Green Revisited: The Secret Friend


R.E.M. Green Album Cover

While I have been painting the interior of the new house over the past seven months, I have been listening to music as music should be listened. I take an album and listen to it in order from beginning to end. It is like reading a novel from the first chapter to the end and you experience the music as the artist envisioned it. It is a journey with the artist and you follow where they want you to go whether it is up a coastline, through a forest or across a room.

I was fifteen when I fell in love with R.E.M. and my introduction to them was the Green album from 1988. They remain my favorite band and that never will change as if I could change the color of my own blue eyes. The band is wrapped into my own DNA at this point.

Green is not my favorite album from the band, that is Murmur, but it is no less important to me. The album was like finding a key to some room that I needed to open and slowly step inside one toe at a time. As the oddball gay teen boy in a rural Georgia county I found a companion in Michael Stipe's voice.

I knew. 

All of the winter of 1988 into March of '89 when I turned sixteen, I closed my eyes and let his voice put its arm around my shoulder. Green was my secret friend. I began driving and I brought their music with me to fill the empty passenger seat and the holes in my heart. Those mornings drives to high school became better, I could look at the sky and the music was a magnet pulling me onward to a destination that I would someday find. 

I got there.

The view from the top of Elsberry Mountain. Late 1980s. Photo by me.

Listening to the album decades later with paint covered fingers less nimble I  feel the coldness of my clothes in the winter walks in the woods of my youth and I am sitting atop Elsberry Mountain looking toward Atlanta, the future and the fading light.

Across the room, time and down the road of life; Green is still a secret friend.

It was waking and sleeping nightmares too many years and staring at the shoe tops of the bad times. That gay boy became himself.

Stipe sang or yearned in anguish that vibrated at the same resonance as mine, "it's okay."

World Leader Pretend is the best writing on the album, but The Wrong Child was the glue to patch a hole.