"Radio Free Europe" is a song by R.E.M., and was also their first single, released on the Hib-Tone label in 1981 and was especially successful in college radio, earning R.E.M. a record deal with I.R.S.. The song was re-recorded for the band's debut LP and re-released as a single on I.R.S., giving the band their first U.S. chart position on the Billboard charts, at #78.
R.E.M. formed in Athens, Georgia, 1980 and soon became a well established group in the local area. "Radio Free Europe" was a newer song composed by the band, but soon became a regular on the set at their shows. The band travelled to Drive-In Studios in North Carolina to record some songs with producer Mitch Easter, and recorded "Radio Free Europe", "Sitting Still" and "White Tornado", an instrumental. The songs were mixed and sent out on promotional cassette tapes, one of which was received by the Hib-Tone label owner Johnny Hibbert. Hibbert oversaw a remix after naming the first mix unsatisfactory, which ended up being described by guitarist Peter Buck as "muddy" and "high-end". The final Hib-Tone version proved acceptable, and "Radio Free Europe" was released with "Sitting Still" as its B-side.
When the band had signed onto I.R.S. Records, I.R.S. requested the band to re-record the song for their debut LP. The newer recording was of a slower tempo with slightly altered lyrics, but was released as the first of two singles from Murmur and reached #78 on the U.S. Billboard chart. The I.R.S. version has since been deemed inferior to the Hib-Tone recording, which was placed on the Eponymous compilation in favour of the I.R.S. recording. Mitch Easter described the I.R.S. version as "more professional but a little too sedate".
- Hib-Tone version:
- "Radio Free Europe" – 3:46
- "Sitting Still" – 3:07
- I.R.S. version:
- "Radio Free Europe" (edit) – 3:10
- "There She Goes Again" (Lou Reed) – 2:49