Songs That Reference Steve McQueen: R.E.M. – Electrolite

Hollywood is under me, I’m Martin Sheen, I’m Steve McQueen, I’m Jimmy Dean

This song was Michael Stipe’s goodbye to the 20th Century: “This next song is our little valentine to the 20th century and I’m so personally thrilled to be in the 21st century right now, cos the 20th century offered some really great stuff but it offered some really not great stuff.”

The lyrics were inspired by Michael Stipe’s time living in Los Angeles, and his love of the city’s lights as viewed from up above.

Electrolite peaked at #96 in 1997 in the Billboard 100.

The song also mentions Martin Sheen and Stipe told Sheen about it: “I had a dentist in Los Angeles, who was also a dentist to Martin Sheen, and Martin Sheen was in the dentist’s chair, getting his tooth drilled, when I went up to him and said, ‘We have a record coming out in a couple of weeks and you’re mentioned in one of the songs, and I just want you to know that it’s honoring you; I don’t want you to think that we’re making fun of you.’ And he was saying [impression of Sheen speaking with the dentist working on his mouth] ‘Thank you very much!’. He was very nice about it.”

From Songfacts

When R.E.M. performed this at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, on May 29, 2008, Stipe said: “There’s a funny story about this song. I thought it was not good enough to go on a record, and Peter and Mike convinced me otherwise. They were right, and now it’s one of my favorite songs. The song for me embodies the time I was living in Santa Monica for a couple of years. Every now and then I would go on one of those late night drives when there’s no traffic. We’d climb up into the hills, go up Mulholland and think about the people that have come to this beautiful city.”
Stipe was referring to Mulholland Drive, which goes through Santa Monica and Hollywood. Tom Petty sang about the road in his song “Free Fallin’.”

Mike Mills wrote the music for this song on a piano at his then-girlfriend’s apartment in Chicago, he recalled in the liner notes for Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage.

Peter Care and Spike Jonze directed the music video for this at The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles where Robert Kennedy was killed. “That place was spooky,” Stipe said. The opening scenes are shot upside down as Stipe performs the song among rubber reindeer, while various people are shown tethered to poles, trash cans, and vehicles throughout the city by lengths of chains.

 

Your eyes are burning holes through me
I’m gasoline
I’m burnin’ clean

Twentieth century, go to sleep
You’re Pleistocene
That is obscene
That is obscene

You are the star tonight
Your sun electric, outta sight
Your light eclipsed the moon tonight
Electrolite
You’re outta sight

If I ever want to fly
Mulholland Drive
I am alive

Hollywood is under me
I’m Martin Sheen
I’m Steve McQueen
I’m Jimmy Dean

You are the star tonight
Your sun electric, outta sight
Your light eclipsed the moon tonight
Electrolite
You’re outta sight

If you ever want to fly
Mulholland Drive
Up in the sky
Stand on a cliff and look down there
Don’t be scared, you are alive
You are alive

You are the star tonight
Your sun electric, outta sight
Your light eclipsed the moon tonight
Electrolite
You’re outta sight

Twentieth century, go to sleep
Really deep
We won’t blink

Your eyes are burning holes through me
I’m not scared
I’m outta here
I’m not scared
I’m outta here

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

11 thoughts on “Songs That Reference Steve McQueen: R.E.M. – Electrolite”

  1. I didn’t know about the Sheen reference, that’s funny how they met!
    Not a bad song, not high on my list of REM singles but pretty decent anyway. I remember hearing it in a supermarket one time about a year after it came out and thinking “is supermarket music getting better, or is REM going downhill?” LOL. Still haven’t quite made up my mind but all in all , I’ve heard some great tunes while shopping since then.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL now that is a good question.
      I didn’t know the song too well. I faintly remembered the McQueen and Jimmy Dean mention. I didn’t remember the Sheen mention.

      Like

    1. Me either but yes you have to respect them. They had substance to their music. My favorite album by them is Monster when they really cut loose and was pretty hard.

      Like

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