The 100 Greatest Songs of the Rock Era: #85: Fall on Me


R.E.M. from Life’s Rich Pageant (1986)

“You’ve had a disproportionate number of message songs on this list so far. Is that a theme?” Peggy said.

“I think that might be a sample size thing. I probably have a disproportionate number of songs that begin with the letter W on the list at this point, too. I can promise you it didn’t factor into my choices.”

“But you do like message songs. That was always one of your things.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right about that. I mean, songs are supposed to be about something, right?”

“Berry Gordy didn’t think so.”

“He wasn’t alone in that. There are plenty of music company heads – and artists for that matter – who feel the same way. I heard a song this morning that I swear came straight from an algorithm. Somebody punched in a few keywords like ‘horny man,’ ‘sex,’ and ‘clichéd come-on lines,’ and this song came out.”

She chuckled. “So if you punched in ‘acid rain’ and ‘environmental earnestness,’ ‘Fall on Me’ wouldn’t come out?”

“I don’t think so. This song might be earnest, but it’s genuinely earnest. I think you can call Michael Stipe and Mike Mills on a lot of things, but I think they truly felt what they were writing about.”

“Okay, I’ll give you this one.” Peggy paused, presumably to allow me a half-second to enjoy the fact that she’d conceded a point to me. “It’s actually pretty funny that we’re even talking about the lyrics to an R.E.M. song. How often did you have to listen to this song to figure out the words?”

“Well, the video helped on this one. The lyrics were superimposed over the images. But yes, Michael Stipe might be the greatest mumbler in the history of popular music.”

“It says something, then, that we all think so highly of his messages.”

I grinned. “Well, you think so highly of his messages. I just like the way the guitars sound. I never cared all that much for message songs.”

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn