R.E.M’s Vulnerable Tribute To The Beach Boys

The lead guitar is an essential component of a rock band, as it is responsible for playing solos, improvising, and creating distinctive melodies that complement the vocals and add interest to the music. Lead guitar solos are often used to build excitement and tension in the song and provide a focal point for the listener.

As the founding member and former lead guitarist of R.E.M., Peter Buck is also known for his innovative guitar-playing style and ability to create memorable riffs, which defined the band’s sound and set them apart from their contemporaries. While his role as a guitar player was prominent in the band, there was still one song he took over Mike Mills’ bass parts.

The R.E.M. track in question is ‘At My Most Beautiful,’ which was released as the third single of the band’s eleventh studio album, ‘Up.’ The song was a heartfelt ode to love, crafted in a way that pays tribute to the iconic Beach Boys. R.E.M. members purposely infused the track with a sound reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ work. The piano-driven ballad showcases Michael Stipe’s deeply romantic lyrics, which he intended to be his most heartfelt yet.

Peter Buck gave some details about the song while talking about ‘In Time.’ He revealed that ‘At My Most Beautiful’ was their tribute to the Beach Boys, as he and Mills were big fans of the act. According to the guitarist, Michael Stipe also knew that while creating the track, so he successfully captured the spirit of the Beach Boys’ music.

The musician also noted in their compilation album, ‘In Time,’ that it was his favorite bass line that Mills had ever created. So, when they played it live, the guitarist himself played the bass parts instead of Mills. Buck also said that he really enjoyed performing that part because it was super cool.

Here are Peter Buck’s words on the song:

“Obviously, this is our tribute to the Beach Boys. Mike told me that when he and Bill lived in Macon, they would cruise the city, singing along with a Beach Boys eight-track. He said it really stretched their upper ranges. Until the day Bill quit, they could still hit those notes.

I’m not sure that Michael even knows that the Beach Boys have an unreleased album called ‘Smile,’ but he went along with the feel of the track, knowing that Mike and I are big fans. The bass part on this is probably my favorite line that Mike has ever come up with. When we play it live, I play bass. I feel like such a pro, up on stage playing this super cool part.”

It is also known that Michael Stipe struggled to come up with lyrics during the making process of ‘At My Most Beautiful.’ The inspiration he needed came to him while he was putting together the Patti Smith book, ‘Two Times Intro: On the Road with Patti Smith.’ Once he wrote a few lines and later the piano part, he realized that he had been channeling the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson.

Knowing that his bandmates were the band’s fans, Stipe thought it could be an amazing gift to them and the Beach Boys fans. Ultimately, ‘At My Most Beautiful’ came out as a tribute to the Beach Boys. With its vulnerable lyrics and nostalgic sound, it is also a timeless tribute to the power of love and the influence of iconic musical legends.