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(Credit: Michael Stipe)

Music

How The Beatles gave Michael Stipe his first memory of music

@josephtaysom

While R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe is far from a Beatles connoisseur, once even admitting that he is “not really” a fan of their work yet, he still owes his earliest memory of music to the Fab Four.

Stipe’s childhood was nomadic due to his father’s career in the Army, which meant his family were constantly on the move, regularly relocating to different far-flung places. While he was born in Georgia, Atlanta, there wasn’t one place he called home for too long, with his family united having stints out in Texas, Illinois, Alabama, and even West Germany.

Moving from town to town was just a part of Stipe’s life, and he didn’t know any different. Although he wasn’t in Europe for an extended period of time, it still offered him his first introduction into the world of The Beatles, albeit in strange circumstances.

Remarkably, before the Fab Four became a global juggernaut more significant than the entire industry combined, they were willing to do anything to sell records, even if it meant removing the heart from their work. In 1963, The Beatles re-recorded two songs in German in an ambitious bid to enter the lucrative market. One of those was ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, which translated to ‘Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand’ and subsequently became a monstrous hit for the group.

Speaking to Pitchfork, Stipe said this track was his first exposure to music, revealing the impact that the material had on him. He said: “My father was in the Army, so we moved to Germany when I was six, and we lived there for two years in the mid-60s. There was this German woman with a cabbage garden who cleaned our apartment and babysat us when my mother and father were off working”.

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Adding: “I went to her house one afternoon, and she left me in the living room. She had an old-school radio on a tall shelf, and it was playing this song. I just stood there and stared up and wondered what on Earth I was listening to. The song was ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ by the Beatles, but sung in German. They actually recorded that song in German, and it was a big hit there”.

Although the German version of ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ is of extraordinary significance to Stipe’s life, breathtakingly, on the whole, The Beatles are not. The frontman brazenly revealed: “I’m not really a Beatles fan, though. I acknowledge their genius, but I’m just not the generation that grew up with them. It’s not something I’m personally drawn to, and that’s gotten me into a lot of trouble in the past”.

If you’ve never enjoyed the bizarre sensation of hearing The Beatles sing in German before, then prepare to be enchanted by ‘Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand’, which made the European country adopt the Liverpudlians fully into their hearts.

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