R.E.M. is an American rock band formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980 by Michael Stipe (lead vocals), Peter Buck (guitar), Mike Mills (bass guitar), and Bill Berry (drums and percussion). R.E.M. was one of the first popular alternative rock bands, and gained early attention due to Buck's ringing, arpeggiated guitar style and Stipe's unclear vocals. R.E.M. released its first single, "Radio Free Europe", in 1981 on the independent record label Hib-Tone. The single was followed by the Chronic Town EP in 1982, the band's first release on I.R.S. Records. In 1983, the band released its critically acclaimed debut album Murmur, and built its reputation over the next few years through subsequent releases, constant touring, and the support of college radio. Following years of underground success, R.E.M. achieved a mainstream hit in 1987 with the single "The One I Love". The group signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1988, and began to espouse political and environmental concerns while playing large arenas worldwide.
By the early 1990s, when alternative rock began to experience broad mainstream success, R.E.M. was viewed as a pioneer of the genre and released its two most commercially successful albums, Out of Time (1991) and Automatic for the People (1992), which veered from the band's established sound. R.E.M.'s 1994 Monster was a return to a more rock-oriented sound. The band began its first tour in six years to support the album; the tour was marred by medical emergencies suffered by three band members. In 1996, R.E.M. re-signed with Warner Bros. for a reported US$80 million, at the time the most expensive recording contract in history. The following year, Bill Berry left the band amicably, with Buck, Mills, and Stipe continuing as a three-piece. Through some changes in musical style, the band continued its career into the next decade with mixed critical and commercial success. In 2007, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Dead Letter Office is a rarities and B-sides collection by R.E.M., released in 1987. The album effectively mops up many of the additional recordings R.E.M. made pre-Murmur to Lifes Rich Pageant that were outtakes or released as flip sides to their singles internationally. Many of the tracks are favorite cover versions indicating the band's disparate influences and musical tastes, including three Velvet Underground covers, and songs by Pylon, Aerosmith and Roger Miller.
Guitarist Peter Buck composed wry, self-deprecating (and, in one instance, apologetic) liner notes to the songs on Dead Letter Office.
The album was initially issued as a 15-song collection on vinyl and cassette, but when its CD edition appeared (now the only available edition of Dead Letter Office) the Chronic Town EP from 1982 was added to it.
Dead Letter Office originally reached #52 in the U.S. and #60 in the UK.
All songs written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe, except as indicated.
"Crazy" (Randy Bewley, Vanessa Briscoe, Curtis Crowe, Michael Lachowski) – 3:03 B-side of "Driver 8" 7 inch single & "Wendell Gee" 7 & 12 inch singles
"There She Goes Again" (Lou Reed) – 2:50 B-side of I.R.S. "Radio Free Europe" 7 inch single
"Burning Down" – 4:12 B-side of "Wendell Gee" 7 & 12 inch singles
"Voice of Harold"  – 4:24 B-side of "So. Central Rain" 12 inch single
"Burning Hell" – 3:49 B-side of "Cant Get There From Here" 12 inch single
"White Tornado" – 1:55 B-side of "Superman" 7 & 12 inch singles
"Toys in the Attic" (Steven Tyler, Joe Perry) – 2:28 B-side of "Fall On Me" 12 inch singles
"Windout" (Jerry Ayers, Berry, Buck, Mills, Stipe) – 1:58 from Bachelor Party soundtrack
"Ages of You" – 3:42 B-side of "Wendell Gee" 7 & 12 inch singles
"Pale Blue Eyes" (Reed) – 2:53 B-side of "So. Central Rain" 12 inch single
"Rotary Ten" – 2:00 B-side of "Fall on Me" 7 inch single
"Bandwagon" (Berry, Buck, Mills, Lynda Stipe, M. Stipe) – 2:16 B-side of "Cant Get There From Here" 7 & 12 inch singles
"Femme Fatale" (Reed) – 2:49 B-side of "Superman" 12 inch single
"Walters Theme" – 1:32 B-side of "So. Central Rain" 7 inch single
"King of the Road"  (Roger Miller) – 3:13 B-side of "So. Central Rain" 7 inch single