Monday, January 30, 2006

Michael Stipe, Iconoclast (With A Nod To Bono)

Last night I watched Iconoclasts on The Sundance Channel. Here's the website's description of the series:
In this six-part original series, some of today's most provocative
personalities explore the passions and aspirations of the innovators, rule
breakers and groundshakers who inspire them.

On the episode that I saw, the famous Food Network Iron Chef Mario Batali interviewed (and bought produce with) R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe. I only caught the last 10 minutes or so but was completely taken with what I saw. Captivated is what I was. In one shot, they filmed Stipe buying some CDs to give to Chef Bartali as a surprise gift. It was interesting to watch him interact with the helpful sales clerk (at Tower, I think), who I can't tell if he knew that he was helping the lead singer for R.E.M. or not. I worked at a record store for some years and helped my share of famous musicians. Having a musician ask you what you think is cool and then buy it is way cool for the ego.

They then showed footage of Stipe and Bartoli flying to see U2 in concert. While flying, they talked about basic stuff like how Stipe got into music to begin with, songwriting techniques, and the like. What moved me though was how passionately he talked about U2's "Beautiful Day." He was looking so forward to the concert so that he could hear them play that tune. One thing he kept saying was how he wished he had written it. He just couldn't get enough of how good of a song it was.

This was followed by the next clip of Stipe and Bartoli watching the concert from sidestage. The camera caught Stipe watching and anticipating just the way that I know I have done during so many concerts from my past. Man, the power of music will put such a look on us! And here it came. The first few notes and the camera was dead-on Stipe. With a slight and giddy anticipatory bounce, you saw the 20 year old music fan in him. Not the songwriter, not the artist or star, but the fan. The half smile that I doubt he knew he was showing was infectious. Sitting with my back against my couch, I had the same half smile. And here came the chorus. Stipe was leaping into the air, pumping his fist high above that most interesting head of his. He was full-on moved by the music.

I have to admit that I had never really loved that song much myself. It's cool, but always just seemed like a forgettably well-written pop song. But after watching Michael Stipe on Iconoclasts last night, it just gained about 40 cool points on my chart. Iconoclast, indeed. And it really is a beautiful day.

1 comment:

melusina said...

I like the song a lot, but I don't think it is one of their best. I like their haunting melodies best. It is cute, though, to think of Michael Stipe's reverence for it.