Summer Turns To High

August 3, 2007

Yes, I’m writing about this song because it’s really, really hot out.

Reveal is a “summer album” in a rather self-conscious sort of way. Not only was the band going out of its way to evoke the heat-addled daze of late summer, but Michael Stipe’s lyrics were preoccupied with the same, to the point of being rather literal.  For example, “Summer Turns To High”  is about summer…turning to…high. Well, sort of. I’m being unfair — there’s a fair bit of emotional turmoil in the song, and the implication that Stipe’s character is throwing himself into lazy, luxurious pleasures as a way of keeping himself from thinking about a soured relationship. The music obviously owes a lot to the Beach Boys in terms of mood and percussion, but the lack of vocal harmony and guazy electronic textures that dominate the piece pull the track away from a more straightforward Brian Wilson homage a la “At My Most Beautiful.”


58 Responses to “Summer Turns To High”

  1. Theresa Says:

    I always liked this song. I’m sitting in my house-in the heat-listening to this song, and it seems to romanticize summer and thus make it more bearable.

  2. David T. Says:

    I find it a little hard to analyze this song as a distinct entity…I always hear it as a “come-down” from Imitation of Life as well as something of a “mood piece” that encapsulates the overall tone of the album.

    That said, though, Michael’s high-register vocal during the last chorus…it’s just gorgeous.

    And. of yeah, it’s really, really hot out here (Memphis), too…makes me wonder if Burning Hell is on the horizon…

  3. Clive Says:

    I’ve always prefered the acoustic version of this song, titled ’32 Chord Song’ – just feel the album version is too lush whereas it’s actually a great tune when stripped down.

  4. Paul Alferink Says:

    I love this song. The joys of summer as a kid, when schools out and life is catching the wonder that is the firefly and running around in sandals and a bedsheet cape.

    Best Line:
    the fireflies in time
    move like syrup through the evening

  5. ScottMalobisky Says:

    “can any hell be more real than the here and now?”–Jim Morrison , An American Prayer

    Matthew, you took it easy on this song . thought you might rip it to shreds considering your general distaste for parts of Reveal, will Chorus And The Ring escape your critical wrath I wonder ??…..

    now I’m gonna go and jump into the ocean …(check out great photo of Mills on HQ , playing with The Thrills in Dublin..I wonder if they did ‘Deckchairs And Cigarettes’……)..

  6. jim jos Says:

    “someone put a pox on me, I’ll spit in their eye”
    isn’t exactly the most carefree summer lyric one could come up with. Even if it is not going to be literally a diseased, contagious spit ball courtesy of Mr. Stipe.

    The idea that simple, childlike pleasures “cotton candy, caramel apples” will overcome his sadness does a nifty job of either demonstrating the power of enjoying those simple good things, or that the relationship was never all that important to begin with. For me, those type of things don’t bring all that much comfort for great periods of time. I mean, lighting a candle and eating sweets are nice things, but what do I do with the rest of my day?

  7. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Right on jimjos.
    especially when you don’t have as many delicious options as Mr.Stipe

  8. Ignis Sol Says:

    >catching the wonder that is the firefly and running around in sandals and a bedsheet cape. <

    That was me last night before I passed out on a deck chair at the outdoor movies (Bourne Supremecy). As long as Matt Damon is whispering to me in my summer dreams, I am A-OK.

    I re-listened to “Summer Turns to High” and I can say that I really like it. I did not before. I lost myself in the moment and breeziness of the song. Michael’s lackadaisical vocals are quite appealing.

    Has any one see the new video for “New Orleans Instrumental No. 1” R.E.M. has done for Katrina relief? I have not.

  9. jim jos Says:

    you got it Scott,

    Besides, I am glad the great JMS can idolize it but I think the summer is the WORST time to try to get over some kind of loss. Days are too long and nobody wants to do a damn thing. Give me the winter, when it least if I am having a hellish time I can watch others freeze their asses off.

  10. maclure Says:

    I like the remIX versions of this song, it lends itself well to being remixed…

  11. Ignis Sol Says:

    I like the REMix version, too. I have the vinyl version of those mixes. I came upon it quite by accident at a great record store called Everyday Music in my neighborhood.

    It is a good mixing songs because you can fill in the spacey spaces with blips, beeps or other instruments that can give the song more depth. You can stretch out and play with those parts, too. This will make it even more airy (is that a word?). In the same way, you can mix this song out into most anything…

    I’m gonna DJ (not at the end of the world) tonight!

