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Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

R.E.M. insist that there is an underlying message to this song. It is about becoming involved in the places you live and work. This can be seen in the video, where people are seen doing things like recycling. Michael Stipe told Q magazine in 1992: "It's about making decisions and actually living your life rather than letting it happen. It surprises me when I walk by a parking lot and I've been walking by that parking lot for eight years but, for the first time, I look at it and say, My God! There's a parking lot! and I wonder why, for eight years, I've chosen not to look at it."
This originated when guitarist Peter Buck came up with what he thought was a stupid guitar riff. Lead singer Michael Stipe recognized the stupidity of the song and tried to write equally stupid lyrics.

Elaborating on the simplicity/stupidity of the song, Buck said in 1994: "We'll write something that's really complicated, where it changes keys in the bridge and there's these really interesting modulations and there's these great harmonies, but nobody ever notices that! You give them something like 'Stand,' where it's dumb-head plow-that-riff there, and... Not that we're going for the idiot audience or anything, but I like that kind of stuff too. The Ramones write the best songs in the world. It's all one song, but it's a great song. Some of those old Velvet Underground records have two chords on 'em."
Buck used a wah-wah pedal on this because he felt it's an overused and stupid effect, which would add to the dumb feeling of the song.
This was used as the theme song to the TV show Get A Life, starring comedian Chris Elliot. R.E.M. agreed to it before ever seeing the show because they loved the phrase "Get a Life." The show was on Fox and didn't last long, probably because it was ahead of its time.
The single was released with different B-sides. In the United States, it came with the instrumental "Memphis Train Blues." In Europe, the song was accompanied by a cover of the Ohio Players' hit "Skin Tight."
"Weird Al" Yankovic did a parody of this called "Spam." (thanks, T.R. - South Bend, IN)
R.E.M. Artistfacts
More R.E.M. songs
More songs that were TV show theme songs
More songs about choices

Comments (15):

Whether the song was intended to be stupid or sure is infectious. It is one of my favorite R.E.M. songs.
- Laura, El Paso, TX
I often like this song, me and my homies go onto Youtube and i request this song,
cheers REM
- karl, Ingatestone, United Kingdom
Stipe shouldn't have claimed this song is so stupid. Otherwise I would still be thinking it fraught with deep hidden meanings. Anyway, it's a good song.
- Debra, lees summit, MO
I couldn't STAND the video. i hated those stupid dancers.
- jane, austin, TX
Bob from Oakland: You're right, I hadn't considered this before. I think inevitably there are always some songs that have a similar melody or riff or a few notes in common when artists try to connect 2 notes or parts of a sing with some kind of transition. It's not necessarily ripping off another song (unless done intentionally). It's just coincidence.
- Eric, Bend, OR
Chawsome...yea it may have been stupid, but it might be genuis.
- Phoebe, Belchertown, MA
umm actually peter from texas is right b/c peter buck made a riff which he thought to be ... stupid so stipe tried to make equally stupid lyrics, people like you caught on b/c of it's catchy beat and self implied that it pertained to doing good deeds
- brooke, silver creek, GA
The melody of the first line of the song is identical that of the guitar intro of Richie Valens' "La Bamba" (minus "La Bamba's three lead-in notes).
- Bob, Oakland, CA
i love the spam song :P weird al is brilliant....... this is a pretty good song even though R.E.M. claim that it's the stupidest song they have ever wrote.
- joe, chicago, AR
Stacey is right; the song's not stupid.
Its message is to get your life off autopilot, look around at the place where you live and work, and get involved in your world instead of living in isolation and cluelessness (as so many do today).
- Pat, Albuquerque, NM
i thought this song was about people who are to busy doing pointless things to stop and think "why the hell am i doing this"
- stacey, Nowra, Australia
I wonder what radio you listen to, EPP, if you think that stupid, meaningless songs can't become big hits.

I mean no implication that this song is either.
- Mandy, Smalltown, NY
on vh1 classic stipe says that buck would always come up with stupid riffs and he took it as a challenge to make more stupid lyrics.
- peter, fort worth, TX
Stipe didnt apologize for the song. He wrote it to be stupid on purpose. The song has stupid lyrics, because the song is about stupid people. It deals with those who don't take a stand politically. It's obviously not to stupid of a song, btw, if it became such a big hit
- EPP, Pittsburgh, PA
Michael Stipe has often apologized for this song, claiming it was the most stupid song REM ever made.
- RAJA, Austin, TX
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