Rolling Stone Magazine has a list of their favorite ten musical performances from David Letterman’s television shows on NBC and CBS. Number ten is R.E.M. performing their song “So. Central Rain” on Letterman’s NBC show in 1982. At the time, they were unknown to mainstream America.
In this article STX Entertainment mentions what they find interesting about the segment is that Letterman goes down to the band to interview them instead of the band coming to his desk. Letterman talks to the band before they perform, and this is also unusual. Normally, if his musical guests talk to him it’s after they perform.
Furthermore, Letterman mainly chats with the guitar and bass players in R.E.M. The lead singer, Michael Stipe, hangs back away during the small talk about the band’s music and the scene in their hometown of Athens, Georgia.
I’m glad that Rolling Stone featured this clip. The band puts on a great show, and it’s good to see them now knowing what stars they went on to become. This was at a point in both Letterman and R.E.M.’s careers when they were young and full of promise. It’s bittersweet to reflect now that both the band and the television host are retired.