Orange Crush

Album: Green (1988)
Charted: 28
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  • Orange Crush was an orange flavored soft drink. In this case, though, it was meant to refer to Agent Orange, a chemical used by the US to defoliate the Vietnamese jungle during the Vietnam War. US military personnel exposed to it developed cancer years later and some of their children had birth defects. The extreme lyrical dissonance in the song meant that most people completely misinterpreted the song, including Top Of The Pops host Simon Parkin, who remarked on camera after R.E.M. performed the song on the British TV show, "Mmm, great on a summer's day. That's Orange Crush."
  • The song does not refer to any single Vietnam-related experience for lead singer Michael Stipe, but simply that he lived in that era of American history. He wrote in Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011: "[The song is] a composite and fictional narrative in the first person, drawn from different stories I heard growing up around Army bases. This song is about the Vietnam War and the impact on soldiers returning to a country that wrongly blamed them for the war."

    Stipe's father served in Vietnam in the helicopter corps.
  • Stipe sometimes introduced this in concert by singing the US Army jingle, "Be all that you can be, in the Army."
  • The drill sergeant heard in the background during the middle is just an imitation by Stipe. In the traditional Michael Stipe way, the words he says during the imitation are complete nonsense.
  • This was not the first R.E.M. song to deal with the Vietnam War. That distinction goes to "Body Count," an early unreleased song that they played live many times.
  • This was used in the 2007 drama Towelhead, starring Maria Bello, Chris Messina and Summer Bishil.
  • The song's meaning keeps changing for Peter Buck. He wrote in the In Time liner notes:
    "I must have played this song onstage over three hundred times, and I still don't know what the f*** it's about. The funny thing is, every time I play it, it means something different to me, and I find myself moved emotionally. [Playwright/composer] Noel Coward made some remark about the potency of cheap music, and while I wouldn't describe the song as cheap in any way, sometimes great songwriting isn't the point. A couple of chords, a good melody and some words can mean more than a seven-hundred-page novel, mind you. Not a good seven-hundred-page novel mind you, but more say, a long Jacqueline Susann novel. Well alright, I really liked Valley of the Dolls."
  • This features the rattle of a vibraslap in the mix. The percussion instrument was created to mimic the sound of a jawbone, an instrument made from the dried jawbone of a donkey, horse, or similar animal, whose teeth would produce a rattling sound when shaken. The modern version uses a stiff wire to connect a wooden ball to a box of metal teeth.

    The vibraslap added an unusual element to songs of the '60s and '70s, including Jimi Hendrix's "All Along The Watchtower" and David Bowie's "Fame," and continued to pop up in the ensuing decades. The '90s alt-rock band Cake were particularly enamored with the vibraslap and included it in tunes like "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" and "Never There."

Comments: 26

  • Chris Bilings from Houston TxI didn’t realize this was a debate . Being Michael Stipe, I “knew” it was anti-war, but comforted a bit by this articles represention of “facts” about its meaning. I’d love to believe it was about a soldier in a s--t conflict. My father (disabled Vet) to this day suffers from a myriad of medical issues that started 1967. He made his life, his world as he could. 4 times inexplicably near death, docs blamed and removed one organ after another. His own immune system trying to kill him. He receives meds available NOWHERE other than the VA.(weird, right?). He never even looked for help until 2016, when he couldn’t afford healthcare and a buddy from “back then” reached out and convinced him “they know!” (Bush Jr act)
    Sorry, that was long, me and Pop aint can close right now, but I’m still proud. Leave it be
  • Stephan from DarmstadtInfo about birth defects linked to Agent Orange - Spina bifida is a spinal cord birth defect. A baby develops spina bifida while still in the womb. In some cases, a parent’s past contact with specific chemicals causes this birth defect. If you served in Vietnam or Thailand, or in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)—and your child has spina bifida or certain other birth defects—your child may be able to get disability benefits. Find out if your child qualifies for benefits.

