R.E.M.: “Everybody Hurts Is A Mix Of Sincerity And Silliness”

9 November 2017, 23:00

Michael Stipe and Mike Mills have been telling Radio X that the classic 1992 song has become bigger than they ever thought it would.

R.E.M.’s classic album Automatic For The People gets a deluxe reissue this week for its 25th anniversary and Michael Stipe has been telling Radio X that the band didn’t realise how popular the song would become.

In fact, he goes as far to say that: “Everybody Hurts is one of those songs that when you’re in the mood, it’s exactly right - but when you’re not in the mood for it, you can skip right over to the next one.”

The beautiful track offers a note of hope in a world of despair and was later released as a single together with this memorable video.

Stipe’s bandmate, bassist and singer Mike Mills, told Radio X’s John Kennedy that they were initially worried that the song could end up being too cloying.

He explained: “It was such a sentimental song that we tried to do things that would either take it over the top or bring it back.

“The beat box that’s making that little popping sound, it’s so twee and cute that it actually sort of brings the song back to a place of reality rather than letting it go over the top.

“It’s a very odd combination of extreme sincerity and a bit of complete silliness.”

Stipe also revealed that the track was originally intended to be a duet with “punk poet” Patti Smith, but that she was effectively retired at that point.

“We found out years later Patti and her husband Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith [of Detroit rockers The MC5] were very aware of R.E.M. through MTV and were watching us. Fred referred to me as ‘your boy’. Like, ‘Your boy’s on TV’, whenever one of our videos was on. As a lifelong fan of hers, that of course meant the world to me when I found out.”

The deluxe edition of Automatic For The People features the original album remastered, plus demos, rarities and live tracks, together with a 60-page book including unseen pictures from photographer Anton Corbijn.

The reissue is released on Friday 10 November and you can listen again to the band talk through the LP track by track with John Kennedy via the Radio X app or on the web player here.