In the next couple of days I’m planning to share my picks for the top 10 greatest albums of all time. When I do, you can bet anything that Automatic For The People by R.E.M will be up there.
Universally revered as the band’s finest hour and one of the best albums to have come out of the 1990s, Automatic For the People made a huge impression on me the first time I heard it as a young, nine-year old kid, and I believe its a testament to how good the album is that I am still wholly infatuated with it to this day.
However, as good as all the songs on the album are, there’s one that stood out to me back then as being something particularly special. That song? Opening number, Drive, in which Michael Stipe snarls over a menacing acoustic guitar, all set against a rather foreboding string arrangement.
Like the Queen songs I’d heard in my earliest years, it struck me that I’d never heard anything like this, and I was immediately compelled to keep listening. In doing so, I uncovered an album which taught me that music didn’t have to be all high-octane, high-energy, adrenaline and sex appeal to be good; that it could be sometimes somber, introspective and thoughtful, and still make me feel something.
It’s only years later that I realise how important it was for me to learn that lesson, and what a difference it made to my future tastes in music. Without Drive, and without Automatic For the People, I may have spent my whole life listening only to full blown rock and metal songs, never knowing the enormous joy to be foundin exploring different genres of music.
The Hitman by Queen is the fourth song in my list of 52 songs that changed my life. Other entries in this list are below: