In the 1980s, R.E.M. came to define alternative rock or what some call “underground music”. Formed in Athens, Georgia in 1980, the quartet of front man Michael Stipe, Bill Berry, Peter Buck, and Mike Mills promoted a new guitar-laden, back-to-basics sound that influenced bands into the next decade and beyond. Starting with 1983’s Murmur, R.E.M. turned out a smash album a year through 1988 (the next album then followed in 1991), and their popularity grew through the decade. Arguably their defining anthem is 1987’s “It’s The End of The World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” from the album Document. You can probably turn back to a time when you were at a party or in a club and everyone stopped and shouted the lyrics. Everyone knows them (and feels fine).

With R.E.M.’s popularity growing in the 1980s, it only made sense for their label, I.R.S. Records, to take every opportunity to promote them, and to do so creatively. At the same time, CDs were becoming the preferred vehicle for music delivery. As we have seen on keithhirsch.com before, CDs became a promotional tool. Why not? What better way to promote an artist? Give people the music! Although promotional CDs seemed like a “Can’t miss”, like many early experimental CDs, many of the early promos were produced in limited quantities. Tying it all together, we consider here a very rare promotional CD single of R.E.M.’s “It’s The End of The World as We Know (and I Feel Fine)”.

The R.E.M. promotional single was released in the U.S. by I.R.S., part of MCA Records, in 1987 under catalog number CD45-17476. Based on the catalog number, I.R.S. obviously saw the CD single as the new 45. In the model of a classic 45, the CD single of “It’s The End of World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” has two tracks, specifically two versions of the title track. Track 1 is an edited version stated on the back insert to run 3:29. Track 2 is the album version, shown to run 4:07.

An interesting feature of this release is the front insert. It is a reproduction of the cover for the December 3, 1987 issue of Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone proclaimed R.E.M. “AMERICA’S BEST ROCK & ROLL BAND” on that cover, so it was a natural choice for the promotional single. This front insert is not a booklet. It is just single-sided and is printed on thick card stock. The song title is printed along the bottom.

The back insert lists the two tracks and is labeled “FOR PROMOTION ONLY” in the lower right corner. Since this is a promotional release, there is no barcode. The back insert is dated 1987, and it states with regards to the featured song “FROM THE I.R.S. LP, DOCUMENT, IRS-42059”. Note that this statement references the LP, not the CD. The original U.S. catalog number for the Document CD is IRSD-42059.

The single was pressed by LaserVideo, one of the first CD pressing plants to open in the U.S. In typical fashion, the disc has “MADE IN U.S.A. BY LASERVIDEO INC.” stamped in the mirror band. The matrix code is “IRSD17476 W.O. # 8765-1”. The disc bears a large I.R.S. Records logo at 6 o’clock. Beneath the logo is the statement “FOR PROMOTION ONLY”.

It is not known how many copies of the “It’s The End of The World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” single were produced, but it was no doubt a limited release. Copies rarely turn up for sale online. Shown below are the front and back inserts along with the promotional disc.

 

REM promo cover_500

The cover for the U.S. promotional CD single of R.E.M. “It’s The End of The World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” (I.R.S. (MCA), catalog number CD45-17476). It is a reproduction of the cover for the December 3, 1987 issue of Rolling Stone. The song title is printed along the bottom.

 

REM back insert_500

The back insert for the U.S. promotional CD single of R.E.M. “It’s The End of The World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” (I.R.S. (MCA), catalog number CD45-17476). The two tracks, an edit and the LP version of the title track, are listed. There is no barcode, and “FOR PROMOTION ONLY” is printed in the bottom right corner. The back insert is dated 1987 in the bottom left corner.

 

REM promo disc_500

The U.S. promotional CD single of R.E.M. “It’s The End of The World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” (I.R.S. (MCA), catalog number CD45-17476). It was pressed by LaserVideo and has ” “MADE IN U.S.A. BY LASERVIDEO INC.” stamped in the mirror band. The matrix code is “IRSD17476 W.O. # 8765-1”. The disc is labeled “FOR PROMOTION ONLY” at 6 o’clock.

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