Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series,where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
R.E.M. “The One I Love,” Album: Document (1987)
When the Georgia natives unleashed their first Top-10 single in concert, R.E.M. guitar-slinger Peter Buck felt baffled by audiences’ romantic reactions. Said Buck: “I’d look into the audience and there would be couples kissing. Yet the verse is … savagely anti-love … People told me that was ‘their song.’ That was your song?”
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.”
Often misinterpreted as a love song, this is just the opposite. Michael Stipe describes this song as about using people over and over. It’s deceptive because it could be a love song until the line, “A simple prop to occupy my time.”
This is not based on any real person or event. The band made up the lyrics while they were on a tour.
Singer Michael Stipe echoed Buck’s emotions in a 1992 interview with Qmagazine, admitting that he almost didn’t even record the song, calling it “too brutal” and “really violent and awful.” After five years of “The One I Love” going out to loved ones as dedications over the radio waves, Stipe took a complacent stance on his song’s misconstrued fate, saying, “It’s probably better that they think it’s a love song at this point.”