R.E.M. had written and performed most of Murmur’s 12 songs live during 1980-81 and had already agreed on a track sequence before they entered the studio. The quartet were also adamant that they wished to eschew rock music clichés such as grandiose guitar solos and the (then on-trend) synthesisers so beloved of Stephen Hague. In most cases, the songs’ basic tracks were laid down relatively quickly and Stipe generally recorded his vocals in a darkened stairwell off to the side of the main studio.
For their part, Dixon and Easter were happy to provide technical expertise and tighten things up as required, but in general, the pair cheerfully indulged R.E.M.’s experimental approach. As Dixon told Rolling Stone: “It was a unique combination of people, where there was enough tension and enough cohesiveness. We were dealing with a fragile sort of art concept and trying to bring in a little pop sensibility without beating it up.”