Lifes Rich Pageant

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Lifes Rich Pageant
R.E.M. - Lifes Rich Pageant.jpg
Studio album by R.E.M.
Released July 28, 1986 (1986-07-28)
Recorded April–May 1986 at Belmont Mall Studios, Belmont, Indiana, United States
Genre Alternative rock
Length 38:23
Label I.R.S.
Producer Don Gehman
R.E.M. chronology
Fables of the Reconstruction
Lifes Rich Pageant
Dead Letter Office
Singles from Lifes Rich Pageant
  1. "Fall on Me"
    Released: August 1986 (1986-08)
  2. "Superman"
    Released: November 1986 (1986-11)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Robert Christgau B+[2]
CMJ (favorable)[3]
MusicHound 3.5/5 stars[4]
Pitchfork Media 8.8/10[5]
PopMatters (favorable)[6]
Record Collector 4/5 stars[7]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[8]
Slant Magazine 4.5/5 stars[9]
Uncut 5/5 stars[10]

Lifes Rich Pageant is the fourth studio album by the American alternative rock band R.E.M., released in 1986. R.E.M. chose Don Gehman to produce the album, which was recorded at John Mellencamp's Belmont Mall Studios in Belmont, Indiana.


The source for the title of the album is based on an English idiom. Its use is very old, but R.E.M.'s use is, according to guitarist Peter Buck, from the 1964 film A Shot in the Dark, minus the apostrophe:

Inspector Clouseau opens car door and falls into a fountain.
Maria: "You should get out of these clothes immediately. You'll catch your death of pneumonia, you will."
Clouseau: "Yes, I probably will. But it's all part of life's rich pageant, you know?"[11]

The missing apostrophe in the title is deliberate. Nearly all contractions used by R.E.M. lack apostrophes, though "life's" in this case is a possessive. Peter Buck once stated, "We all hate apostrophes. Michael insisted and I agreed that there's never been a good rock album that's had an apostrophe in the title."[12]

The cover of the album is a photograph of drummer Bill Berry on the upper part of the cover and a pair of bison, signifying an environmental theme, on the lower part. It also alludes to Buffalo Bill.[13]

With R.E.M.'s fan base beginning to grow beyond its college rock boundaries, Lifes Rich Pageant proved to be at the time the band's most commercially successful album in the U.S., peaking at #21[14] on the Billboard charts and scoring them their first gold record.[15] In the UK, the album managed a #43 peak.[16]

Slant Magazine listed the album at #52 on its list of "Best Albums of 1980s" saying "Lifes Rich Pageant stands as a nearly seamless transition between the band's formative period and their commercial dominance."[17]

In 2000, it ranked at number 162 in the list of Virgin's All-Time Album Top 1000 List.[18]

The ecologically conscious "Fall on Me" (a personal favorite of frontman Michael Stipe) and a cover of the Clique's "Superman", sung by bassist Mike Mills, were the only singles released from the album (the single version of the latter removed the sample from one of the Godzilla movies that began the album version).

Another ecologically minded song, "Cuyahoga", refers to the once heavily polluted Cuyahoga River that flows into Lake Erie at Cleveland, Ohio. The song includes the lyric we burned the river down, which refers to the several occasions (most famously in 1969) when the river actually caught fire.

At the end of "Just a Touch" Michael Stipe can be heard screaming the line "I'm so young, I'm so goddamn young", quoting longtime influence Patti Smith's live cover version of The Who's "My Generation" released on the b-side of her 1976 single "Gloria",[19][20] which she also uses at the end of her cover version of "Privilege (Set Me Free)" from her 1978 album, Easter.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe, except as indicated.

Side one – "Dinner side"
  1. "Begin the Begin" – 3:28
  2. "These Days" – 3:24
  3. "Fall on Me" – 2:50
  4. "Cuyahoga" – 4:19
  5. "Hyena" – 2:50
  6. "Underneath the Bunker" – 1:25
Side two – "Supper side"
  1. "The Flowers of Guatemala" – 3:55
  2. "I Believe" – 3:49
  3. "What If We Give It Away?" – 3:33
  4. "Just a Touch" – 3:00
  5. "Swan Swan H" – 2:42
  6. "Superman" (Mitchell Bottler and Gary Zekley) – 2:52
1993 I.R.S. Vintage Years reissue bonus tracks
  1. "Tired of Singing Trouble" – 0:59
    • Previously unreleased
  2. "Rotary Ten" – 1:58
  3. "Toys in the Attic" (Steve Tyler, Joe Perry) – 2:26
    • B-side of "Fall On Me" British 12" single
  4. "Just a Touch" (Live in studio) – 2:38
    • Previously unreleased version, recorded live to 2-track during Reckoning sessions, 1984
  5. "Dream (All I Have to Do)" (Felice and Boudleaux Bryant) – 2:38
  6. "Swan Swan H" (Acoustic version) – 2:41
    • Originally released on the soundtrack to the film Athens, GA: Inside Out, 1987
  • Note: "Rotary Ten" and "Toys in the Attic" can be found on Dead Letter Office.
  • Note: Although sometimes referred to as such, the first release of this edition does not have the original tracks remastered. They follow the first print of the album and only add the extra tracks.
2011 25th Anniversary Edition reissue bonus tracks (The Athens Demos)
  1. "Fall On Me" – 2:50
  2. "Hyena" – 2:50
  3. "March Song" ("King of Birds" demo) – 3:46
  4. "These Days" – 3:36
  5. "Bad Day" – 3:26
  6. "Salsa" ("Underneath the Bunker" demo) – 1:32
  7. "Swan Swan H" – 2:39
  8. "Flowers of Guatemala" – 3:29
  9. "Begin the Begin" – 3:44
  10. "Cuyahoga" – 4:33
  11. "I Believe" – 3:37
  12. "Out of Tune" – 0:34
  13. "Jazz" ("Rotary Ten" demo) – 1:13
  14. "Theme from Two Steps Onward" – 4:24
  15. "Just a Touch" – 2:31
  16. "Mystery to Me" – 2:07
  17. "Wait" – 2:10
  18. "All the Right Friends" – 3:40
  19. "Get On Their Way" ("What If We Give It Away?" demo) – 3:17

