At the beginning of 1980, Michael Stipe met Peter Buck in a record store in Athens, Georgia. It wasn’t long before the two of them ran into Mike Mills and Bill Berry at the University of Georgia and quickly decided to start making music together. Their first show was at a party at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in April of that year, and in 1982, R.E.M. signed a deal with the three-year old I.R.S. Records after turning down offers from the second oldest label in America, RCA Records -- forever cementing themselves in the history books of independent rock and roll.

Between 1983-1987, R.E.M. released one EP and five full-length records with I.R.S., including their debut, ‘Murmur,’ and 1987’s multi-Platinum LP, ‘Document.’ From those studio albums, the quartet released 12 singles -- and 11 of them have been immortalized in the new, massive 7-inch vinyl box set, '7IN-83-88' (1983's 'Talk About the Passion' was released as a 12-inch exclusively in Europe).

While R.E.M.'s fame and stardom only grew and grew with time -- who will ever forget the infamous $80 million record deal in 1996 and the two headlining stints on 'MTV Unplugged' -- the music they created in the very beginning is the unshakeable cornerstone of their 31-year career.

The fact that an internationally-acclaimed rock band not only chose to start with an indie label, but stay with them for five albums, will forever be used as a barometer for up-and-coming bands, even in the 21st century.

That barometer is '7IN-83-88.'

I.R.S. / Universal

From the band's first 7-inch -- 'Radio Free Europe' b/w a cover of the Velvet Underground's 'There She Goes Again' -- to their final single with I.R.S. -- 'Finest Worksong' b/w 'Time After Time Etc.' (a live 8-minute medley that features 'Time After Time,' a cover of Peter Gabriel's 'Red Rain' and 'So. Central Rain') -- their evolution and progression is impeccably captured throughout the box set.

For a band that has such instantly recognizable hits like 'Stand,' 'Losing My Religion,' 'Man On the Moon' and 'Everybody Hurts,' it’s an amazing journey back in time to revisit the musical foundation that led to those tracks. While many acts work their entire careers to create timeless works, R.E.M. were doing it in just the early stages of their historical rise to fame, as evidenced in all of the I.R.S. singles -- especially with 1985's ‘Driver 8' and 1987's ‘It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).'

The 11 singles are reissued in replicas of their actual sleeves, hearkening memories of the band's origins. The only thing missing from '7IN-83-88' are liner notes, photos and the like that would serve to complement and amplify the significance of the music found in the grooves; not to worry, though, as R.E.M.'s recent six-DVD release, 'REMTV,' chronicles their humble beginnings (and entire career), acting as a necessary companion to the I.R.S. box set.

'7IN-83-88' will quickly turn into a forever-enduring, historic musical document of R.E.M.'s much-revered expedition through the world of rock and roll. To understand why, even a few years after their amicable break-up, the band continues to be one of the most important ever, you must start from the very beginning -- and there is no better reference point than this box set.

'7IN-83-88' Singles
‘Radio Free Europe’ b/w ‘There She Goes Again’
‘So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)’ b/w ‘King of the Road’
‘(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville’ b/w ‘Catapult’ (Live)
‘Can’t Get There From Here’ b/w ‘Bandwagon’
‘Driver 8′ b/w ‘Crazy’
‘Wendell Gee’ b/w ‘Crazy’ + ‘Ages of You’ b/w ‘Burning Down’ [U.K. double-pack]
‘Fall On Me’ b/w ‘Rotary Ten’
‘Superman’ b/w ‘White Tornado’
‘The One I Love’ b/w ‘Maps and Legends’ (Live)
‘Its The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’ b/w ‘Last Date’
‘Finest Worksong’ b/w ‘Time After Time’ (Live) [U.K. single]

I.R.S. / Universal

'7IN-83-88' hits the streets on Dec. 9 via I.R.S./Universal. You can pre-order the box-set here -- personally, we think the set makes a perfect holiday gift. And if you haven't picked up 'REMTV' yet, get details on the six-DVD collection at this location.

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