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Readers Poll: The 10 Best R.E.M. Songs

Selections include ‘Drive,’ ‘Man On The Moon’ and ‘Losing My Religion’

REM r.e.m. netherlands 1993 best song

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R.E.M. shocked their fans last week by announcing they were breaking up. The news seemingly came out of nowhere, but looking back now it's certainly not hard to see the hints. They didn't tour for their last album, they just reached the 30-year mark and they really just haven't seemed into the whole R.E.M. thing recently. So we thought it was a good time to ask our readers to vote for their favorite R.E.M. songs. Unsurprisingly, the winners came exclusively from the band's first decade. Click through to see the results.

By Andy Greene

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10. ‘The One I Love’

R.E.M.'s career took a dramatic shift in 1987 when "The One I Love" came out. The quintessential college rock band suddenly had a hit in the top 10 and a video all over MTV. Many people saw this as a straight-ahead love song, seemingly ignoring the repeated cries of "fire." "I've always left myself pretty open to interpretation," Michael Stipe told Rolling Stone in 1987. "It's probably better that they just think it's a love song at this point."

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9. ‘Driver 8’

Named after a train that travels through the south, "Driver 8" was the third single from R.E.M.'s 1985 LP Fables of the Reconstruction. It was one of their earliest hits, though in a 1991 interview Peter Buck said it represented a simpler sound for the band. "I can write that kind of stuff in my sleep," he said. "I can write 'Driver 8' every day of the week. We all can. In rehearsal it's always easy to fall back on a midtempo, minor-key rock thing. And we try not to rely on that."

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8. ‘Radio Free Europe’

R.E.M. first recorded "Radio Free Europe" in 1981 as a single for Hib-Tone records, but two years later they re-recorded in 1983 for their debut LP Murmur. The song actually cracked the Billboard Hot 100, and made them immediate favorites of college kids all across the country. It also kicked off many in a long stream of R.E.M. songs with nearly indecipherable lyrics. 

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7. ‘Drive’

Remember that old song "Rock On" by David Essex? It's got a real mellow groove and goes, "Hey kids, rock and roll. Rock on. Oooh, my soul." Soap opera star Michael Damian had a big hit with it in 1989, and three years later Stipe used it as a jumping off point for "Drive." It was the first single from Automatic for the People, but it soon became eclipsed in popularity by "Everybody Hurts" and "Man on the Moon." 

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6. ‘Fall On Me’

Michael Stipe filmed the video for 1987's "Fall On Me" himself. "I shot it at a rock quarry in Indiana," he says in the upcoming book I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution. "There's not a single edit in it. I took a piece of film, turned it backwards, flipped it upside down, and put the words to the song on top of it in red lettering. I was following Andy Warhol's idea of the camera being a passive observer. And MTV played the living shit out of it, which was profoundly shocking."

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5. ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)’

Everybody thinks they know the words to this one, but after people blurt out "eye of the hurricane" they tend to get lost until "breathing down your neck." It's really a mouthful, but somehow it became a huge hit for R.E.M. The video featured a young skateboarder poking around a filthy, abandoned house. MTV must have played it 5,000 times in the late 1980s. "It was a radical video," says Stipe in I Want My MTV. "We were in a position of power for a long time; we could make weird videos, and MTV would feel somewhat obligated to play them." The day after George W. Bush got re-elected in 2004, R.E.M. played Madison Square Garden and opened with this song. 

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4. ‘Man on the Moon’

For many people born after Andy Kaufman's stints on Taxi and Saturday Night Live, this song was the first time they heard about a weird guy named Andy who liked to wrestle women and goof on Elvis. It helped the legend of Kaufman grow in the 1990s, and in 1999 Milos Forman made an Andy Kaufman biopic called Man on the Moon. When R.E.M. toured with Bruce Springsteen on the 2004 Vote for Change Tour, Springsteen duetted with Stipe on this song every night. Hearing Bruce sing the lines "Mr. Andy Kaufman's gone wrestling" was a real trip. 

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3. ‘Everybody Hurts’

Man, talk about a bummer of a song. Drummer Bill Berry wrote the bulk of this one, making the lyrics intentionally direct so teenagers could fully absorb the message. They decided to film the video at the most depressing place in the world: a completely gridlocked traffic jam in the middle of Texas. It's since become a 1990s standard, covered by everybody from Bon Jovi to Susan Boyle and Miley Cyrus. 

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2. ‘Nightswimming’

This song began with a very simple piano melody by the band's bassist Mike Mills. He didn't see much value in it, but Michael Stipe thought it was brilliant and he wrote this tender song about skinny-dipping around it. The string arrangement was written by another famous bassist: Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones. The track didn't do that well as a single, but in the past 20 years it's slowly become one of R.E.M.'s most beloved songs. 

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1. ‘Losing My Religion’

Whenever the mandolin was brought onstage by a roadie at R.E.M. concerts, the place would explode because everybody knew they were about to play this song. This is the one on karaoke machines. This is the one that your mom knows. The huge success of this unlikely hit catapulted the band to the next level and led to the most successful period of their career. Some longtime fans were turned off when "Losing My Religion" hit big, but the band didn't care. "The people that changed their minds because of `Losing My Religion' can just kiss my ass," Peter Buck told Rolling Stone in 1991. 

In This Article: R.E.M., REM

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