R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe Says He Accidentally Blinded Himself

R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe opened about the songs that greatly contributed to his life during his recent interview with Pitchfork and revealed the songs he wrote after accidentally blinding himself during a festival.

As you may know, R.E.M. released their fourth studio album entitled ‘Lifes Rich Pageant’ on July 28, 1986. The hard rock-influenced album got very positive reviews from their fans, hitting charts and selling millions of records. Its tracks ‘Begin the Begin,’ ‘These Days,’ ‘Fall on Me,’ and ‘I Believe’ became more popular than the other songs in the album.

Michael Stipe created ‘I Believe’ and ‘These Days’ after having a terrible accident while performing at a festival in Belgium. Back then, Stipe had been strıgling with depression and having nervous breakdowns, but he had to continue producing songs and performing live shows. Thus, he couldn’t concentrate on his physical and mental well-being.

However, when the vocalist forgot to clean his contact lenses for months, he ended up accidentally blinding himself. He had to wear bandages for ten days, and he had very unusual dreams that he found hard to understand and explain. The R.E.M. frontman decided to write ‘I Believe’ and ‘These Days’ to remember these dreams, and never forget how this experience, which changed his approach towards life.

Stipe stated in his interview that:

“We were five years into R.E.M., and I was going through profound depression and a nervous breakdown that took a year and a half to work through. We were still touring and making records and marching forward at this insane velocity, which didn’t help my situation at all.

We played at a festival in Belgium where Lou Reed was also performing, and I met him that day. He wasn’t terribly friendly to me, but we had covered a couple of his songs, so he said hello. That same day I lacerated my eyes really badly with these really dirty contact lenses—I had neglected them for three or four months at that point—and accidentally blinded myself.”

He added:

“I had to wear bandages over my eyes for ten days. I’m an extremely visual person, and during that time I had these crazy dreams. ‘I Believe’ and ‘These Days’ were basically written as a way for me to remember what those dreams were. Meanwhile, the band picked up from Belgium and traveled through Heathrow to New York and onto Seattle, where I was finally able to take the bandages off and see them again.

I’ll never forget looking out the window onto the street in Seattle and feeling this elation. Something had happened. I had this turning point that was deeply profound and important. I took those bandages off my eyes and came out of the depression. I felt emboldened and strong enough to carry on. I was a different person from that day forward.

You can listen to the songs below.