    So, I got my spine I got my orange crush might describe a lucky child who has not developed a spinal cord birth defect. See the child in the official video of "Orange Crush".
  • Stephan from DarmstadtProbably here you got your spine...
  • Tray from United StatesEven as a child of 12 yrs old in the early to mid 90s I realized this song was about the war. "Serve" "over seas" "agents of the free" kinda gives it away. Art be it visual or otherwise is subjective to the viewer listener user etc.
  • Christopher from HomeIt's clearly about Michael Stipe in a Chinese restaurant and his friend got his order and is looking for a table and Michel is behind him. Michael is hopped up on saki and hears his buddy wrong who says "follow me,follow me I've got my rice I've got my orange duck". Duh
  • Trevor from TexasFirstly. Unless you are on Dysoxin (very rare) you aren't on Rx Meth-amphetamine. Amphetamine Salts is more like it, AKA, Adderall. Secondly, it is not only useful after you have been up all day. Sure, it can serve as a sort of peppy, super coffee...but, it heightens your reflexes and sensory perception and responses. But, only when you use it after full nights sleep and a good breakfast. If you only took it when you had been up for 2 days, you increase your chances of coupling sporadic bouts of drowsiness with alertness and may find yourself experiencing a visual lack of dependability.
    On, topic:
    OP Epp is spot on. Stipe has stated that, while there is no direct meaning, the song uses themes of confusion, chaos and an embattled stalemate to illustrate the often mind-numbing experiences of the Vietnam War
    That being said...Artist intent is only a part of a song's meaning. When songs are broken down and interpreted, much like all art, different people may find meaning that the artist wasn't intentionally portraying. Nevertheless, something compelled the response, and therefore, an artist is not the sole interpreter of art's meaning.
  • Jacob from Brodhead, WiMethamphetamines ARE NOT TO BE abused And I take that in Huge offense Name (anonymously withdrawn from this subject) I am on Prescribed meds use them as directed and you should too. A word of advise the severe legality that comes with taking someone's pilling for another one's personal gain can have HUGE consequences like 10-20 years in jail depending on state, federal, and local jurisdiction.
  • Jim from Enid, OkThe "orange" used back in the sixties and seventies as a "street" term for L.S.D. was "Orange Sunshine". And if you were in some rice paddy in Viet Nam and tracer rounds were zipping by and you were on l.s.d., the last thing you would want to do is fight. If you were on a strong dose you may become delusional and think you were somewhere else and get shot.If you were on a small dose you'd be full of fear and you'd hunker down until you were shot or overrun. Amphetamine is useful only after no sleep for two days as the adrenaline created by whizzing bullets and people screaming and dying would keep you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the first 24 hours, let me tell you!
  • Tim from Houston, TxI seem to remember some reference to the situation of Admiral Elmo Zumwalt and his son when this song came out. The elder Zumwalt ordered the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam in areas were his son was serving and probably caused the cancers that eventually killed the son, and also caused birth defects in his grandson. The younger Zumwalt died in 1988 and this would have been in the news when the song was being written. There were books, and I think a TV movie
  • Hailey from Charlottetown, Peit was the basist who said, "ive played this song over 300 times and still don't know what the f--k it is about" not stipe, from what people said the heroin reference seems pretty strong, but stipe said the song was about an american football player going to its probably about war, i think he won't tell us specifically what orange crush is because its making us think about the meaning and analyze it..and if thats what he wanted to do or not.. he did a good job. also for the people thinking its herion, "spine" was a nickname given by the troops for the combination of drugs LSD and emphetimine used to test on soldiers to increase their preformance on the battlefield, so make your own conclusions...i did a project in analyzing the lyrics and thats just a little info on one line, i tryed looking at it from all sides but it usually always goes back to war...and if it wasn't intended to be, it is an anti-war song regardless because nine out of ten people believe very strongly it is about agent orange....meaning or not its still a pretty good song.
  • Marshall from Cary, NcReferring to what Samantha said, my interpretation of the song was it being about acid. As when he says I got my spine, where I personally felt a strong connection to while I was experiencing acid, and my Orange crush which was a popular strand of acid in the 60's i think.
  • Helltourist from, American SamoaHAHA! Of course it's about Orange crush the drink!
    It's the best!
  • Cory from Buffalo, NyAgent Orange is a chemical defoliant (a chemical used to kill plants) used to destroy plant-based ground cover. It's also extremely toxic (many soldiers who were exposed to Agent Orange later developed cancer). Just to clear up any remaining unanswered questions.
  • Samantha from Gladstone, Australiaok, so a friend of mine swears this song is about heroin. "i got my spine" meaning needle and "i got my orange crush" meaning heroin. however, if you have the album in the book he says" i must of preformed this song a thousand times and i still dont know what its about"
  • Austin from Smallsville,new England, --This song was featured on the video game Rock Band.
  • Max from Newburyport, MaJack from Beaverton, OR. It is obvious that this song is about the Vietnam War, so even if you had met Stipes why would he say this is about suicide?
  • Jack from Beaverton, OrThis song is about the lead singers struggles with suicide; he told me.
  • Jay from Charleston, ScREM (stipe) states having no idea what the song was about...that it just came out and they recorded it.
    There is no mention of Agent Orange / Vietnam.
  • Jason from Boston, Mai thought this was about orange crush
    a cool type of weed
  • Mike from Philadelphia, PaOne of Mills greatest bass lines. A few songs have a driving beat, but none that are as out in front and in your face as this one.
  • Matthew from Milford, MaR. E. M. recently created a new political song, Final Straw. By the way, Is Agent Orange some sort of plant killer?
  • Nick from Arlington Heights, IlDefoilation means to kill all vegetation in an area...the US military used Agent Orange in the Vietnam war to eliminate the jungles that Viet Cong were hiding in
  • Matthew from Milford, MaUh, what exactly is "defoilation"?
  • Matthew from Milford, MaMy brother Michael actually thought that this song was about Orange Crush! Ha ha ha! Wait until I tell him about this!!!!!
  • Peter from Fort Worth, TxOn a show stipe claims that people misunderstand what it's about and it has nothing to do with his dad.
  • Epp from Pittsburgh, PaThe song is a look back at the pointlessness of Vietnam and how Agent Orange killed so many of the innocent. It's 1 of several REM political hits, along w/ Stand, End Of The World, and Bad Day.
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