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.”

Psychedelic Lunch

Written By Braddon S. Williams

R.E.M. – Document

Like The White Stripes, I was not an immediate fan of R.E.M. A guy I played in a band with tried (unsuccessfully) to get me into them around the time of their first 2 albums, and I just wasn’t having it.

I vaguely remember a grudging respect for the song Radio Free Europe, but it wasn’t until Life’s Rich Pageant that I started to really pay attention.

The song Can’t Get There From Here was the icebreaker from that album.

In 1987, R.E.M. released Document and finally won me over completely. I don’t know if I had matured (highly doubtful) or if it was the production, but I finally grasped the full power of Michael Stipe’s voice, aura, songwriting prowess…just the works.

I also started noticing the cool way that Stipe and Mike Mills sang together. They did traditional harmonies really well, but they also sang counterpoint lines and independent melodies within the same song that were super inventive.

The guitar work of Peter Buck was elegantly non-showoffy (not a real word, but it describes how I experience his playing), kind of similar to how Mike Campbell played with Tom Petty.

Beyond all this, my all time favorite R.E.M. song is on Document, It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).

Just a genius piece of songwriting, end of story.

The rest of the songs are pretty stellar, too.

The One I Love, Finest Worksong, Welcome To The Occupation, Oddfellows Local 151, Disturbance At The Heron House, Exhuming McCarthy. Once I connected, I went back and checked out what I missed earlier, and continued listening throughout the rest of their career.

I’m glad I figured it out…better late than never!


Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind