Album: Automatic For the People (1992)
Charted: 27
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  • Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
    The photograph on the dashboard, taken years ago
    Turned around backwards so the windshield shows
    Every streetlight reveals the picture in reverse
    Still, it's so much clearer
    I forgot my shirt at the water's edge
    The moon is low tonight

    Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
    I'm not sure all these people understand
    It's not like years ago
    The fear of getting caught
    Of recklessness and water
    They cannot see me naked
    These things, they go away
    Replaced by everyday

    Nightswimming, remembering that night
    September's coming soon
    I'm pining for the moon
    And what if there were two
    Side by side in orbit
    Around the fairest sun?
    That bright, tight forever drum
    Could not describe nightswimming

    You, I thought I knew you
    You I cannot judge
    You, I thought you knew me
    This one laughing quietly underneath my breath

    The photograph reflects, every streetlight a reminder
    Nightswimming deserves a quiet night, deserves a quiet night Writer/s: Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Michael Mills, Michael Stipe
    Publisher: Universal Music Publishing Group
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

Comments: 33

  • Adam from York, PaI'm just gonna say one thing. Between the greatest hits album my dad bought in like 2003 and the document album I bought as a Christmas gift for him in 2010, not a single song overlaps and I love almost every song from both albums, between the two you have nightswimming, the one i love, losing my religion, firehouse, orange crush, its the end of the world as we know it and i feel fine, oddfellows151, daysleeper, exhuming mccarthey, and a whole list of others. I am proud to say that out of approximately 30 r.e.m. songs i have heard in my life, i like 28 of them, (can't stand ebow the letter or at my most beautiful though). Nightswimming is a good song, even a great song. That being said, I feel R.E.M. has written too many brilliantly inspired songs to pick any one of them as the best. You'd need to list you're top ten R.E.M. songs if y0u wanted even twenty-five percent of the population to agree with you
  • Brad from A City, KyThe way this album's sequenced it's like just when you thought a more beautiful, moving, and emotionally gut wrenching and powerful song than "Nightswimming" could possibly be written, "Find the River" kicks in. Talk about a way to close a record! Combined with " Man on the Moon", the three songs that end the album Automatic for the People - "Man on the Moon", "Nightswimming", and "Find the River" form the greatest song trilogy ever made, with each song feeding off the emotional power of the last so by the time there's nothing left but silence, you are left crying in a daze, having finally discovered the true purpose of existence in life. If you don't own this record, I feel truly sympathetic towards you.
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaI don't think that last fact is true-- Wasn't It's The End Of The World As We Know It written in a similar fashion.
  • Henry from Bath, United Kingdomi love this song, ive just had the best summer of my life and its over now, all i have left are my memories of the great times me and my mates had, cos ive now moved away.
    this song gives me good memories of the stpid stuff we got up to, and ill never forget it
  • Jeff from Wallingford, CtI think this song is about Michael lamenting about the lost innocence that comes with being a rock star. He wants those carefree days of youth and anonymity back, because he feels like he's helpless to the prying eye of the world. The line: "They cannot see me naked" shows that he feels unprotected and embarrassed by fame.
    "You, I thought I knew you
    You, I cannot judge
    You, I thought you knew me
    This one laughing quietly
    underneath my breath"
    shows that he knows he can't trust many people, no matter how well he thinks he knows them, because one of his trusted, oldest friends, might turn on him in a grasp for their own attention.
    But the song is haunting. One of my favorite songs.
  • Caryl from Argyll, United KingdomI hadn't played Automatic for the People in years, then I heard a fragment of Nightswimming on the radio yesterday and couldn't get it out of my head, I had to play it today and Google it. It's so beautiful and melancholy. The lyrics could be about so many things. Lost innocence? Lost youth? Maybe a juvenile gay flirtation in the school holidays? some of the comments here are indeed "spot on" Whatever it's about, it always makes me feel nostalgic and a little sad.
  • Mikel from Bilbao, SpainOne of the powers of this song is suggestion. Lyrics are so "open" for different interpretations that made us dream about different theories and ideas, and that is enormously powerful. Anyway, I think the main theme in the song is the change (in North hemisphery) from August-summer to September-autumn (and return to school, return to job, return from holidays, ta, ta, ta) and so many deep feelings related to that change.
  • Tish from Durban, Jo'burg, South AfricaThis song strikes a chord with everyone because even though it is based on actual events, it is quite metaphorical, so everyone relates to it in their own way. It talks about what was, what is, what could be. It is sad, hopeful, nostalgic and wise.
  • Steve from Bowmanville, OnLove the song. I really think it's more about gay experiences though... "Fear of getting caught". and growing tolerence to homosexuality "it's not like years ago".
    One of those songs that paints a picture in your mind when you here it...
  • John from Kents Store, Vait really is about swimming at night and that was a real event recalled in the present. what is unreal for the singer is the present--the singer cannot connect even with one whom he once knew intimately ("and you i thought i knew you"). "i'm not sure all these people understand..." : with this line the singer anticipates his recollection ("the fear of getting caught, the recklessness of water," etc.) being filtered through today's alienating lens, stripped of its's poetry, and so misunderstood. the line about forgetting the shirt may be symbolic but it also grounds the lyrics in a recollected actual event which the singer presents to himself as evidence nightswimmiing was a real experience--whose memory he will insist on preserving. one thing for sure, the singer isn't optimistic about nightswimming receiving again the quiet night it deserves.
    john, kents store, va
  • Ryan from Los Angeles, CaNightswimming is seeing the reflective reality
    and realizing the reflection is the reality
    and what you thought was the real image is an illusion. You are now naked, swimming in the dark, and you are not welcomed there. So there is negative energy or "noise" trying to get at you while you out treading new ground. The shirt is the former reality left behind while you wade into unknown.
  • Mark from Lincoln, EnglandThe song is also about aids. references to AIDS in it .

