Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 188
Wed. Aug 7, 2013

“I Remember California”


“♫ I

While I was bedridden this past weekend, I had this deep R.E.M. album cut from 1988’s Green, playing in my worried mind. “I Remember California” was linked to a dream I had about this road trip we took in the late eighties. I don’t really know why? I hadn’t thought about this summer vacation our familia took from Texas to California, it’s been ages since I listened to Green. But, I’m not alone, even bassist Mike Mills admitted to David Buckley, in his book R.E.M. Fiction: An Alternative Biography, “I think Green is haphazard, a bit scattershot, but that’s because we were experimenting with things […] but then again I haven’t listened to Green in years. But I recall liking it very much.”

What “I Remember California” made me recall was how the music on the radio soothed my worried mind and body. I’m notorious for getting sick on vacations and I have vivid memories of singing aloud in front of my family and seeing a new world of California through these young, naïve eyes. I would love to have told you that this road trip we took as a familia was catalyst for me moving to Los Angeles many years later, alas, it wasn’t.

Although, Stipe’s lyrics foreshadow the listing colorful curling poetic lines of R.E.M.’s future Reveal song, “She Just Wants To Be;” “I Remember” is not about a place where people go to be famous; there’s seems to be a sort of escapism to California that R.E.M.’s lyricist was trying to find as Michael explained in Craig Rosen’s R.E.M. Inside Out: Stories Behind Every Song, “I have this theory that people in California, they’re the people that just went and went until they couldn’t go any further unless they fell into the ocean. So they set up a lemming camp and it became Los Angeles. And there you are.”

Stipe was not only talking about the founders of this Golden State but my experience how I made it to California. After listening to “I Remember” from the 25th Anniversary edition of Green, I realize that I was one of those lost souls who stopped running from my fears and happened to end up in the west coast. I know now I was meant to take this road to L.A. and “I Remember California” is a reminder of the boy I used to be. Sometimes I look in the mirror and behind those gray hairs I feel a sense of that kid who was singing to the radio in our family’s car, who just wanted to find some solace in his songs. Thank you R.E.M. for taking me back there, before I found my home within the vivid lyrical tapestry that is “I Remember California.”