REM – (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville

This is one of the first songs I remember hearing from R.E.M. A buddy of mine had the Reckoning album and wore it out. It is up in the top ten of my favorite REM songs.

This song is about Ingrid Schorr, a girl the band knew at the University of Georgia whose hometown was Rockville, Maryland. She got a lot of attention on campus as classmates lamented her departure.

Don’t Go Back To Rockville is a R.E.M. song that bass player Mike Mills wrote most of the lyrics but as always with R.E.M. credited to the entire band. Mills exaggerated in the song and he wasn’t a boyfriend to Ingrid…only good friends but he saw a good song in the story.

The orginal version of the song was really fast like a Ramones kind of punk rock song. They slowed it down to a country tinged feel as a nod to their manager Bertis Downs, who really loved the song.

This was the second single from the album Reckoning released in 1984. The song didn’t chart but the album peaked at #27 in the Billboard Album Charts, #23 in New Zealand, and #91 in the UK.

Mike Mills:  “There was a girl Ingrid Schorr. We were seeing each other and we really liked each other, but we were not boyfriend and girlfriend. She was going back to Rockville for the summer. And I thought that ‘going back to Rockville’ just screamed song, right there. As I wrote it, it turned into what if we were in love and she was leaving and never coming back. And that’s how it turned into ‘(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville.’ It just morphed as it went along.”

Mike Mills:  “I remember sitting at the kitchen table on Little Oconee Street in Athens, (Georgia),” Mills explains. “There’s a turnaround in the song that’s inspired by part of a Simon & Garfunkel song (“Mrs. Robinson”) that I heard, and I started building the song around that. Sometimes the first line is the hardest line and once I got that first line (‘Looking at your watch a third time/Waiting in the station for a bus’), the rest of it flowed naturally.”

From Songfacts

The band had already been playing this song in a much faster, punk-like style for a long time and didn’t even consider it for the Reckoning album until their legal advisor, Bertis Downs, begged them to “at least do one take of it for me … please!?!?”

Drummer Bill Berry remembers tweaking the song to mess with Downs: “To playfully suggest to him that the song wasn’t in contention, we recorded a much slower version than he was accustomed to hearing and we sprinkled it with a Nashville twang to drive the point home. It started out silly, but when Mike added piano, the tune took on new light. Thanks, Bert!” 

Don’t Go Back To Rockville

Looking at your watch a third time
Waiting in the station for the bus
Going to a place that’s far
So far away and if that’s not enough
Going where nobody says hello
They don’t talk to anybody they don’t know

You’ll wind up in some factory
That’s full time filth and nowhere left to go
Walk home to an empty house
Sit around all by yourself
I know it might sound strange but I believe
You’ll be coming back before too long

Don’t go back to Rockville
Don’t go back to Rockville
Don’t go back to Rockville
And waste another year

At night I drink myself to sleep and pretend
I don’t care if you’re not here with me
‘Cause it’s so much easier to handle
All my problems if I’m too far out to sea
But something better happen soon
Or it’s gonna be too late to bring you back

Don’t go back to Rockville
Don’t go back to Rockville
Don’t go back to Rockville
And waste another year

It’s not as though I really need you
If you were here I’d only bleed you
But everybody else in town only wants to bring you down and
That’s not how it ought to be
I know it might sound strange, but I believe
You’ll be coming back before too long

Don’t go back to Rockville
Don’t go back to Rockville
Don’t go back to Rockville
And waste another year

Don’t go back to Rockville
Don’t go back to Rockville
Don’t go back to Rockville
And waste another year

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

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

32 thoughts on “REM – (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville”

  1. one of their best from the IRS years…all round great song. Can’t recall the exact specifics but I think Bertis did mention that one when I got to talk to him … he certainly helped them make it memorable.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well most people of course never heard of REM or the song. Perhaps the chamber of commerce types were not happy but is cool music folks were thrilled with the name check. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Have to say also the town nothing like that described in song – no factories and the people were friendly. 😀 of course I get Mills wasn’t trying to be literal

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I looked for it…nope. REM and the Replacements…there is not much that I found other than bootleg live performances from either one. I guess their early albums were on budgets and they didn’t have much extra.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Right! But the live bootleg performance I posted right below my comment is pretty cool – amazing how young they look in that picture

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah that the picture. On YouTube if you search the song title and add the word punk to the search phrase a live version from an early bootleg comes up – what you were talking about in your post – much faster

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Mike Mills is the secret sauce of R.E.M. It seems a lot of their strongest songs are connected to his bass playing, or his songwriting. “Near Wild Heaven”, for instance, which has been stuck in my head for the last couple of weeks for some reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree completely with that. He also seems to be the historian of the band. R.E.M. was a true band in every sense of the word.

      Like

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