Talk About The Passion

June 13, 2007

“Talk About The Passion” is a very worried song — the lyrics are a bit vague and elliptical, but it’s essentially about feeling powerless to help people in need — but it’s dressed up in an arrangement that emphasizes the singer’s generosity and sensitivity rather than his frustration or helplessness. The key moment in the piece is the realization that “not everyone can carry the weight of the world,” and though that line comes during a relatively dense passage in the song, a few moments later the weight is lifted, and the chorus rises up with an effortless grace.


24 Responses to “Talk About The Passion”

  1. Justin Says:

    I made out with a girl in high school with this song in the background.

    That is all.

  2. I think that if you’re going to make out to any song from Murmur, this is probably the best choice.

  3. Clive Says:

    I do believe the song is about hunger as the video clip seems to reveal, showing various images of homeless people in New York. Am I right in thinking the video was made several years later and is not dated 1983 as indeed the song is?
    I have little more to say about the lyrical content so I will vent my admiration for the guitar riff in this, I think it’s a lovely sound, beautifully recorded and engineered. It has a very 1960s feel (slightly reminiscent of opening guitar on ‘Mr Tambourine Man’) and just resonates a southern gothic feel. It sounds like the guitar is played twice, once with Peters traditional Rickenbacker (most likely the 12 string) and secondly with an acoustic guitar. The combination of the two makes it sound like neither of them – very unique.
    I’ve never heard or seen this song played live except on ‘The Tube’ in 1983 or it may have been 1984. I don’t think this song translates to being played live very well.

  4. The video was produced to promote Eponymous, which came out in 1988.

  5. kirkl Says:

    5 days…5 days with no review.
    thank goodness you’re back!

  6. maclure Says:

    One of the first songs I learned to play on guitar. I only discovered the cello part buried in the mix after listening on my discman to Murmur several years after I first heard the song. The cello is a darn good inclusion and adds to the whistful sombre mood…

  7. I’ve been very busy, mainly with finding a new place to live. Things should be okay through the next couple weeks and then get a bit slower around the end of the month.

  8. Bruno Says:

    This is a good example of a band that (except Mills perhaps) aren’t technically great musicians but have great musical ideas/instincts. I find the latter usually results in better pop songs for my tastes. Of course having the sound of Stipe singing on top sure helps.

    There are so many ‘tasty’ (sorry, kind of a cliched music expression but it fits) and understated things going on here, and in many Murmur songs. These moments of inspiration – or just superior songwriting – are some of the things that made me fall in love with REM all those years ago, along with the great melodies and that mysterious southern quality. Murmur delivers a lot of touches of this kind in spades. Although other songs on the record have more bits hidden here and there in the mix – sometimes almost subliminal in quality – ‘Talk About The Passion’, while being more direct than some, still contains lots of great little touches.

    Examples –

    Bill’s little flourishes like the snare/cymbal hit after/echoing Stipe’s “Not…” in the third verse and his various understated tom bits spicing things up

    Peter’s simple yet oh-so-good Ricky part backing Stipe on the chorus (a good example of the ‘jangly’ stuff so many of us loved)

    The Cello backing the “Combien…” part and quietly showing up in other places as the song progresses

    Mill’s soft “Ahhh”s on the second chorus

    The deeper reverb on Stipe’s “Talk about the passion” vocal on the final repeated chorus – it effectively adds additional resonance to his plea

    Such subtle and understated stuff. Nothing over the top. ‘Talk About the Passion’ is a good example of less is more. These touches, for me, added so much extra charm/warmth/mystique to what were already great songs.

    Ah, Murmur.

  9. Jared B. Says:

    That combien de temps part always gets stuck in my head. It’s fun to sing along with.

  10. Aerothorn Says:

    After I read the first and second comment, I thought “Murmur makeout songs?”

    I started Radio Free Europe, skipped ahead a random amount of time, and heard Michael Stipe say “Push it, push it, push that to the hole”.

