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File Under Rearrange
In Major League Baseball, there is the concept of the “walk year,” the final year that a player has on a contract prior to becoming a free agent. As a player, what you want in that situation is to have a great year, because it will obviously increase your value on the market.
In 1987, R.E.M. was facing the equivalent of their walk year: the last album on their original contract with I.R.S. records, and while every record they’d made sold better than the previous one, they were still seen primarily as a critics band. Not so much after Document, which landed them their first Rolling Stone cover (a thing I’d been predicting since Reckoning), their first major hit single, and their first platinum record: the equivalent of a .312/.442/.563 slash line in their walk year.