R.E.M. released its fourth studio album, Lifes Rich Pageant, on July 28, 1986.
Produced by noted John Mellencamp collaborator Don Gehman, the album was a giant step forward for the band, especially sonically. Not only were Michael Stipe’s vocals higher and clearer in the mix—allowing lyrics to take center stage—but every other instrument on the LP was louder, tougher and more confident.
“We decided beforehand we wanted the album to rock,” bassist Mike Mills told the Chicago Tribune in 1986. “We wanted a really hard-driving record, but we also like to throw in a lot of things: pianos and organs and accordions and banjos and what-not. And Don, with the stereo effect, can put those things in different places where they don`t clutter each other up. If the sound had been more like our other records, I don’t think we would have let the vocals be that up-front. Then it really would have sounded like vocals first and then everything else.”