The reptiles that rocked REM

Article Featured Image

As World Museum’sAge of the Dinosaur exhibition draws to a close on 15 April music fan Dickie Felton looks at one rock group’s prehistoric obsession.

Photograph of Dickie Felton and Michael Stipe

Dickie Felton pictured with REM’s Michael Stipe in Dublin September 2001

REM, one of the world’s first big alternative rock bands, had a craze for plastic dinosaurs. The figures began to appear mysteriously in the 1980s; invading amplifiers and stages around the globe.

When REM first formed honorary band members included a tiny T-Rex and a Triceratops. They even sat in on recording sessions for three decades until 2011 when the band decided to call it a day.
Plastic dinos would go on world tours and pop up on speakers and instruments. In the 1996 song “Wake-Up Bomb” singer Michael Stipe sang about practising his “T-Rex moves and make the scene.”  It wasn’t that Stipe was a secret palaeontologist. It was more to do with creature comforts than a deep rooted fascination.

In 2008 the band revealed they’d always kept plastic figures of the extinct giant reptiles for moral support. Guitarist Peter Buck said: “We travel all the time and it’s nice to have some friends with us. You have very few friends in this business and having little dinosaurs on stage makes me feel better and I’m not going to be ashamed of it.”

Of course REM were not the only US alternative band to have Jurassic jangles. A Massachusetts group called themselves Dinosaur Jr. While REM’s Athens compatriots The B-52’s briefly became The Bc-52’s to sing the theme tune to the Flintstones movie.

In fact American rock seems to have had the monopoly on dinosaur band names and songs. Detroit’s Was (Not Was) sang “Walk the Dinosaur” while the legendary Johnny Cash penned a track called “Dinosaur Song” in 1975. 

Over here? Well in the late 1960s Marc Bolan’s glam rockers named themselves after the most famous dinosaur around and later shortened their name to T-Rex.

Are there any other bands out there with desires on dinosaurs?