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Lost & Found: Some Kids From Athens Called R.E.M. Play ‘Letterman’ in 1983

While fans of guitar pop may be split on R.E.M.‘s later work, there’s no denying the energy and charisma these fellows had when they first blipped on the music radar in the early ’80s. Most of them look so different in the above video (featuring their first single, ‘Radio Free Europe’) than they do now. Incidentally, this appearance on David Letterman’s old show was the band’s network television debut.

Singer Michael Stipe was almost dreamy with his long, curly hair. And bassist Mike Mills looks like he came straight from an ABC Afterschool Special, where he was probably racing BMX bikes and convincing his best friend to stay away from drugs. It would be a few years before he discovered his love for outrageous jewel-studded cowboy outfits.

It’s nice to know some things don’t change much over time, though. Guitarist Peter Buck still has a penchant for wearing visually questionable button-down shirts, and you may still catch him in a suit vest every once in a while. And then there’s drummer Bill Berry’s unibrow. We don’t think there’s anything to be done about that, unfortunately.

R.E.M. made a lot of important and amazing albums and influenced pop music in ways that are still felt today. And while we love the later stuff, none of it ever quite reaches this level of sincere, enthusiastic rock ‘n’ roll. If you’ve got the spare time, you should check out the video below. It’s a full concert of R.E.M. playing in 1985, right before they became one of the biggest bands in the world.

Next: Sleater Kinnney Back in the Day

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