REM – The One I Love

I remember this song well…it was a breakthrough song for REM. I knew some very intense REM fans and they were not happy that they were in the top 10. The cat was out of the bag and the band was not their secret anymore.

The moment that guitarist Peter Buck played that riff on his Rickenbacker 325 I knew I liked this song. It had the jangly sound that previous REM songs had but this one had a larger commercial appeal. This song broke them through to the masses.

The song peaked at #9 in the Billboard 100, #11 in Canada, #16 in the UK, and #6 in New Zealand in 1987.

It was on the album Document and it peaked at #10 in the Billboard Album Charts, #13 in Canada, #28 in the UK, and #17 in New Zealand.

Michael Stipe describes this song as about using people over and over. It sounds like a love song until the line, “A simple prop to occupy my time.”

Mike Mills (Bass Player): “Peter Buck came up with the riff on his porch. I remember Peter, showing me that riff and thinking it was pretty cool, and then the rest of the song flowed from there. We played the whole song as an instrumental until Michael (Stipe) came up with some vocals for it.”

 

From Songfacts

The lead vocal on the chorus contains just one word: “Fire,” which Michael Stipe draws out into a long wail. In the background, you can hear bass player Mike Mills singing, “She’s comin’ down on her own, now.”

This is not based on any real person or event. The band made up the lyrics while they were on a tour.

For a while, Stipe thought this was too brutal a song to record. He told Q magazine in 1992: “It’s probably better that they think it’s a love song at this point. That song just came up from somewhere and I recognized it as being really violent and awful. But it wasn’t directed at any one person. I would never write a song like that. Even if there was one person in the world thinking, This song is about me, I could never sing it or put it out… I didn’t want to record that, I thought it was too much. Too brutal. I think there’s enough of that ugliness around.”

This was R.E.M.’s first hit song. They had been recording since 1981 and growing a following.

Bush played this at Woodstock ’99 with a much harder sound. 

Robert Longo directed the music video for this song, which has images of tenement buildings, dancers and lonely couples, mixed with sweeping clouds, lighting bolts and bursts of flame. The director of photography was Alton Brown, who would go on to be a Food Network star with shows like Good Eats, Iron Chef America and Cutthroat Kitchen.

Speaking to Mojo in 2016, Stipe said that he wasn’t at all dismayed that so many people misinterpreted the sarcastic and spiteful lyrics as a straightforward love song. “I didn’t like the song to begin with,” he explained. “I felt it was too brutal. I thought the sentiment was too difficult to put out into the world. But people misunderstood it, so it was fine. Now it’s a love song, so that’s fine.”

The One I Love

This one goes out to the one I love
This one goes out to the one I’ve left behind
A simple prop to occupy my time
This one goes out to the one I love

Fire (she’s comin’ down on her own, now)
Fire (she’s comin’ down on her own, now)

This one goes out to the one I love
This one goes out to the one I’ve left behind
A simple prop to occupy my time
This one goes out to the one I love

Fire (she’s comin’ down on her own, now)
Fire (she’s comin’ down on her own, now)

This one goes out to the one I love
This one goes out to the one I’ve left behind
Another prop has occupied my time
This one goes out to the one I love

Fire (she’s comin’ down on her own, now)
Fire (she’s comin’ down on her own, now)
Fire (she’s comin’ down on her own, now)
Fire (she’s comin’ down on her own, now)

 

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

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

31 thoughts on “REM – The One I Love”

  1. I bought this album like many did and your right the secret was out back than but c’mon folks they had to make money! lol
    Solid album as I bought most of there stuff from this point forward with Green and Monster being my favourite’s.
    Glad they showed up to town here back in 2006 I believe.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love this song. Funny thing, I love a lot of their songs, but don’t much at all. Not sure why. They are sort of a local band for me as they were in Athens which was not far from Atlanta so they were big in Atlanta. I need to remedy that someday.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. They did get really huge. I don’t like everything they did either.I have to go to Atlanta/Buckhead a couple times a year because of work and I would like to visit Athens and Macon the home of the Allman Bothers… their museum.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Athens is fantastic. Go on a weekend in the Fall when there is a Bulldog Football game. Well worth it!! Macon, I have been down there in 20 years and I was never impressed, but the museum would be nice.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great song though like they’ve commented many times, far from a love song. Could be neck and neck with the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” on a compilation of the 80s “Most Misunderstood Wedding Songs.”! I was glad they were doing well and being heard by that point; I thought “Fall on Me” off their prior album would do it for them but it fell just shy of large mainstream success.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this song too. It’s funny how many original die-hard fans of indie artists or bands get mad when those artists and bands become popular and have a mainstream hit. I guess it’s partly that they’re selfish, and feel jealous when the masses suddenly “discover” and fawn over an artist or band they felt was “theirs” and that they somehow had a close personal kinship with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never thought of that chorus…I didn’t know he said that until last night…the part I focused on is the title or I would have done it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s a great song but, I have suffered “the mondegreen” on it. I don’t know why I didn’t bother to read the lyrics. I thought I already understood them. Nope. LOL!

    I thought he was singing “I am” not “Fire.” And, the background line sounds like “right down on my own.” I don’t hear “she” or “now.” On that note, I thought for sure it was a woman singing. Mills must have a high voice. LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. While perhaps a bit overexposed, I love that song. I never get tired of the great jingle-jangle sound of a Rickenbacker. I’d love to own one of these axes – together with a Gibson Les Paul, SG, Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster and about a million other guitars! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are preaching to the choir…I have to say though…The Rick is the absolute dream…I would settle for copies of the others….just get me a Rick

      Like

      1. I had a fairly decent Ibanez copy of a Gibson Standard back in Germany – that was the electric guitar I used to torture my poor grandpa! 🙂 So now I want the real thing!

        As for the Rickenbacker, yep, this would also be one of my top prirorities. My music buddy-turned-studio-professional I mentioned the other day owned a Rickenbacker 12-string at some point. He ended up selling it after a few years, since he found the fretboard was too narrow for his (big) hands. To my surprise, he also wasn’t entirely happy with the body finish. Apparently, it started showing some tiny cracks over time.

        While the dimensions of the fretboard and his hand anatomy are what they are (lol), I have to believe the issue with the cracks must have been a one-off production defect.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve played a Rickenbacker 325…John Lennon’s model…. The fretboard is small…very small but I loved it. I could get around the frets like crazy.

        Now a Rickenbacker bass…the neck for me was too thick…the strings were a little farther apart than I like. But saying that…I’m sure I would adjust!

        I have never attempted to play a 12 String..

        I have an electric 12 String…it’s a Danoelectro which I love. It’s been modified to sound like a Rick…and it does quite a bit! Grover Tuners and a new nut…I bought it for 400 from E Bay from a guy in California. That is the only one I ever bought on Ebay.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I do like it…oh they also changed the pickups…they really did a good job on it. I had to order it…although I live in Nashville there were no affordable electric 12 strings here so I took a chance and it paid off.

        Liked by 1 person

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