Lifes Rich Pageant

Lifes Rich Pageant is the fourth studio album by the American alternative rock band R.E.M., released on July 28, 1986. R.E.M. chose Don Gehman to produce the album, which was recorded at John Mellencamp's Belmont Mall Studios in Belmont, Indiana. This was the only album the band recorded with Gehman, who moved them from the more obscure and dense sound of their earlier albums to an accessible, hard rock-influenced quality. The album was well-received critically.

Lifes Rich Pageant
Studio album by
ReleasedJuly 28, 1986 (1986-07-28)
RecordedApril–May 1986
StudioBelmont Mall, Belmont, Indiana, United States
GenreAlternative rock[1]
ProducerDon Gehman
R.E.M. chronology
Fables of the Reconstruction
Lifes Rich Pageant
Dead Letter Office
Singles from Lifes Rich Pageant
  1. "Fall on Me"
    Released: August 1986
  2. "Superman"
    Released: November 1986


The album title is based on an English idiom. Its use is very old, but R.E.M.'s use is, according to guitarist Peter Buck, from the 1964 film A Shot in the Dark, minus the apostrophe:

Inspector Clouseau opens a car door, falling into a fountain.
Maria: "You should get out of these clothes immediately. You'll catch your death of pneumonia, you will."
Clouseau: "Yes, I probably will. But it's all part of life's rich pageant, you know?"[2]

The cover of the album is a photograph of drummer Bill Berry on the upper part of the cover and a pair of bison, signifying an environmental theme, on the lower part. It also alludes to Buffalo Bill.[3]

With R.E.M.'s fan base beginning to grow beyond its college rock boundaries, Lifes Rich Pageant proved at the time to be the band's most commercially successful album in the United States, peaking at number 21[4] on the Billboard charts and heralding the band's first gold record.[5] In the UK, the album managed a number 43 peak.[6]

Slant Magazine listed the album at #52 on its list of "Best Albums of 1980s" saying "Lifes Rich Pageant stands as a nearly seamless transition between the band's formative period and their commercial dominance."[7]

In 2000, it ranked at number 162 in the list of Virgin's All-Time Album Top 1000 List.[8]

The ecologically conscious "Fall on Me" (a personal favorite of frontman Michael Stipe) and a cover of the Clique's "Superman", sung by bassist Mike Mills, were the only singles released from the album (the single version of the latter removed the sample from one of the Godzilla movies that began the album version).

Another ecologically minded song, "Cuyahoga", refers to the once heavily polluted Cuyahoga River that flows into Lake Erie at Cleveland, Ohio. The song includes the lyric we burned the river down, which refers to the several occasions (most famously in 1969) when the river actually caught fire.

At the end of "Just a Touch" Michael Stipe can be heard screaming the line "I'm so young, I'm so goddamn young", quoting longtime influence Patti Smith's live cover version of The Who's "My Generation" released on the b-side of her 1976 single "Gloria",[9][10] which she also uses at the end of her cover version of "Privilege (Set Me Free)" from her 1978 album, Easter.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[12]
Christgau's Record GuideB+[13]
Entertainment WeeklyA[14]
The Guardian[15]
Rolling Stone[18]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[19]

The 25th anniversary re-release of Lifes Rich Pageant was met with positive reviews from critics noted at review aggregator Metacritic. This release received a weighted average score of 93 out of 100, based on 20 reviews.[21]

In 2020, PopMatters included it in their list of the "12 Essential 1980s Alternative Rock Albums".[22]

Track listing

All songs written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe, except where noted.