    its not like years ago.The fear of getting caught....listen to the song
  • John from Kents Store, VaPerhaps the best pop song written. With its simple vocabulary and spare lyrics, its reach is modest but its grasp is infinite. Comments of Doroshow and Brian of Austin are, as the Brits say, "spot on." But in the final analysis it is impossible to boil the lyrics down to a single vision or thought. Never in pop music have so few words captured such vivid yet elusive imagery. The song anticipates and bemoans alienation in our "whatever" age ("And you, I thought i knew you.") The song is also the Twenty-first century version of Poussin's "Et in arcadia ego." That is, the age of youthful innocence in a sympathetic environment is recalled but over. It is, to use an overused word, an awesome song.
  • Vincent from Mpls, MnThe vinyl version is considerably different, with distorted piano and diminished strings. Anyone know the story on this?
  • Samuel from South Gate, CaBeautiful Song and one of the best written ever the piano in this song inspired me to play ,but what has been bothering me is the intro it sounds so famliar and i would like to know who plays this or what song it is, or what kind of orchetra performs this im so obsessed with that intro
  • Nicole from Nottellin, OrThis is one of those songs that I wish I could mute the lyrics on, not necessarily because the singing is bad, but the piano is so good. I could listen to the piano playing this song all day long.
  • Russell from CaSorry, that would be Find the River, the next song. Sorry for the double post.
  • Russell from CaA nice sounding song, and to my ear, sounds an awful lot like Wendell Gee.
  • Johnny from Rockland, Mathis is a beautiful doubt about that. it is my 3rd favorite REM song (behind Imitation of Life and Losing my Religion). REM is one of my favorite bands obvoiusly because of their music and also the fact that they have been around so long and put forth a lot of commitment and effort in their works.
  • Matthew Doroshow from Philadelphia, PaThis song makes me think of the years in which you leave being a kid and turn into an adult with responsibility. It is one of my favorite REM songs, and belongs on the best album of the 1990's.
  • Brian from Austin, TxI think this song is about loss. Loss of friendship due to the passage of time and the betrayal that sometimes accompanies it. One can imagine that Stipe and other members of the band had close friends that could not handle their fame and turned on them. Who knows? What a song!
  • Mandy from Smalltown, NyI can at the very least, identify with Jon's heartfelt (if a bit exaggerated) declaration. I absolutely love that image of the picture on the dashboard; it always makes me think of Stipe in his car, on the highway, in the dark, and the streetlights pass over and he sees that image in the window- it's so striking and heartfelt. It makes me want to love someone that much.
  • Craig from Madison, WiThis song hurts in a good way every time I hear it. It may not be their best REM song, but it's the best song by REM. That may sound odd, but it seems to stand alone from the rest of their work, possibly because there's not the usual trace of jangly country and western, but it seems to be more than that. A wonderful climax to an album that seems to be obsessed with aging and death.
  • Jon-michael from Augusta, Georgia, Gai love this song i'ts very lovely, has a nice melody, one of my faves from them.!
  • Rob from Santa Monica, CaThe little orchestra tune-up at the beginning of the song is awesome. One of my top 3 slow REM songs, along with So. (NOT SOUTHERN) Central Rain and Daysleeper.
  • Josh from Pontypridd, Walesi want to go nightswimming. jon w, im ashamed to say i did cry. it makes me think of a guy who lost someone, like a girlfriend or parent or something,and still goes to remember them. i show all my friends and they all love. the only thing is, it wrecks a mood. everyone goes all reflective and it makes fun a physical impossibility. thanks for reading my blathering. hc
  • Eroc from Anniston, AlThis is my favorite song from REM it may not be the best song they ever written for/by REM, but this song reminds me of jons comment. Everyones comments actually. I was leaving for military and was out with my best friends and this song just all made us super emotional and just still to this day is brilliant in many ways. Poetically and memory-wise.
  • Epp from Pittsburgh, PaA nice sweet sounding song about stipe going skinny dipping.
  • Adeeb from Dhaka, OtherA beautiful song indeed. The first time I heard this was when a bunch of friends and I were going to this farewell bash of a really close friend. We were yacking amongst ourselves and then one guy goes, shhhh! listen to this song; and all seven of us go quiet and contamplative. Amazing.
  • Jason Lee from New York, NyOh yeah, one more thing. This is one of the few songs I know (apart from all Doors songs) that would even be a brilliant, tear worthy poem without the music. Simply amazing.
  • Jason Lee from New York, NyI wouldn't say the best song ever written, but It's definetely the best song on the album, Matthew, and probably the best song by REM. I grew up with this song before I was listening to music. My uncle lives for Nightswimming, so whenever he's in town he plays it in the car. There's no better song to listen to in the car late at night after a long day than Nightswimming. Pure poetry and musical genious.
  • Matthew from New York, NyJon, I love this song too, but the best song ever written? It's not even the best song ever written by REM (my nod goes to either Half A World Away or South Central Rain, but there are a good 20 or so songs you could make better arguments for than this one). In fact, it's not even the best song on the album! Try Not To Breathe, Find the River and Man on the Moon are all better.
  • Jon from Wilton, CtThis is the best song ever written. How can nobody have commented on this. This song is the closest i ever come to crying.
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