|Cover of the USA 7" release|
The members of the Rock & Roll Hall-of-Fame took this quirky little single off of their 1987 album, Document.
No song with a message should ever have this cool of a groove. Its super-speedy tempo and melody ingratiate themselves into your brain so completely that you must end up moving at least one part of your body whenever you hear it.
Released when the Athens, Georgia quartet was at the peak of their powers the song has definite political and social overtones. But, as was usually the case with the famous group, its stream of consciousness lyrics are cryptic to the point where listeners end up scratching their heads trying to understand whatever Michael Stipe and friends have come up with this time. Not that it matters because indecipherable lyrics were always part of the record's and the band's charm.
Guitarist Peter Buck said the song was influenced by Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues." It also conjures up images of Billy Joel's "We Didn’t Start the Fire."
Because of its title, after September 11, 2001, "End of the World" was placed on Clear Channel's list of "lyrically questionable" songs.
Too out of the mainstream to be a big hit, the song still became an R.E.M classic even though it only went to No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to only No. 39 in the UK.