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Automatic for the People

R.E.M. ‘Find the River’ and Discover a Sweet Release: The Story Behind Every ‘Automatic for the People’ Song

Find the River R.E.M.
YouTube

A record that began with a message to the kids about control (“Drive”) ends with a song suggesting that we’re all powerless in the face of mortality.

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R.E.M. Try to Remember ‘Nightswimming’: The Story Behind Every ‘Automatic for the People’ Song

R.E.M. Nightswimming
Warner Bros.

On the 'Automatic for the People' highlight, Michael Stipe employs the only known way to time-travel: memories.

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Michael Stipe Wrestles with Writer’s Block to Complete ‘Man on the Moon’: The Story Behind Every ‘Automatic for the People’ Song

Man on the Moon R.E.M.
YouTube

The song was ready. Everything was there: Bass, drums, guitars. There was only one slight problem. It didn’t have a title, or lyrics, or vocals.

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Meg Ryan, Miami and 10cc Make an Impact on ‘Star Me Kitten’: The Story Behind Every ‘Automatic for the People’ Song

Star Me Kitten R.E.M. Meg Ryan
Getty Images

The famous actress Meg Ryan convinced R.E.M. to alter the title of the lusty 'Automatic' ballad, so they turned it into an in-joke.

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R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe Vents His Spleen on ‘Ignoreland': The Story Behind Every ‘Automatic for the People’ Song

Ignoreland R.E.M.
Getty Images

'Ignoreland' was the most biting and specific political critique of R.E.M.'s then-12-year career.

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‘Monty Got a Raw Deal’ Takes R.E.M. Down and Out in Beverly Hills: The Story Behind Every ‘Automatic for the People’ Song

Monty Got a Rawl Deal R.E.M.
Hulton Archive

The tragic life of film star Montgomery Clift, and a Greek instrument called the bouzouki, inspired R.E.M.'s mysterious "Monty Got a Raw Deal."

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R.E.M. Get Kind of Blue on ‘New Orleans Instrumental No. 1’: The Story Behind Every ‘Automatic for the People’ Song

Three Lions, Getty Images
Three Lions, Getty Images

Taking inspiration from the Big Easy, and some wine, R.E.M. created a late-night atmosphere on 'Automatic''s lone instrumental track.

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R.E.M. Find a Hollow Center in ‘Sweetness Follows’: The Story Behind Every Song on ‘Automatic for the People’

Sweetness Follows R.E.M.
Christopher Furlong, Getty Images

A meditation on loss, the quiet, pulsing "Sweetness Follows" might be the centerpiece of 'Automatic for the People.'

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R.E.M. Show Some Soul on ‘Everybody Hurts’: The Story Behind Every ‘Automatic for the People’ Song

Everybody Hurts R.E.M. Automatic for the People
YouTube

R.E.M.'s R&B-influenced ballad took an uncharacteristically direct approach to the subject of suicide.

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R.E.M. Take Pop Heaven to Motel Hell on ‘The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite’: The Story Behind Every ‘Automatic for the People’ Song

The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite R.E.M. Automatic for the People
Warner Bros.

With a little inspiration from a doo-wop classic, this bouncy track brought some levity to the moody 'Automatic for the People.' But what does the song mean?

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