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Rain Phoenix

Aleka's Attic

PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Kurt Cobain

Tame Yourself



Michael Stipe

Indigo Girls

New Orleans

Athens, Georgia



What's the Frequency, Kenneth?

I Took Your Name


Marcus Gray

It Crawled From The South: An R.E.M. Companion

Dr Maralyn Gootman

When A Friend Dies
Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
American EnglishEn Français

It Crawled From The South:

An R.E.M. Companion

By Marcus Gray.
First published in 1992.

ISBN 0-306-80751-3 (Paperback, 560 Pages)

The four intervening years between which the first and revised second edition of this book were published were extraordinary and often painful times for the nevertheless hugely successful rock'n'roll band R.E.M. It saw each member of the band suffer severe medical problems as well as the departure from the group of one of the band members whilst at also seeing the signing of the biggest recording deal in music history. It was also during this period that R.E.M. also suffered deeply felt tragedies of a particularly personal nature.

River is mentioned around half-a-dozen times throughout this book. The first occasion is to be found in chapter four in which the author presents a chronological listing of the results of the band's songwriting talents. It is here that the strength of the friendship between River and the band's lead-singer, Michael Stipe, first becomes apparent.

Michael put lyrics to 'You', 'I Took Your Name' and new song 'What's The Frequency, Kenneth?'. He played the demos of those songs to Kurt Cobain when the Nirvana guitarist visited him in Athens shortly after the New Orleans sessions - 'He really dug it' - but was to get no further with his contributions. On 31 October his good friend River Phoenix overdosed and died, which upset him so greatly that he felt unable to write for the next five months.

This friendship also evolved into a music-writing partnership and is discussed in the chapter called "...We Have Many Things In Common..."

Michael Stipe and River Phoenix
In his spare time, River Phoenix fronted a band named Aleka's Attic, which also featured his sister Rain. Early in 1990, the band flew to Charlotte to record a track for the PETA benefit album Tame Yourself, to which project Michael and the Indigo Girls also contributed. Thereafter, Michael and River became good friends, with River even considering a move to Athens in 1993. The two wrote songs together, but none had been recorded for release prior to River's death in October that year.

River's eldest sister, Rain, is briefly referred to on two occasions, the second being a reference to her singing backing vocals on the album Monster. Production work on this album suddenly came to an impromptu halt however towards the end of 1993. Upon its release, the album would be dedicated to River.

There was a hiatus following the death of Michael's close friend River Phoenix on 31 October. The decision having been made that this record was to be recorded as quickly, simply and with as few overdubs as possible.

Unfortunately, River Phoenix's death was just the first of many interruptions caused by tragedy and illness which - running throughout recording and then the follow year's world tour - would be enough to make even the least superstitious person suspect a jinx.

Michael's grief over the deaths of both Patrick and River Phoenix the previous year prompted him to write a personal endorsement of Dr Maralyn Gootman's When A Friend Dies in the March 1994 Fan club newsletter: 'Shelve any idea have about self-help books - this speaks directly and simply to anyone who has suffered the loss of a friend.' When Kurt Cobain commited suicide the following month, R.E.M. again recognised the universality of 'feelings of pain, anguish or isolation', and printed the number of the Suicide Prevention Helpline in the June Newsletter.

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