A commentary on the illusion of Hollywood, this was the first single from Reveal, which was R.E.M.'s 12th album. The band was going to leave this off the album, but so many of their friends and co-workers told them it was great, that they decided to include it and release it as the first single.
This is one of the more upbeat R.E.M. songs. They recorded the album in various locations where it rained a lot, and Michael Stipe feels this may have made them record a sunny sound to compensate for the weather.
If this sounds like vintage R.E.M., it's because the band really did imitate life when they accidentally took the verse chords from 1985's "Driver 8
" and used them in this song.
The song title is taken from the classic 1959 film of the same name. Directed by Douglas Sirk, the movie (a remake of the 1939 version starring Claudette Colbert) follows a young African-American girl's struggle as she abandons her mother so she can pass as white in the '50s south.
"I thought at the time that the title was a perfect metaphor for adolescence. Unfortunately I have come to believe that it is a perfect metaphor for adulthood, too. But that's another story," Peter Buck explained on the liner notes for In Time, though he admitted none of the guys saw the movie, which starred Susan Kohner alongside Lana Turner, Sandra Dee and Juanita Moore.
The music video, directed by Garth Jennings, takes place at a Los Angeles pool party where time unfolds and rewinds in short bursts. Michael Stipe explained the process to MTV UK: "The entire video took 20 seconds to shoot. What you're watching is a loop that goes forwards for 20 seconds, backwards for 20 seconds, forwards for 20 seconds, backwards for 20 seconds, with one camera, static, and then using a technique called 'pan and scan', which is a technical thing that is used when they go from a widescreen format and reformat to fit your television or DVD, moving in on certain parts of the entire picture. And you'll see that we do that picking up various people within the frame."
Among the cast of hundreds was a special guest: "Peter held a monkey or an orangutan, one of his life wishes in a music video. I was thrilled to be able to finally accommodate that wish ... !" Stipe shared in the liner notes for Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011.
This was a huge hit in Japan.