songs, including “New Test Leper” and “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville.” Also featured are performances taken from various MTV award shows through the years, as well as the band’s 2007 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Longtime fans will certainly delight in two vintage performances included here. First is a 1983 performance of “So. Central Rain” and “Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)” from Livewire. The next clip features five songs the band played in 1984 on The Cutting Edge, including “Driver 8” and a cover of Brownsville Station’s “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.”
The next three discs present a trove of rare live performances recorded between 1995 and 2008 in countries around the world. Of the 99 songs that are spread across these three discs, nearly half are unique song titles, offering a deep exploration of the band’s live legacy. Especially noteworthy are two massive free concerts filmed for broadcast: Live In Cologne (5/12/01) and R.E.M. Live In Athens, Greece (10/5/08). More than a dozen songs from those shows did not air during the original broadcasts. Both concerts appear here in their entirety for the first time.
Undoubtedly, the heart of this superb collection is the new feature-length documentary, R.E.M. By MTV, included on the final disc. Drawing exclusively on archival events, the film traces R.E.M. and MTV in real time, which makes it feel as exciting and immediate as it did when it was happening. “All the energy and momentum of both the band and the network come roaring through,” writes Anthony DeCurtis in the set’s liner notes.
R.E.M. By MTV will also premiere simultaneously on VH1 Classic and Palladia later in November, marking its first television run in the United States. Additional information about air dates will be announced.