I don't need to tell regular readers of this blog how much of a R.E.M. dork I am. I'm so much of a jangle-nerd that I've been in the band's fan club on and off since 1994. Say what you will about the commercial rise of the group, but the fanclub has always cost $10 -- which nets you periodic newsletters, merch discounts and a generous holiday package.
In the late '80s and '90s, these always contained an exclusive seven-inch, a carefully crafted card/postcard and other swag -- perhaps stickers, a patch or a calendar. The music was always top-notch -- usually a cover or two of bands R.E.M. liked: Spizz Energi's "Where's Captain Kirk?", Flipper's "Sex Bomb," Tommy James and the Shondells' "Only in America," Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game," etc. (For a detailed account of this nerd-dom, see this chronology.)
Getting this package as a teenager always made my heart flutter: My favorite band! Sending me exclusive, glossy-looking, non-mall-bought stuff! I remember carefully taking out the vinyl and playing it on my parents' turntable; being such a novice with records at that point, I was afraid of scratching or otherwise hurting the music. I still have all of the packages, mostly intact (although the sticker on my car? Totally fanclub.)
And I'm still waiting breathlessly for this year's package, as I'm still in the fan club.
Below are some of these vinyl-only releases; missing are R.E.M.'s cover of "Christmas Time is Here" (a.k.a. one of those Charlie Brown songs), "Good King Wenceslas" or "Toyland."
As an added bonus, please enjoy some cuts from an album released last year by R.E.M. tourmates, labelmates and pals, the dBs. Called Christmas Time Again, it's a reissued/repackaged edition of a vinyl-only 1986 LP, according to amazon.com.