  12. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Ignis , I liked you better when you were a woman……..
    Listening to song now to perhaps (PERHAPS) offer something relevant,need to seperate the wheat from the chaffe ..IIIIIII FEEEEL…..Just tossed my sweaty “Am I ogling , gawking , leering , or just plain staring?” T-shirt in the corner, my beach t-shirt. Summer has indeed turned to high , I’ll take the rain, some of that sweet Calcutta rain, or some of that Seattle rain there , Ignis…smallpox blanket , no way.

  13. ScottMalobisky Says:

    the very beginning sounds like You Are The Everything with the crickets chirping or cicadas or whatever those are

  14. Ignis Sol Says:

    They are cicadas (only because I like the word cicada).

    And our summer’s are dry (usually less than a 1/2 inch of rain) in Seattle (btw). Come in November for the rain and gloom when we spend our time in the darkened corners of the coffee shops nibbling on our despair of our lives of nothingness (emptiness?).

  15. 2d Says:

    nothing to add really about this song. i think it goes well with the lazy, summery mood, but as a “full-time” song it’s nothing special. it’s extremely sugary in a way that if you listen to it when the temperature is below 29 degrees celsius, it makes you press “skip” after the 20 second mark.

  16. 2d Says:

    [Has any one see the new video for “New Orleans Instrumental No. 1″ R.E.M. has done for Katrina relief? I have not.]

    i have. i must say it’s done in a very amateur-ish way, just a slideshow of photos of the damage, and some writing about the people involved. while the photos portray a very scary destructive force, the artistic preoccupation for the video is very poor. i know this isn’t supposed to be artful or anything, but to me it just feels completely rushed and emotionless.

  17. Ignis Sol Says:

    2d, that’s too bad about the video. I thought Michael Stipe was involved with the artistic direction. The blurb I read said it was a joint effort between R.E.M. and the organization. I would think it would be up to their standards. (I am unable to view here it work)Michael is a talented photographer.

    My summer is turnin’ to high pretty soon…..damn those Blue Angels are loud…. buzzin’ my building…. I am eager to see the “Beachball” review because it seems to be evening version of this song, once the heat buzz wears off and the cocktails buzzes begin…. and or course dancing! You’ll do fine!

  18. 2d Says:

    ignis, you’d better sit down for this one 😛

    as for the video, that’s just my opinion. you have to see for yourself to judge.

  19. Ignis Sol Says:

    I guess I am starting my buzz a little bit early. I noticed it after I sent it, duh… 🙂
    thanks, 2d – you’re the best!

  20. ScottMalobisky Says:

    and thank your lucky stars for those Blue Angels it’s just too bad the commander -In- Chief is such a Jagoff, WORST PRESIDENT EVER

  21. ScottMalobisky Says:

    and the Democratic controlled Congress at an abyssmal 3% public approval rating , 3% !!!, an all time low ( yes , I should say so )..What a bunch of monkeys , throw the bums out . So few of our elected leaders seem to have any COMMON SENSE –I mean –WHAT ARE THESE GUY THINKING ????!!!

  22. Paul Alferink Says:

    3%? Umm . . . They are poorly rates but every poll I have seen has them between 26% and 31%. Pretty much where Bush is right now. . .

    At least you don’t live in Illinois, where the Democratic Congress and the Democratic Governor (who is a moron, so bad he made me vote Republican for the first time ever . . .) won’t pass a budget. They past a 1 month extension that expired Tuesday. By the fifteenth, state workers won’t get paid. And then the state government will start shutting down.

  23. ScottMalobisky Says:

    just saw on TV, that’s a Zogbey poll SPECIFICALLY on Congress’s handling of the Iraq situation, just that one issue

  24. 2d Says:

    ^ and i think that video goes well with the political state of the u.s.a. that you’re discussing. sadly.

  25. wolfy Says:

    I love this one-it makes me feel better ion the worst of summer days becauxe I remember how, as a kid, I really ignored it and had fun anyway. That’s what it’s all about.

  26. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    This song does make feel think of hot and sticky summer, but it has to be one of the most boring songs in the REM catalog. Yawn!

  27. huub Says:

    today here in the netherlands was the first real summer day, and I just had to put on reveal. Glad I’m not the only one who thinks about these songs and this album as ultimate summer soundtracks..

