Entertainment & Arts

REM could release fan club singles 'for charity'

Image caption REM's fan club singles mixed punk covers with original songs and Christmas carols

REM's rare fan club singles could be released as a charity box set, guitarist Peter Buck has told the BBC.

The band gave away a two-track, fan-only release every year from 1988 until their split in 2011. Copies can change hands for hundreds of pounds.

They included original songs, as well as duets with Neil Young and Radiohead.

"There were like 24 of them, which makes about 50 songs," said Buck. "We'll put them in a big box set for charity one day."

Only 6,000 copies of each single were ever pressed, with many coming on coloured vinyl and containing promotional gifts like baseball caps.

The records (later VHS tapes and CDs) were sent out to fans who joined the band's fan club, which cost $10 (£6.50) a year.

A complete set of the singles is currently for sale for £750 on music memorabilia website eil.com.

Spoof songs

"I just liked the idea," said Buck. "I was never in the Beatles fan club but... I really liked the fact you would get a weird thing in the mail every year.

"So every year, REM put out a record. It was all material that had never been released anywhere else."

Tracks featured on the singles included Ghost Reindeers In The Sky, a Christmas spoof of Ghost Riders In The Sky; and See No Evil, a frantic cover of Television's punk classic.

The 1999 edition included a nine-minute acoustic version of fan favourite Country Feedback, featuring a solo by Neil Young, while later singles saw departed drummer Bill Berry return to the studio.

REM split up amicably in 2011, after a career that produced hit singles such as Everybody Hurts, Losing My Religion and It's The End Of The World As We Know It.

Image caption Buck (right) and Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody (left) are recording together as Tired Pony

Buck, who was the band's guitarist, is currently promoting an album with Tired Pony, a rock supergroup convened by Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody.

But he said he had considered giving up music altogether after REM.

"I was telling all of my friends 'I'm never going to do anything. I'm done. I'm never going to play music,'" he said.

"Then I immediately wrote 10 songs and started getting ready to perform them and sing, which I'd never done before."

Last year, he became the first REM member to produce a solo album - although the self-titled record was restricted to 6,000 vinyl copies, sold exclusively through independent stores and online retailers.

"I probably met everyone that bought the thing," he said, "but I like that. That's the level I'm working on. It's very non-professional."

He added he had finished a second solo album "last Friday" and intended to keep its release similarly low-key.

"It'll be out maybe before Christmas, maybe in the spring," he told the BBC.

"It'll be vinyl only - no interviews, no photos, no video. I'll do shows, but just sporadically.

"I'm lucky enough that I don't have to work for a living."

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