Side one – "Dinner side"

  1. "Begin the Begin" – 3:28
  2. "These Days" – 3:24
  3. "Fall on Me" – 2:50
  4. "Cuyahoga" – 4:19
  5. "Hyena" – 2:50
  6. "Underneath the Bunker" (unlisted on packaging) – 1:25

Side two – "Supper side"

  1. "The Flowers of Guatemala" – 3:55
  2. "I Believe" – 3:49
  3. "What If We Give It Away?" – 3:33
  4. "Just a Touch" – 3:00
  5. "Swan Swan H" – 2:42
  6. "Superman" (Mitchell Bottler and Gary Zekley) (unlisted on packaging) – 2:52

1993 I.R.S. Vintage Years reissue bonus tracks

  1. "Tired of Singing Trouble" – 0:59
    • Previously unreleased
  2. "Rotary Ten" – 1:58
  3. "Toys in the Attic" (Steve Tyler, Joe Perry) – 2:26
    • B-side of "Fall on Me" British 12" single
  4. "Just a Touch" (Live in studio) – 2:38
    • Previously unreleased version, recorded live to 2-track during Reckoning sessions, 1984
  5. "Dream (All I Have to Do)" (Felice and Boudleaux Bryant) – 2:38
  6. "Swan Swan H" (Acoustic version) – 2:41
    • Originally released on the soundtrack to the film Athens, GA: Inside Out, 1987


  • "Rotary Ten" and "Toys in the Attic" can be found on Dead Letter Office.
  • Although sometimes referred to as such, the first release of this edition does not have the original tracks remastered. They follow the first print of the album and only add the extra tracks.

2011 25th Anniversary Edition reissue bonus tracks (The Athens Demos)

  1. "Fall on Me" – 2:50
  2. "Hyena" – 2:50
  3. "March Song" ("King of Birds" demo) – 3:46
  4. "These Days" – 3:36
  5. "Bad Day" – 3:26
  6. "Salsa" ("Underneath the Bunker" demo) – 1:32
  7. "Swan Swan H" – 2:39
  8. "The Flowers of Guatemala" – 3:29
  9. "Begin the Begin" – 3:44
  10. "Cuyahoga" – 4:33
  11. "I Believe" – 3:37
  12. "Out of Tune" – 0:34
  13. "Jazz" ("Rotary Ten" demo) – 1:13
  14. "Two Steps Onward" – 4:24
  15. "Just a Touch" – 2:31
  16. "Mystery to Me" – 2:07
  17. "Wait" – 2:10
  18. "All the Right Friends" – 3:40
  19. "Get On Their Way" ("What If We Give It Away?" demo) – 3:17


  • "Superman" was listed on some early UK CD copies as "Superwoman."
  • The track listing on the back of the album is incorrect. It has never been corrected. The order is given as 1-5-10-8-2-7-4-9-3-11, which leaves out "Superman" and "Underneath the Bunker." The track listing is correct on the actual vinyl, cassette, and some CD versions.
  • Early American pressings of the CD have the track number for "Cuyahoga" as "0R" instead of "04" printed on the disc itself. This error resurfaces on the cover of Green.
  • On the vinyl and cassette releases, R.E.M. labeled side one (tracks 1–6) as the "Dinner side" and side two (tracks 7–12) as the "Supper side."
  • The European 'I.R.S. Years Vintage 1986' release preserves the erroneous track list, but properly lists the bonus tracks.




Chart performance

Weekly charts

Year Chart Peak
1986 Billboard 200 21 (32 weeks on chart)[23]
1986 UK Albums Chart 43 (4 weeks on chart)[6]
1986 Australia (Kent Music Report) 73 (7 weeks on chart)[24]


Year Song Chart Position
1986 "Fall on Me" Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 5[23]
1986 "Fall on Me" The Billboard Hot 100 94[23]
1986 "Superman" Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 17[23]


Organization Level Date
RIAA – US Gold January 23, 1987[5]
CRIA – Canada Gold September 30, 1987[25]
CRIA – Canada Platinum September 30, 1987[25]

