“It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” is one of the longer song titles in rock ‘n roll and one of the more oddball releases from R.E.M. (probably only superseded by “Leave” from New Adventures In Hi-Fi). The recently disbanded hall-of-fame caliber band took this quirky little single off of their 1987 album, Document.
No song with a message should ever have this cool of a groove. Its super-speedy tempo and melody ingratiate themselves into your brain so completely that you must end up moving at least one part of your body whenever you hear it.
Released when the Athens, Georgia band was at the peak of its powers the song has definite political and social overtones but, as was usually the case with the famous quartet, its stream of consciousness lyrics are cryptic to the point where listeners end up scratching their heads trying to understand whatever Michael Stipe and friends have come up with this time.
Not that it matters because indecipherable lyrics were always part of the record’s and the band’s charm.
Peter Buck said the song was influenced by Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” It also conjures up images of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” (Joel haters will definitely despise any comparison of R.E.M. to The Big Apple’s resident musical whipping boy).
Because of its title, after September 11, 2001, “End of the World” was placed on Clear Channel’s list of inappropriate songs to play on the radio. Too out of the mainstream to be a big hit, the song still became an R.E.M classic even though it only went to No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to only No. 39 in the UK.