    Oh my.

  11. Justin Says:


    Actually, my high-school-making-out was accompanied by the Eponymous iteration of “Talk About the Passion.” So it could as easily have been “Romance” – “easy come, easy go…”

  12. transfersystem Says:

    The liner notes for Eponymous do state that “this is a hunger song…” which for some reason I always took metaphorically, not literally…

  13. Scott Malobisky Says:

    Splendiferous song , such precision of subtlety and songwritng prowess on display (to state the obvious), I like to growl “dole me in , dole me in to talk” at the combien de temps part, shades of later greater growls to come …….Ex.Begin The Begin..

  14. Kirsten Says:

    I don’t really have much to add to everyone else’s great comments. It’s an amazing song. Bruno stole my thunder with Bill’s accented drumming after the “not”, and don’t even get me started on how great the guitar is (especially under the “combien” part).

  15. 2fs Says:

    I think Buck’s an underrated guitarist, even then. I mean, no, he wasn’t going to give John McLaughlin a run for his speedy money – but not did he write great parts, he could play them. The double-stopping in “Wolves, Lower” is not utterly basic!

  16. Ignis Sol Says:

    I love this song.

  17. Scott Malobisky Says:

    OH, Buck is an INCREDIBLE guitar player but in a different way than the “classic rock guitar god ” sorta way, such a flair for understated tricks and nuances, so many sounds and textures, what’d they always say, “the Byrds meets Punk”? …I remember the first time I heard live Country Feedback on In Time, recall thinking that that was really the first time I ever heard him do THAT KIND of solo —with a spotlight on him so to speak, standing there “jamming” although he probably wasn’t posing and shaking it around :0..when I saw REM in Atlanta in the fall of ’03 the last song before the encores was ‘She Just Wants To Be’, an extended duel guitar solo at the end of that with that “other guy” that assists on stage these days –kinda stands off to the side there-recall how that “jam” seemed out of character for him, almost as if they were doing it becuse this is a rock concert and rock concerts have guitar solos, Stipe layed down on the stage by the microphone , hands intertwined behind head with feet towards the drumkit as if he was about to start doing sit-ups and remained in that position throughout the length of the jam

  18. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:


    I think I made out with that same girl 🙂

    Stand out track on Murmur and one of the few semi-comprehensible songs from the CD – a sure hit if it came out 8-10 years later at REM’s peak and the peak of “alternative”.

  19. Bandwagon03 Says:

    What a great song. I agree with Bruno: so understated, but so beautiful…its one that will stay with you for a while.

  20. I think that maybe one of the main points of this site is to show how R.E.M. are brilliant musicians in ways that aren’t obvious — the entire group is focused on getting the songs across, no one in the group is driven by ego, it’s all about the greater good of the composition.

  21. Bruno Says:

    Absolutely! and well said Matthew – it’s all in service to the song, and with fantastic musical instincts and just the right flourishes to take it to another level.

    Rare talent that – if only there were more of it in the stuff we hear now.

  22. Todd Says:

    For me, Talk about the Passion and Perfect Circle are the gold standards I judge other bands’ first album efforts. Every time I hear them, I can’t help but think just how incredible it is to have two songs of their caliber on a debut album (not counting CT, of course). They’re just beautiful.

    For what it’s worth, I’m really fond of the TATP version on the Surprise Your Pig compilation, too.

  23. Frank Says:

    I’m a “from Murmur being released” long fan of REM and I just discovered your wonderful site.

    This song is why I love Peter Buck. That guitar riff. It’s not complicated. I’ve been able to play it for 25 years, and as guitar players go, I’m mediocre on a good day :). But not only does it sound way cool, it’s also got enough meat on it that the whole song sticks to it.

  24. Steve Says:

    Not a religious person or anything, not in the sense of “go to church on a Sunday” – but thought “Talk About The Passion” was about just that -The Passion of Jesus Christ and “the weight of the world” was the burden He carried at Golgotha

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