Release history

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United Kingdom July 28, 1986 I.R.S. vinyl LP MIRG1014
United States July 29, 1986 I.R.S. LP IRS-5783
cassette tape IRSC-5783
Compact Disc 72434-93478-2-3
Brazil 1986 Epic LP 14495
Greece 1986 I.R.S. LP 57064
The Netherlands 1986 Illegal LP ILP 57064
New Zealand 1986 I.R.S. LP ELPS 4550
Spain 1986 Illegal LP 57064
United States 1990 I.R.S. Compact Disc IRSD-5783
Worldwide 1990 MCA Compact Disc 5783
United States 1990 I.R.S. cassette tape IRSC-5783
United States 1992 Universal Compact Disc 19080
The Netherlands January 26, 1993 EMI Compact Disc 7 13201 2 5†
Japan February 24, 1993 Toshiba/EMI Compact Disc TOCP-7269†
Worldwide 1998 Capitol Compact Disc 93478
Europe 1998 EMI Compact Disc 13201†
Europe 1999 EMI Compact Disc 7132012†
United States July 12, 2011 Capitol/EMI Compact Disc 5099908244727††
United States November 22, 2011 Mobile Fidelity Vinyl LP N/A
United States July 29, 2016 I.R.S. Vinyl LP IRSLP85140


  • † I.R.S. Vintage Years edition, with bonus tracks
  • †† 25th anniversary edition, with bonus disc


  1. Ramirez, AJ (August 27, 2014). "12 Essential Alternative Rock Albums from the 1980s". PopMatters. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  2. Rosen, Craig (1997). R.E.M. Inside Out: The Stories Behind Every Song. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1-56025-177-8.
  3. "Lifes Rich Pageant (25th Anniversary Edition)". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  4. "R.E.M. > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums". allmusic. Retrieved 2009-08-12.
  5. "RIAA – Gold & Platinum Searchable Database". RIAA. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  6. "R.E.M. Artist Official Charts". Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on March 13, 2013. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  7. "The 100 Best Albums of the 1980s | Feature". Slant Magazine. 2012-03-05. Archived from the original on 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  8. " Larkin 1000 Albums - 2000". Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  9. Keating, Robert (October 1986). "Atlanta, Who Murdered Your Children?". Spin. 2 (7): 78. ISSN 0886-3032.
  10. Matthew, Perpetua. "Ask Michael Stipe". Pop Songs 07-08. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  11. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Lifes Rich Pageant – R.E.M." AllMusic. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  12. Kot, Greg (March 24, 1991). "Traveling Through The Years With R.E.M." Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
  13. Christgau, Robert (1990). "R.E.M.: Lifes Rich Pageant". Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s. Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-679-73015-X. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  14. Browne, David (March 22, 1991). "An R.E.M. discography". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 30, 2015.
  15. Petridis, Alexis (June 30, 2011). "REM: Lifes Rich Pageant – review". The Guardian. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  16. Deusner, Stephen M. (July 13, 2011). "R.E.M.: Lifes Rich Pageant (25th Anniversary Edition)". Pitchfork. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  17. "R.E.M.: Life's Rich Pageant". Q (301): 128. August 2011.
  18. Edwards, Gavin (June 18, 2003). "Life's Rich Pageant". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  19. Nawrocki, Tom (2004). "R.E.M.". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 685–87. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  20. Mueller, Andrew (July 15, 2011). "REM Lifes Rich Pageant 25th Anniversary Edition". Uncut: 102. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  21. "Lifes Rich Pageant by R.E.M. Reviews and Tracks". Metacritic. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  22. Ramirez, AJ (February 11, 2020). "Hope Despite the Times: 12 Essential Alternative Rock Albums from the 1980s". PopMatters. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  23. "Lifes Rich Pageant – R.E.M. Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved June 16, 2014.
  24. Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives: Australian Chart Book. p. 244. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. The Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between 1983 and June 19, 1988.
  25. "CRIA Gold and Platinum Search". CRIA. Archived from the original on November 15, 2011. Retrieved June 16, 2014.