The Folklore Project


R.E.M.’s “Out of Time” at 25

By Jody Stephens, Robert McDuffie, Hugh Acheson & James Ponsoldt

Without question, R.E.M. was one of the most important bands to come out of the South in the 20th Century. And for all the young folks who spent their collegiate years in Athens, Georgia, watching the band’s rise from nothing in the early 1980s, R.E.M. changed lives. They provided a source of pride: The South had never exactly been known for its ability to launch avant-garde musical acts to global attention. R.E.M. almost singlehandedly changed the world’s perception about the South’s capability for creation.

The band’s seventh full-length album — 1991’s “Out of Time,” with its giant hit “Losing My Religion” — was the record that truly made R.E.M. global stars. On the occasion of that record’s 25th anniversary, R.E.M. asked prominent fans around the world to offer up playlists of their 10 favorite R.E.M. songs. And the band asked The Bitter Southerner to publish four lists from Southern folks — Memphis’ Jody Stephens, the drummer of the legendary band (and R.E.M. inspiration) Big Star; the renowned Georgia chef Hugh Acheson; Robert McDuffie, the Macon-based classical violinist who recently created a “rock concerto” with R.E.M.’s Mike Mills; and film director James Ponsoldt (“The Spectacular Now”), who is an Athens native.

Jody Stephens

"R.E.M. were a continued source of light beginning in the early ’80s. Their energy, edge, sense of melody, songs and individual performances have always been that musical pool that is so refreshing to dive into."

Robert McDuffie

“R.E.M. has been my go-to musical fix for years, from treadmills to planes. My longtime friendship with Mike Mills has brought me closer to his music and his colleagues. In my own private way, I feel I’m still cheering them on."

Hugh Acheson

"Michael, Mike, Peter, Bill, and (band manager) Bertis (Downs) have all meant so much to me and the little town I call home, Athens, Georgia. From first hearing ‘Murmur,’ while hanging out at the neighborhood pool in Atlanta in 1983, I knew that there was something about this band that would change the world. They have influenced a generation and continue to be a timeless force. If it was just the music, I would have been a fan, but it has always been so much more than that. Through their unparalleled support and passion for their community, I have become a friend, something I am endlessly thankful for.”

James Ponsoldt

"R.E.M. is my favorite band of all time — hands down, no contest. Growing up in Athens, the band felt like the patron saints of all things cool and conscientious, truly personifying the 'think globally, act locally' ethos. R.E.M. has been the soundtrack to much of my life, and I'm grateful for all the art and heart they've given the world.”