R.E.M.’s ‘Document’: The Story Behind Every Song
Over the past 11 days, we've been taking you inside R.E.M.'s breakthrough 1987 album Document in recognition of its 30th anniversary. You can find links to all those stories below.
On its predecessor, Lifes Rich Pageant, R.E.M. brought in John Mellencamp producer to remove the murkiness that had categorized their first three records. Although Gehman was not brought back for the follow-up, Scott Litt built upon Gehman's clarity, and the result was a radio-friendly sound that brought them into the Top 10 singles and album charts for the first time.
It helped that R.E.M. had delivered a collection of songs that matched the tenor of the times. Its first half reflected their anger at the previous six years of Ronald Reagan's presidency. Beginning with an activist's call-to-arms ("Finest Worksong"), they blended U.S. involvement in Central America ("Welcome to the Occupation") with the return of right-wing political tactics ("Exhuming McCarthy," "Disturbance at the Heron House") before coming to the conclusion that they were fine with the impending apocalypse ("It's the End of the World as We Know It").
But it was the second side where they kept up their experimental streak. Opening with a hit single ("The One I Love"), albeit the darkest, thorniest love song to reach the Top 10 since the Police's "Every Breath You Take," the rest of the album dealt with an eighteenth century religious figure ("Fireplace"), the ability to predict earthquakes ("King of Birds") and homelessness ("Oddfellows Local 151").
Read About Every Song on R.E.M.'s 'Document'
R.E.M. Get Loud and Angry, but Stay Weird on "Finest Worksong"
R.E.M.'s Anger Comes Into Focus on "Welcome to the Occupation"
R.E.M. Take a Bite out of Dogma on "Exhuming McCarthy"
"Disturbance at the Heron House" Finds R.E.M. Tackling George Orwell and Ronald Reagan
R.E.M.'s Cover of Wire's "Strange" Speaks to the Moment
Dreams, Politics and TV Converge on "It's the End of the World as We Know It"
R.E.M. Score a Big Hit With the Brutal "The One I Love"
Shakers and Saxophones Get Thrown Into R.E.M.'s "Fireplace"
R.E.M. Defy Easy Interpretation With "Lightnin' Hopkins"
R.E.M. Ponder Earthquakes and Artistry on "King of Birds"
R.E.M. Departs on a Fiery Note With "Oddfellows Local 151"
R.E.M. Albums Ranked in Order of Awesomeness