Track listing notes:

  • "Superman" was listed on some early copies as "Superwoman."
  • The track listing on the back of the album is incorrect. It has never been corrected. The order is given as 1-5-10-8-2-7-4-9-3-11, which leaves out "Superman" and "Underneath the Bunker." The track listing is correct on the actual vinyl, cassette, and some CD versions.
  • Early pressings of the CD have the track number for "Cuyahoga" as "0R" instead of "04" printed on the CD itself.
  • On the vinyl and cassette releases, R.E.M. labeled side one (tracks 1–6) as the "Dinner side" and side two (tracks 7–12) as the "Supper side."
  • The UK 1993 release for 'IRS Years Vintage 1986' preserves the incorrect track order, but lists the unreleased tracks.



Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United Kingdom July 28, 1986 I.R.S. vinyl LP MIRG1014
United States July 29, 1986 I.R.S. LP IRS-5783
cassette tape IRSC-5783
Compact Disc 72434-93478-2-3
Brazil 1986 Epic LP 14495
Greece 1986 I.R.S. LP 57064
The Netherlands 1986 Illegal LP ILP 57064
New Zealand 1986 I.R.S. LP ELPS 4550
Spain 1986 Illegal LP 57064
United States 1990 I.R.S. Compact Disc IRSD-5783
Worldwide 1990 MCA Compact Disc 5783
United States 1990 I.R.S. cassette tape IRSC-5783
United States 1992 Universal Compact Disc 19080
The Netherlands January 26, 1993 EMI Compact Disc 7 13201 2 5†
Japan February 24, 1993 Toshiba/EMI Compact Disc TOCP-7269†
Worldwide 1998 Capitol Compact Disc 93478
Europe 1998 EMI Compact Disc 13201†
Europe 1999 EMI Compact Disc 7132012†
United States July 12, 2011 Capitol/EMI Compact Disc 5099908244727††
United States November 22, 2011 Mobile Fidelity Vinyl LP N/A

† I.R.S. Vintage Years edition, with bonus tracks
†† 25th anniversary edition, with bonus disc

Chart performance[edit]

Year Chart Position
1986 Billboard 200 21 (32 weeks on chart)[21]
1986 UK Albums Chart 43 (4 weeks on chart)[16]
Year Song Chart Position
1986 "Fall on Me" Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 5[21]
1986 "Fall on Me" The Billboard Hot 100 94[21]
1986 "Superman" Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 17[21]

Sales certifications[edit]

Organization Level Date
RIAA – U.S. Gold January 23, 1987[15]
CRIA – Canada Gold September 30, 1987[22]
CRIA – Canada Platinum September 30, 1987[22]


  1. ^ AllMusic review
  2. ^ Robert Christgau Record Guide
  3. ^ College Music Journal review
  4. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 934. ISBN 1-57859-061-2. 
  5. ^ Pitchfork review
  6. ^ PopMatters review
  7. ^ Kennedy, Jake (August 2011). "REM Life's Rich Pageant: 25th Anniversary Edition". Record Collector. p. 100. 
  8. ^ Rolling Stone review
  9. ^ Slant review
  10. ^ Mueller, Andrew (August 2011). "REM Lifes Rich Pageant 25th Anniversary Edition". Uncut. p. 102. 
  11. ^ Rosen, Craig (1997). R.E.M. Inside Out: The Stories Behind Every Song. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1-56025-177-8.
  12. ^ "We Love REM a Little Less Today". The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar. 2007-06-02. Retrieved 2015-01-09. 
  13. ^ "Lifes Rich Pageant (25th Anniversary Edition)". Pitchfork. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  14. ^ "R.E.M. > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums". allmusic. Retrieved 2009-08-12. 
  15. ^ a b "RIAA – Gold & Platinum Searchable Database". RIAA. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  16. ^ a b "R.E.M. Artist Official Charts". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Spin October 1986
  20. ^ Matthew, Perpetua. "Ask Michael Stipe". Pop Songs 07-08. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  21. ^ a b c d "Lifes Rich Pageant – R.E.M. Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  22. ^ a b "CRIA Gold and Platnium Search". CRIA. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 

External links[edit]