This was the first single off the album. It didn't chart, but the album was the first by R.E.M. to chart in the UK.
This was influenced by Soul records R.E.M. listened to. The band approached the song as a "tongue-in-cheek tribute" because they were a bunch of white guys trying, but failing, to emulate their black Soul idols. Instead, they wound up with their own unique sound.
Lead singer Michael Stipe refers in the lyrics to "Brother Ray." This is most likely pianist Ray Charles.
This was never intended to be included on a record. When they played it at some surprise gigs in their hometown of Athens, Georgia, the crowds loved it, so they recorded it.
Philomath is a town referred to in the lyrics as a place gone to for inspiration. It is a real town in Georgia, east of Atlanta, but Stipe claims he's never been there. He picked it because it was "fictional-sounding."
Again with the Soul motif, Stipe screams at several points, "Gentlemen testify!" This is a phrase often heard in black churches.
The line, "Lawyer Jeff he knows the lowdown" refers to former R.E.M. manager Jefferson Holt, who was fired following allegations of sexual harassment.
The band no longer plays this song in any of their concerts.
Sam - Lincoln, NE, for above 2
Regarding the lyrics, "Philomath they know the lowdown," Philomath was a stop on the Georgia Railway near Athens.
Tristan - Pennsburg, PA
The music video, directed by Michael Stipe and Rick Aguar, shows the guys at a drive-in theater, juxtaposed with images of them running and tumbling through a country field and performing in silhouette. "We used the new-to-us 'blue screen' process," Peter Buck told MTV UK in 2001. "So we have dinosaurs and monsters in the background. It's probably the most humorous video we've ever done. For a band that's kind of noted for not having a sense of humor, I kind of enjoy that aspect of it."
This song title occasionally appears without an apostrophe, a punctuation mark the band often eschews.
This was the first R.E.M. song to employ a horn section.