  28. Kirsten Says:

    While this song is clearly about trying to ignore the drama/sadness in your life by enjoying summer (“If those hopes are overshadowed,cotton candy, caramel apple” / “I won’t pine on what could’ve been, I’m preoccupied”), the great feeling of summertime is overwhelming and a more obvious first impression of the song. To me though, this is a song that often gets overlooked. I don’t skip it, but I don’t think I’ve ever seeked it out to play.
    I’m enjoying the comments on this one, though. It’s freezing outside (we had snow a couple of weeks ago – and I live in an area where that doesn’t usually happen) so I’m dreaming of being where you all are right now.
    Impatiently waiting for November….

  29. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Kirsten , what part of Australia do you live? So, it’s “winter” there (Southern Hemisphere)?..Here’s a factoid for ya , a bit of Cliff Clavin magic, did ya know that the Earth is actually at it’s farthest point away from the sun in it’s revolution around the sun in July? It’s the angle of the tilt of the Earth that makes it high summer here in July… We here in the northern hemisphere (the majority) with our northern hemisphere prejudices and assumptions-I’m sure most of us except for the smart ones like me- always think that the Earth is at it’s closest point in July. I guess it seems more logical–the way it is– to you southern hemispherers, like the way it should be, eh?

  30. Kirsten Says:

    Does that mean our Summer’s are generally hotter in the southern hemisphere than in the northern?

  31. Figgy Says:

    I live in New Zealand, Kirsten. Like you, I’m feeling a bit chilly now but unlike you I might have to wait until January or February to experience summer days to suit this song!

    As for the song itself, it’s never done anything for me. Same goes for most of Reveal.

  32. Figgy Says:

    And I can only answer ScottM the Blogger Formerly Known as Transformerdog by saying… I’m pretty sure you’re right about the earth’s distance and angle in July.

  33. Kirsten Says:

    One thing I love about Winter, is those really cold mornings when it’s negative 1 or 2 deg (C) and everything’s covered in ice. It looks so beautiful and I love the way the ice crunches under your feet….

  34. ScottMalobisky Says:

    yeah , the Earth’s orbit is more of an ellipse ,not a perfect circle
    wow, Figgy, New Zealand huh ?? how totally cool and fascinating ……

  35. Kirsten Says:

    So it’s not a perfect circle of acquaintances and friends? Don’t tell me Michael’s been misleading us??

  36. Figgy Says:

    Here Kirsten… check out this elipsis:

    A Perfect Circle it is not!

    Yeah, Scott. Way down here in NZ. It’s a great spot and I love it. I’m not actually a New Zealander, I moved here from Dublin nearly 5 years ago for a “change of pace”. The climate’s nicer, the people (at least in the region where I live) are laid back & friendly and of course the scenery is amazing.

    On the downside, I do occasionally miss my family and old friends… and the Dublin nightlife.

  37. Kirsten Says:

    Thanks Figgy. There is a slight difference in temperatures, but not a noticable one. And the Earth is closest to the sun on Jan 3rd – the day before Michael’s birthday (that would’ve been more interesting if it was on his b’day).

    Coming from Dublin you would’ve been use to the cold weather! Shame you weren’t there for the rehearsals last month.

  38. Figgy Says:

    Hi Kirsten. You’re right – I’m used to the cold weather and in all honesty the “cold” weather I experience during a NZ winter is nothing compared to winter in Dublin.

    I would have loved to go to the rehearsals in the Olympia last month. In fact, a friend of mine had a spare ticket for the first night and offered it to me. Initially it seemed like a crazy notion, a 36,000km round trip to see REM, but I actually went as far as provisionally booking a return flight to arrive in Dublin a couple of days before the first gig. Then I thought about it more and found it hard to justify the expense and the impact it would have on my work life and home life here. Would have been fun though! Needless to say, since then I have spent a few hours on YouTube having a good look at what I missed.

  39. Kirsten Says:

    I cant wait for all the bootlegs to come out.

    It’s not fair that we’re so far away, they’ll never justify the expense to do something like that down our way!

    Hopefully they’ll bring the tour out here, though.

