R.E.M. - "Orange Crush"
My first sustained exposure to R.E.M. came from two sources: 1) Summer singles on Q-98 out of Fargo when I was spending college years June through August in Otter Tail County. "So. Central Rain" and "Can't Get There From Here" were so weirdly great to hear amidst the hard and classic rock on gravel roads while driving on the way to greasy summer jobs. 2) College pal Gary, who had the albums on cassette. The specific memory here is that we were at a party hosted by close friends but nothing much was going on, so Gary grabbed me and our friend Chris and we drove around Grand Forks with beers and listened to R.E.M. and The Replacements. In fact, that was Gary's reasoning to get out of the party: "Hey I got some R.E.M. and Replacements tapes in the car, let's go for a drive."
But I found Murmur through Document to be non-great outside of the singles. I was at a post-college bash at a friend's apartment in Grand Forks (UND was hosting hated NDSU in football, but it was chilly out so we watched the beer in his flat with multiple flats of beer) when a debate about R.E.M. broke out. The divisions broke down predictably in 1988 ways: The hep declared them arguably the greatest band in the world and the classic rockers deemed them wussy and non-rock. I uttered something I deemed significant from my Schmidt-fueled haze: "They should release a collection of singles, I'd buy that." That fell on flat ears. (Deservedly, I added nothing to the debate, I was just being an entitled consumer.) Amazingly, I was in Northern Lights down on Hennepin and 7th just a few days later and stumbled across Eponymous, the very singles collection I had recently called for.
I fell in love with Eponymous and grew to think of R.E.M. was an outstanding band. Should have went with my first "they're a singles band" instinct though, as Green and Out of Time were both duds outside of their singles (and not always then, "Radio Song" is pretty bad.) I learned my lesson by the time Automatic for the People came out, ducked buying it despite the brilliance of its lead singles "Drive." and "Man on the Moon." Friends would get miffed with my singles band theory and my disdain for Automatic for the People's "Everybody Hurts" but we've reached a detente in middle age as R.E.M. has disbanded and I spend more time delving into my music collection and less time concocting contrarian theories.
I had been silently campaigning for an Eponymous II - a collection of R.E.M. singles from 1988 forward - for years and then finally realized in this day of the mp3, I could make my own R.E.M. playlist. The first song on this R.E.M. Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (That Excludes "Everbody Hurts" And Other Songs) playlist is "Orange Crush". It's from an album titled Green (Chicago rockers Green soon released an EP titled R.E.M.) and is one of those songs that (temporarily) roped me into the sizable R.E.M. cult. It's not about soda pop or the 1977 Denver Broncos 3-4 defense but is intriguingly catchy.