Monday, 14 February 2011

"It Happened Today" - What you may have missed

Jacknife must've had a field day with this.
R.E.M.'s official website seems to have no new information on it, and the lack of news was bugging me immensely. But at least I had the multitracks of It Happened Today to come home to - nothing is more fun than listening to my favourite song, and isolating the individual tracks. Maybe you want to know how to play the guitar part? Perhaps you wanted to find out which voice was Joel Gibb's? In any event, this has to be one of the best things R.E.M. has given us... and it's free!

Listening to a load of instruments you didn't know existed, and then actually picking them out on the studio record has to be one of the most surreal things I have ever experienced. If you had told me there was a mandolin on the track I would have been surprised, but two? I would have just laughed. But they're definitely there, and together they add new levels of complexity to an already awesome song.

What I'd like to do now is put together a list of all the instruments and tracks you can hear if you download the multitrack of It Happened Today. If you haven't got it, head on over to R.E.M. HQ and get either the AIFF or Garageband files. While you're waiting, here's what's in store for you:

  • Michael's Vocals (of course)
  • Mike's Vocals (seems to be two tracks placed into one during the bridge)
  • Eddie's Vocals (a joy to listen to!)
  • Joel's Vocals (strange voice, but an interesting layer)
  • Acoustic Guitar
  • Electric Guitar (plays the same as the acoustic)
  • Drone Guitar (the sound you hear at the beginning)
  • Third Electric (like the drone, but higher)
  • Bass Guitar (doesn't appear as often as expected)
  • Bass Synth
  • Second Bass Synth (mono - having one is not enough)
  • Bass Synth Sustain (notes held longer than original)
  • Hansa Stairwell Snare (presumably recorded in the same place they shot Mine Smell Like Honey)
  • Bass Drum
  • Upright Piano
  • Piano (like the upright, but higher)
  • Mandolins (two tracks put together, panned left and right respectively)
  • Third Mandolin (mono)
  • Celeste and Vibraphone (two tracks put together)
  • Mallets
  • Brass Band (really funny to listen to - the group is called Bonerama)
  • Percussion (mixed into one track, and includes hi hats and clapping)
  • Kick Snare

And if that hasn't left you dumbstruck, check your pulse. You might be dead. :)

Windows users can listen to the AIFF files, but if you'd like to have a go at mixing them then I recommend installing Audacity. Audacity is a free, open-source program that allows people to record, import and mix their own tracks. It can be installed here. Mac and Unix users can get Audacity too, but if you've bought Garageband on your Mac, then that software works just as well.

One final thing - the first word-and-a-half is missing from Mike's vocals during the chorus. Another user suggested that those words can be taken from the second line of the chorus, and that works flawlessly. Other than that, everything else is intact.

I'll leave you to your remixes. Don't forget that they can be posted on Soundcloud, to share with other R.E.M. fans. Happy mixing!

Yours truly,


  1. Just a note, as I was tabbing the song it turns out that the Mandolin track given out has 3 different mandolin parts ... plus the mono ... layering, eh?

  2. I've only got two parts here - Jacknife did say he grouped some tracks together, and there's definitely two parts in the stereo track, plus the mono you mentioned. Can't see a fourth mandolin here, but seeing as these .AIFF files are a chore to look through, it'd be easy to overlook it.

    Ah... Just realised I forgot to say in the post that there were two mandolins grouped in one - I'll get that changed right away. Thanks Barnaby! :)

    Yours truly,

  3. Actually, hang on... I think I do hear a low part in the stereo recording, but might that be the same mandolin as the one panned to the right? I'm not familiar with the instrument - is it possible to play both low and high at the same time on it? I think it uses the same strings as a violin, which I play, and I can do both low and high on that.... ah jeez, I'm confused! :(

    I guess the best person to ask would be Peter Buck, but then he's not exactly easy to reach. :P