R.E.M.'s 'Radio Free Europe' preserved for all time

Studio 360

Album cover, R.E.M. 'Radio Free Europe'

Every year the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress selects 25 recordings to be preserved for all time. One song chosen this year is R.E.M.'s "Radio Free Europe." It was the band's first single and a breakthrough moment in indie rock. According to the Library of Congress, the song was chosen because it, "set the pattern for later indie rock releases by breaking through on college radio in the face of mainstream radio’s general indifference."

PRI's Studio 360 recently delved into the story behind the song and the band, interviewing band member Mike Mills and producer Mitch Easter  -- use the audio player above to listen to the story. Segment produced by Ben Manilla and Media Mechanics.

Visit Studio360.org for a bonus track featuring R.E.M.'s first appearance at the club Tyrone's O.C. in Athens, Georgia.

The Registry's list also includes recordings by Tupac Shakur, Bill Cosby, Loretta Lynn, King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band and others.

The 2009 National Recording Registry (Listing in Chronological Order):

  1. "Fon der Choope" (From the Wedding), Abe Elenkrig’s Yidishe Orchestra (1913)
  2. "Canal Street Blues," King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band (1923)
  3. "Tristan und Isolde," Metropolitan Opera, featuring Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior, NBC Broadcast of March 9, 1935
  4. "When You Wish Upon a Star," Cliff Edwards (recorded, 1938; released, 1940)
  5. "America’s Town Meeting of the Air: Should Our Ships Convoy Materials to England?" (May 8, 1941)
  6. The Library of Congress Marine Corps Combat Field Recording Collection, Second Battle of Guam (July 20 - August 11, 1944)
  7. "Evangeline Special" and "Love Bridge Waltz," Iry LeJeune (1948)
  8. "The Little Engine That Could," narrated by Paul Wing (1949)
  9.  Metcalf Collection of recordings of the First People of Western Washington State (1950-1954)
  10. "Tutti Frutti," Little Richard (1955)
  11. "Smokestack Lightning," Howlin’ Wolf (1956)
  12. "Gypsy," original cast recording (1959)
  13. The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, Bill Evans Trio (June 25, 1961)
  14. "Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)," Max Mathews (1961)
  15. "I Started Out As a Child," Bill Cosby (1964)
  16. "Azucar Pa Ti," Eddie Palmieri (1965)
  17. "Today!," Mississippi John Hurt (1966))
  18. "Silver Apples of the Moon," Morton Subotnick (1967)
  19. "Soul Folk in Action," The Staple Singers (1968)
  20. "The Band," The Band (1969)
  21. "Coal Miner’s Daughter," Loretta Lynn (1970)
  22. "Red Headed Stranger," Willie Nelson (1975)
  23. "Horses," Patti Smith (1975)
  24. "Radio Free Europe" R.E.M. (1981)
  25. ""Dear Mama," Tupac Shakur (1995)

PRI's Peabody Award-winning "Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen" from WNYC is public radio's smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt Andersen introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. More PRI's "Studio 360"