R.E.M.’s ‘It’s the End of the World’ Is a Hit Due to Coronavirus
The coronavirus has helped push R.E.M.'s 1987 apocalyptic hit "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" back into the public consciousness.
As of press time, it's currently at No. 64 on iTunes' Top Songs chart, sitting amid tracks by modern hitmakers like Luke Bryan, Billie Eilish and Sam Smith. "It's the End of the World" has moved up eight spots from last night, when Deadline reported that it was on the chart.
Released in 1987 on R.E.M.'s commercial breakthrough Document, "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" had its origins when, early in R.E.M.'s career, they found themselves at a party in New York attended by legendary rock critic Lester Bangs, where the only food to be found was birthday cake and jelly beans.
“I had read all of Lester Bangs’s stuff in Creem and thought he was the greatest thing in the world,” guitarist Peter Buck said. “Lester was standing there, and every time someone walked by – it was like a mantra – he’d have something to say to them. He called me a rotten cocksucker. ... I was like, ‘That’s Lester Bangs! That’s so cool!’”
Singer Michael Stipe remembered the night and, years later, had a dream where he was at another party where everybody except him had the initials "L.B.," including Bangs, Lenny Bruce, Leonard Bernstein and Leonid Brezhnev. "So that ended up in the song along with a lot of stuff I’d seen when I was flipping TV channels."
For the rest of the lyrics, Stipe began with his fear of earthquakes and created a stream-of-conscious take that took into consideration the destruction of the environment, the Cold War and the rise of the religious right as leading to the collapse of the world. Bassist Mike Mills chimes in on the chorus, singing "Time I had some time alone" as a way of wanting to escape from it all.
When originally released, "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" peaked at No. 69 on the Billboard Hot 100, a far cry from the Top 10 status of Document's first single, "The One I Love." However, it reached No. 16 on the Mainstream Rock chart.