  40. Figgy Says:

    Well, on the last tour they played at the Bowl of Brooklands which is a public park just down the road from where I live in New Plymouth. That was a complete surprise, REM coming to this little town. Never mind REM, most New Zealanders have yet to visit this place! And what a gig it was too. It would be great if they played here again but as long as they take in New Zealand or Australia (or both) on the next tour, I’ll be happy. Taking a trip to another part of NZ or to a city in Oz is a lot easier than the trip I nearly made to Dublin.

  41. Kirsten Says:

    Easier and cheeper….

  42. Kirsten Says:

    Oh my God, I can’t believe I spelt cheaper wrong! Maybe it’s so cold my brain has frozen..

  43. Figgy Says:

    Bird for sale. Going cheep.

  44. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Figgy , you said 36,000km, seemed strange. I think the USA is the only country in the world not using the metric system !! Or one of the only…….

  45. Kirsten Says:

    I had a beautiful little budgie that died last year named “Billy” after the great man himself. I now have another little baby one called “Kenneth” as in What’s The Frequency..
    Having trouble teaching him to say it though.

  46. Figgy Says:

    Hi Scott. I grew up with the imperial system back in Ireland so I used to be very familiar with miles. But because I have driven so much in New Zealand (and in Australia when on holidays… sorry, maybe I should say “vacation”!), I can better relate to distances in metric. When it comes to weight, pounds and stones still make sense to me. And being Irish, I do like to drink beer from a pint glass!

  47. Figgy Says:

    Would be cool to get little Kenneth to say a line from the song he’s named after. Slap a wee t-shirt on him (one with a star on the front), film him and put the clip on YouTube. Might ultimately get you a meeting with Michael Stipe…

  48. Kirsten Says:

    He says “bless you” after he sneezes. 🙂 I say “What’s the frequency, Kenneth” to him everyday, but I think the word frequency is too hard. He’s only 8 months old, so there’s still time.
    I can say it, though. Do you think that would impress Mr Stipe??
    Cute Idea about the T-shirt too. I’ll get onto it.

  49. 2d Says:

    @ scottm (transformerdog?!?! are these like your split personalities or something?): [it’s the angle of the tilt of the earth that makes it high summer here in july] i knew that, in summer the sun’s rays are perendicular to the earth’s surface, so they trasnfer more heat. simple astronomoy.

    more factoids: venus is the only planet that spins around its axis in an opposite direction to the other 8. pluto is smaller than jupiter’s largest moon. the moon always shows the same side to the earth because its revolution and rotation period are identical. at certain times, pluto is closer to the earth than neptune, because of its different trajectory. it is also the only planet whose rotation ellipse is not in the same plane as the other 8. oh, and the moon is revolving itself away from the earth slowly but surely, meaning that someday it will get beyond the orbital pull distance and just drift into space. then, the meaning of the line “the river empties to the tide” will be lost 😐

    @ kirsten: that sounds like a pretty cool pup. looking forward to a pic maybe? oh and he’s like almost 5 years old in human years! did you babyproof the house? 😀

  50. Paul Alferink Says:

    My favorite useless facts:

    The Panda Bear is more Raccoon than Bear.

    And for our Down Under people. The sweet little picture of Koala Bears we see are only partly true. Appearantly, they’re mean little buggers but the euclyptis they eat is a drug of sorts and keeps them rather sedated.

    Also. The Duckbilled Platapus is poisonous.

  51. Kirsten Says:

    Koalas are vicious little things, they bite and scratch! Also, they’re not bears, Just Koalas.

    Didn’t know that about the Platapus though…

  52. Kirsten Says:

    And a budgie is what you guys call a parakeet…

  53. Paul Alferink Says:

    mean cats eat budgie
    and this one’s nearly dead.

    Doesn’t really have the same kick to it, does it?

  54. Paul Alferink Says:

    And listen. We in the states are gleefully ignorant of the world outside our borders. As far as I am consider, there are koala Bears, and Wallaby Bears and Kangaroo Bears. Really, the only native Austrailian animal not a bear is the Tasmania Devil, but we all know he twirls around like a tornado and eats everything in his path until he’s outsmarted by a Bunny with a Brooklyn accent.

  55. Kirsten Says:

    Don’t forget the Kirsten Bear – the scariest of all!

  56. Paul Alferink Says:

    Holy shit! Here in America, that is a creature so feared that we do not even name it!

  57. 2d Says:

    does it start with “b” and ends in “ush”, has 4 letters and lives in the white bush? 😀

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