On to today's.Not the later, flamboyantly 'out there' Stipe, with coloured stripes across his face or the current enormous beard. I have to say, I don't really go for that. He's no longer an 'outsider' artist, much as I think he'd like to be. But I still have a soft-spot for the early incarnation, chronically shy, (important in itself, and still highly unusual for someone fronting a rock band).behind enormous glasses, a mane of ringlets or, for the Fables album tour, bleaching his hair and writing 'dog' on his forehead.
Also for his lyrics and the manner of their delivery on those first R.E.M. records. The fact that they were initially an incoherent blur on Murmur was almost unprecedented. They weren't supposed to be pinned down - feeling, emotion and personal interpretation were all. That the listener if they chose to should make an investment too. It all had a great and lasting effect on me when I chanced upon the record, on its release in 1983 and felt for a long time that it was all my own, very personal discovery.
As Stipe opened up on the next couple of albums the persona and what he was writing about became more enticing. A vision of the South as a magical, mysterious place which I was already drawn to as a reader of McCullers, Faulkner and O'Connor novels. R.E.M. nailed something important, specific and odd in those first few records and Stipe was always very much at the creative heart of things.