Hard to believe — but R.E.M. is kicking off its 40th anniversary celebration. This upcoming July 23rd sees the reissue of the band’s 1981 debut single “Radio Free Europe,” along with the band’s 1981 demonstration tape — titled Cassette Set, which is also being made available for the first time. This ultra-rare collection will be available exclusively via the official R.E.M. store as a bundle with the seven-inch single and limited to 1,500 copies worldwide.

“Radio Free Europe (Original Hib-Tone Single)” will be presented in its original format: as a 45-RPM single, housed in a jacket featuring photography by Michael Stipe. In an homage to the band’s hometown, the single was pressed in Athens, Georgia at Kindercore Vinyl.

The details of the cassette were explained by the band in the official press release:

On April 15th, 1981, set up in (producer) Mitch Easter’s parents’ converted garage, R.E.M. recorded three songs: “Sitting Still,” “White Tornado” and “Radio Free Europe.” The resulting tracks were copied to several-hundred self-produced cassette tapes — approximately 400 copies — and distributed to clubs, journalists and labels.

The collection, titled Cassette Set, included a few playful additions; “Sitting Still” was prefaced by a few seconds of a high tempo run through of the song done in Polka-style; “White Tornado” was followed by an aborted “White Tornado” take where Buck blunders, the song grinds to a halt, and Buck is heard apologizing before Easter’s voice appears.

This Cassette Set was the only place to get the very original Easter mixes of “Sitting Still” and “Radio Free Europe.” Outside of the copies originally produced, this early demonstration tape collection has never-before been reissued — until now.


“Radio Free Europe (Original Hib-Tone Single)” tracklist:

  • Side A: “Radio Free Europe”
  • Side B: “Sitting Still”

The Cassette Set (1981 demo tape) tracklist:

  • “Sitting Still (fast “Polka” version, snippet),” “Sitting Still,” “Radio Free Europe,” “White Tornado,” and “White Tornado (take 2, aborted).”

CHECK IT OUT: R.E.M.’s on October 6th, 1983 performing “Radio Free Europe” during their national TV debut on Late Night with David Letterman: