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R.E.M.’s Little America: Mapping Out the Real Places From Their Songs

R.E.M. was one of America’s best bands – not just in the sense that the college rockers were from the U.S., but that they wrote and recorded a lot of songs about the country, its history, its future and its struggles. As such, some of the band’s songs make a great guide to America, which inspired this R.E.M. Road Trip Around the U.S.A.

Having formed in Athens, Ga., many of R.E.M.’s songs (especially the early ones) focused on the Southern U.S., from small-town characters to endless rail lines to the legacy of the Civil War. After all, they named their third LP Fables of the Reconstruction. Although singer Michael Stipe (as well as the other members who wrote lyrics) could be oblique in the band’s language and stories, these songs could also contain specific references to events, time periods and, certainly, places.

As R.E.M.’s popularity increased, so did their vision of America, as certain songs began to take root in the Midwest, on the West Coast and in the nation’s capital. Some of the band’s members also moved to different parts of the country, enhancing the band’s perspective on different regions of America.

So, with the 23 R.E.M. songs in this gallery as our guide, prepare for a big trip around these United States, taking in low deserts and stunning mountains, glitzy cities and rustic countryside, coastal enclaves and college towns. We begin in Athens, just like the band did, before embarking on a circle tour of America. And, before we leave, don’t forget to stop at the Magic Mart to stock up on plenty of Orange Crush.

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