Work / My Favourite Music Video

1990s photography hero Ewen Spencer on his favourite music video by R.E.M

Happy-go-lucky party animal Ewen Spencer is responsible for taking some of the most nostalgic series of photographs of partying we’ve ever come across. He made it his business to attend every underground rave or “it” place to be for the last 20 years or so, and has subsequently given much pleasure to members of the public who, for one reason or another, struggle to remember exactly what these places were actually like. As something of a hero of subculture, we were keen to ask Ewen about his favourite music video. It’s not a rare grime track or a blurry UK hip hop banger, it’s actually just a really lovely song by R.E.M.

Ewen Spencer: R.E.M – It’s The End of the World

R.E.M’s Michael Stipe was one of director James Herbert’s students at the University of Georgia during the early 1980s. Latterly, Herbert retired from his professorship in Georgia and moved to Brooklyn to focus on his Neo-Expressionist painting. His role at the university allowed him access to the burgeoning music scene of Athens, Georgia. Throughout the 1980s he made many music videos for R.E.M and the B52’s at a time when the music video carried a significant clout in reaching millions of young people around the world watching MTV. 

I’m not a huge R.E.M fan. I remember them being played at the Riverside nightclub in Newcastle on a regular Friday alternative/indie night. One lasting memory was the surprise at seeing various kids I knew as both Newcastle AND Sunderland football casuals dancing to one of their tunes called You Can’t Get There From Here. It seemed to be a favourite? It was quite peculiar that they would even be in the same building with out things kicking off normally, let alone taking to a shared dance floor.

James Herbert made around ten videos for R.E.M. His films often rely on American iconography in a critical sense. With this particular film I love the recall of feral youth; the sense of exploration and adventure building into long days. The rummaging around through the found belongings on the floor of this abandoned house echoes the babbling stream of lyrics as if the searching were a mini world adventure within the larger adventure of the protagonist’s adolescence. Brilliantly seen and superbly captured, occasionally I look back at videos like this and wonder how much influence they’ve had aesthetically on my own photography and filmmaking. Still not sure about R.E.M though.

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R.E.M – It’s The End of the World

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R.E.M – It’s The End of the World

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R.E.M – It’s The End of the World

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R.E.M – It’s The End of the World

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R.E.M – It’s The End of the World