When R.E.M. were at Reflection Studios in Charlotte, NC recording the ‘Reckoning’ album, the band was burnt out, having just gotten off a tour with The Police. As they were cutting the song, ‘7 Chinese Brothers’, Michael Stipe just wasn’t feeling the vocal, so co-producer Don Dixon gave him an old gospel album he found laying around the attic of the studio as a goof. When Don got back to the control room, he used the talkback mic to tell him he was going to ‘roll tape’ on the song for Stipe to record a vocal. To Dixon’s surprise, Stipe didn’t sing the song’s lyrics but rather the liner notes from the album Dixon gave him: “The Joy of Knowing Jesus” by The Revelaires. It was just the catalyst Dixon needed for Stipe to get the right vocal for the song. After one goof take of the ‘song’, they recorded the real take (of ‘Seven Chinese Brothers’) that would end up on the Reckoning album. The goof version, dubbed “Voice of Harold” ended up being the b-side of “So. Central Rain” and later ended up on the ‘Dead Letter Office’ collection of odds and sods. So, the song s has the EXACT same instrumental part, just different vocals/lyrics.
The original “7 Chinese Brothers” from R.E.M.
And the alternate version with the lyrics cribbed from the Revelaires gospel album.
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