Nightswimming

This video, like most REM videos, is a??fascinating??watch. However, if you've never heard the song before (and what's wrong with you?) listen to it with your eyes closed first and tell me what it makes you remember. It's an odd song, because for most people it tells a different autobiographical story. You may never have been skinny dipping at night, but I'm sure you've got some memory from adolescence with the same hint of danger-mixed-with-pleasure the song seems to be??describing.

The band themselves are split as to what it means, with lead singer Michael Stipe saying that it's autobiographical in places but mostly just made up while other members recall memories of the early days of the group getting together – but not the same memories as each other.

For me, the song seems to be about boys. That first flush of adolescence when I first noticed other boys, when I first realised that whatever was going to happen as I grew up, other boys were going to feature quite prominently in life. That time as a teenager when life seemed full of??possibilities??and the promise of sex, rather than mortgages and cleaning the lav and thinking that a trip to B&Q makes a lovely thing to do as a couple of a Sunday. This song brings it back to me: the sight of male flesh; the smell of being outdoors at night; the taste of cheap ciggies and cheaper cider; the sound of other boys breathing while asleep; the feeling of being touched for the first time.

Pretty good for 4 minutes 23 seconds of American songwriting.
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One comment

  1. I have never heard of REM and never heard this song before, as far as I can remember. The video contains one or two interesting images. It is a pity the tune, if you can call it that, is such a dreary, unimaginative, forgettable dirge. I couldn’t make much of the words, on first hearing anyway. The thing about the pop music of one’s youth (most of which was, objectively, garbage) is that one tends to project on to it the emotions and thoughts one remembers experiencing at the time. As Noel Coward said, "Strange how potent cheap music is".

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