Something different this week. The main part of the post, in italics, will consist solely of phrases which I have cut’n’pasted from different articles or reviews associated with Everybody Hurts.
It was released as a single in the UK in April 1993, and in reaching #7, provided R.E.M. with their then biggest chart success outside of Shiny Happy People. It is a track that, in 2003, was ranked by Q magazine at #31 in its list of the 1001 Best Songs Ever.
It is worth mentioning that credit for the song, musically, lies with Bill Berry, which is ironic given the beat is largely kept by a drum machine. The strings, which are very much at the heart of the completed version were arranged by John Paul Jones, best known as the bass player with Led Zeppelin.
“Everybody Hurts has a comforting melancholy, benefitting from a smoothly caressing guitar. It has been lauded as the best song on Automatic for The People and, as the Q ranking suggests, one of the band’s best songs ever. It is emotionally moving and deeply affecting, but a ballad that would stray into the maudlin if it wasn’t sung with such conviction. The string arrangements complement the vocal delivery, with the song being held up as the Bridge Over Troubled Water for the ’90s with Michael Stipe as Simon & Garfunkel rolled into one. It is virtually beyond words. It will have non-REM maniacs in hysterics with its delicate Spector structure and childlike message (“everybody hurts, everybody cries…when you think you’ve had too much of this life, hang on…”). It will make everyone else cry. It really is that straightforward.”
I won’t swim against the tide. I’m not a huge fan of ballads, but the very best of them have always been at the heart of popular music going back centuries before rock’n’roll was invented. Sad songs are remembered and loved by billions of people for all sorts of different reasons. Perhaps it can be traced back to the very early days of the most basic and traditional of music, running ever since through history – for instance, the best bits of opera always seem to centre on tragedy, and it is those folk songs recalling sad or unhappy events that have more often been passed down through the generations.
Everybody Hurts is an absolute classic of its kind. It might not be what any early fan of R.E.M. would ever have anticipated, but songs of this nature and tempo were inevitable when the loud instruments had been put aside, temporarily, for a while.
As with Man on The Moon, it was a slightly edited version of the song that was issued on the 7″:-
mp3: R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts (single version)
As with the previous singles from Automatic, the b-side of the UK 7” and cassette was a track from ‘Green’. This time it was the most ridiculously upbeat number, one which had been a flop single in the US:-
mp3: R.E.M. – Pop Song ’89
Talk about ying and yang on two sides of a piece of plastic. It was also the fourth occasion that a version of Pop Song ’89 had been used as a b-side to a single…..
Again there were two versions put out on CD. You’ll have picked up that the barrel was already being scraped with what was being added to the earlier singles from the album. It got worse with this, the fourth 45 lifted from Automatic, with both CDs now being labelled as ‘Collector’s Editions’. No wonder many were despairing at how Warner Bros were trying to extract as much from fans as possible – these CD singles retailed at £3 or £4 a pop and the titles of the two tracks on CD1 say it all:-
mp3: R.E.M. – New Orleans Instrumental #1 (long version)
mp3: R.E.M. – Mandolin Strum
The marketing folk had the cheek and nerve to state that the latter was ‘previously unreleased’. One listen is all you need to understand why that should be.
CD2 was another con in that it included Dark Globe, the Syd Barrett cover that had previously been issued on the 12″ of Orange Crush back in 1989. The blurb from the marketing people for CD2 was that ‘it was currently not available on any other CD’ The other track is another oddity.
mp3: R.E.M. – Dark Globe
mp3: R.E.M. – Chance (dub)
An electronic number with a part-spoken, part-sung lyric. I kind of like it, but I hate it. I kind of like it because it is a bit different, but I hate it as it’s clearly a work in progress that shouldn’t have really seen the light of day, far less been the one bit of music which forced completists to fork out a fair amount of money for – it’s only right, however, to point out that I am far from a completist when it comes to R.E.M. – it’s not like they are The Twilight Sad or anything – and I’ve relied partly on The Robster for some of the tracks while others have been tracked down and sourced from other blogs.
Michael Stipe’s final words at the end of Chance are “Guys, this is very tedious. Stop”
Which seems a good place to sign off this week. But we’ll be back, as usual, next Sunday.