Michael Stipe in Waffle Country: Here's The Real Scoop, According to Sylvain Sylvain and Others

click to enlarge They didn't airbrush his face here.
They didn't airbrush his face here.

This week, R.E.M. reissued its 1985 album Fables of the Reconstruction as a two-CD set, which includes a disc of demos. The band also announced that it had finished recording its new studio album, which is set for release sometime next year. Perhaps in tribute, the Suburban Journals published a piece called "Michael Stipe in waffle country," which detailed writer Chris Campbell's search for hints of the vocalist at a Collinsville Waffle House. (Stipe apparently worked there when he lived in the area in the late '70s.) The article is a bit befuddled that "you don't hear much about Stipe around town."

Perhaps Campbell should have asked people in St. Louis instead. When R.E.M. played at the Fabulous Fox in 2004, Stipe recalled seeing Blondie and Lou Reed at the venue. In a fantastic blogpost, Steve Scariano reminisced about seeing Stipe freaking out when o.g. local girl-punk group the Welders covered the New York Dolls. When we talked to the Welders themselves a few months ago, they recalled Stipe singing a Cheap Trick song with his band at the time, Bad Habits (yes, he was in a band before R.E.M.) A few years ago, when we interviewed New York Dolls' Sylvain Sylvain -- who's in town tonight at Off Broadway with his new band, Batusis -- he recalled the following:

[Sylvain] tells the story of being approached by R.E.M. singer and Dolls fan Michael Stipe (Stipe contributes vocals on the Dolls' song "Dancing on the Lip of a Volcano" on their new album, One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This) at a late-'90s Patti Smith concert in Atlanta. "He told me that he had come and seen my show, me and David Johansen, when we worked together in 1978 in Missouri," Sylvain begins. "In Missouri of all places. How I handed him a bottle of Perrier water during my performance and so on and so forth, and how boring this must be, him telling me this, and 'You must have heard this a thousand times,' and how groovy we were that night and stuff. "And I said, 'Well, Michael, you know, if I didn't get, every now and then, 'Hey man, I saw you back then and your music really spoke to me' and whatever, then I wouldn't have shit. Because, basically, I didn't really get paid for whatever I did in this business, you know, because you can't deposit influence."

And of course, a few months ago, we posted this video of him being interviewed before a local showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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