It was with great sadness that we brought you news of R.E.M.‘s breakup last week, and it’s with great ambivalence that we now bring you Coldplay‘s cover of “Everybody Hurts.” Chris Martin and his gang performed the song at a show in Georgia, the state that spawned R.E.M. Once again, I chatted with musician Kasey Anderson, this time about Coldplay’s version of “Everybody Hurts” and the legacy of R.E.M.
Liana: So okay, first of all. I’m disappointed that R.E.M. broke up and that I never got to see them.
Kasey: I saw them in ’94 or ’95 on the Monster tour. I slept outside of Fred Meyer (a giant supermarket), which was a Ticketmaster broker at the time, and was like second in line for tickets. Then, about two weeks before the show, my parents found a bunch of drugs in my room and told me I would not be allowed to see R.E.M. (I sneaked out of the house and saw the show anyway, because I was an enormously shitty little kid and also because, R.E.M.!)
Liana: That’s my favorite Cameron Crowe movie!
Kasey: Also, Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey have lived in Portland for years so, I’ve seen a fraction of R.E.M. play many, many times. .M. I’ve seen .M.
Liana: Peter Buck counts as E.
Kasey: PetE.r Buck.
Liana: In terms of this cover, I appreciate that Chris Martin got all self-deprecating and said that this was just their way of playing tribute to the band, but come on – pick a more obvious song, why don’t you.
Liana: Although I suppose “Everybody Hurts” makes sense for a band like Coldplay to play.
Kasey: Martin seems like a pretty savvy guy so he probably knows enough about his audience to know that playing “Driver 8″ or “So. Central Rain” would probably be lost on those people.
Liana: “The One I Love” might have split the difference, maybe. A little less on-the-nose.
Liana: Trivia: Did you know that Michael Stipe wrote “Everybody Hurts” for Kurt Cobain because Kurt was saaad?
Kasey: I did not know that about Cobain. There’s a moment in Cameron Crowe’s Pearl Jam, documentary where Neil Young talks about how he “wanted to reach out to Cobain and tell him [a bunch of stuff]” but didn’t get around to it. I wonder if Stipe addressed Kurt directly or just figured, “Oh, he’ll hear the song and get it.”
Kasey: Also, I know this is about Coldplay and R.E.M. but, as songs written about and for Cobain go, this one is hands-down my favorite, though it’s not especially kind:
Liana: I mean, every Coldplay discussion could use a Westerberg break.
Liana: Back to R.E.M. – I feel like they’re an interesting band to cover because so much of what they are is in Stipe’s voice and the way he emotes. That’s half the appeal of those songs.
Liana: When he laughs in “Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight,” that’s one of my favorite moments in any single thing ever – and raw stuff like that can’t be duplicated.
Kasey: Yeah, for all of his pretense, I always loved that Stipe left little moments like that in songs. There was a real vulnerability to his delivery that is awfully hard to find, especially considering he fronted one of the biggest bands in the world. Compare that to, say, Bono, who seems to absolutely bask in the deification inherent in being a Famous Rock Frontman.
Liana: And I would say that the songwriting really benefited from that, and I think it also aided in the rabid personal intensity R.E.M. fans are known for.
Kasey: I agree completely. There’s an accessibility to Stipe, and to that band, that doesn’t exist in many other bands who achieved that same level of success. I hate to keep citing PJ20 (no I don’t), but Vedder addresses that a bit, saying that he became afraid of being seen as vulnerable because it made fans feel comfortable inviting themselves into his life (and, in one case, attempting to drive a car into the side of his home). Stipe always seemed willing to make whatever sacrifice was necessary to humanize himself to his audience.
Liana: Yet he still managed to maintain a distance and have this mythology around him.
Liana: (Also, I hope no one ever tries to drive their car into Chris Martin’s house; they would flatten the kale. What of the wood burning pizza oven?!)