August 27, 2007

The piano part for “Nightswimming” is one of Mike Mills’ greatest achievements as a songwriter. It is a piece of music that seems so natural and pure that it’s hard to imagine that there was actually a time when the song did not exist. It’s actually a little bit surprising that it was “finished” with vocals and a string arrangement — surely it would be an extremely successful work as a solo piano piece.

It almost seems like an understatement to say that “Nightswimming” is an extraordinarily sentimental song. It’s not exactly a tear-jerker, but it certainly tugs on the heartstrings in a way that doesn’t seem overly sappy and manipulative, which is of course no small feat.  Michael Stipe’s lyrics sets a scene rich with concrete details, but its emotional potency comes from  the immense value it places on beautiful, though seemingly inconsequential moments of true love and friendship. It’s also a lovely lament for the final days of summer, and the bittersweet awareness that certain freedoms and enjoyable status quos are about to disappear as the weather slowly segues into the autumn.


105 Responses to “Nightswimming”

  1. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    It is amazing how simplicity is sometimes best – it is a credit to the band and Scott Litt that they pretty much left it alone. Interestingly, this is the ONLY song by REM where the lyrics came first. Michael brought in the lyrics and the boys competed to put music with it. Both the music for Drive and Try Not To Breathe were originally written to go with the lyrics of Nightswimming. The lyrics are genius as they work on so many levels. Literally the song is about skinnydipping with a loved one, on a deeper level it seems to be about sex and love in the age of AIDS, on another level it could simply be about a relationship that has lasted for a lifetime. It likely goes deeper than that – a true masterpiece.

  2. Courtney Says:

    Goosebumps everytime I hear it. Every.single.time. One of their finest pieces.

  3. Ignis Sol Says:

    >It’s not exactly a tear-jerker<

    I admit to sometimes cry when listening to “Nightswimming.” Automatic for the People itself is good for that.

    The autumnal theme of impending gloom has always haunted me even before I heard this song. I grew up in Michigan where there are definite changes from season to season. Summers were meant for falling in love, skinny dipping and sex. Autumn comes and it is time to start warming chocolate on the stove, raking the crumpling leaves and preparing for the chill of winters breath.

    “That bright, tight forever drum….” is one of many great lines in this elegiac masterpiece.

  4. ivan Says:

    I don’t have much to add – that was a great write up Matthew. This has been one of my favorite R.E.M. songs since I first heard it. It would be shocking that it didn’t close AFTP if not for the fact that Find the River is such a perfect way to end it.

  5. adam Says:

    15 YEARS AGO. kids born at the time the song came out probably having thier own late summer experiences like this one now.

  6. Andy T Says:

    One of my favorites too. I always liked string arrangement as well, it’s adds just the right tone to the background of the song.

  7. Figgy Says:

    A beautiful song. For me it’s about taking a moment to enjoy some nostalgia. It could be nostalgia for fun times with friends in younger days or even nostalgia for summer itself, knowing we won’t get the opportunity to enjoy certain things again ’til next summer.

    I can’t help smiling when I hear this one, especially during the verse that features “You, I thought you knew me, this one laughing quietly underneath my breath”. Reminds me of the giddy laughter you can have with a group of close friends when you’re all doing something a bit silly.

  8. 2d Says:

    this song is indeed one of the most beautiful odes to a free, happy time, it’s a memory captured inside a song… it has such a cinematic feel, i can’t help but gasp and let it flow over me every time i hear it… the world stops.

    also, it tells a very intimate story to me, as i have my own memory captured inside it. this is the song i played on repeat when i was half-drunk at the seaside and decided to stray away from the group, headphones in my ears, walking along the nearly-empty beach, shrouded in darkness but under the perfect starry summer sky, chasing the waves and lying on my back in the cold sand… something about the sea at night always made me want some time to myself, to think and enjoy the vapours of alcohol soothing me softly. this song has always resonated with me, but never like on those summer nights when i felt like every kind of beauty in life was there in front of me, all i had to do was reach out for it…

    hm, now i am so melancholic… i believe they call this haunting beauty.

  9. 2d Says:

    and the line “and what if there were two, side by side in orbit, around the fairest sun” has got to be one of the most romantic, un-cliche lines i have ever had the pleasure of coming across. stunning, stunning song.

  10. Figgy Says:

    Hi, 2d. I’ve always heard that line as “in orbit, around the FERRIS sun” but only realised recently that the word is “fairest”. I had always conjured up this picture of a ferris wheel with the sun in the middle and moons orbiting round the circular edge, thinking there’s another great bit of imagery from Mr Stipe.

  11. Figgy Says:

    In early 2005, I was fortunate to experience a brilliant live version of this when REM played in New Plymouth on the ATS tour. The setting was perfect: mild late summer night, 15,000 fans on a hill bound by woodland, the light of the full moon glistening on the ripples of the lake in front of the stage.

    Throughout the gig, people were jumping into the lake and enjoying the performance while waste deep in water (and duck crap), a sight the band themselves seemed to enjoy. Stipe declined several offers of joining the revellers, mainly out of fear of what diseases he might contract from the water.

    Anyway, when they get to the encore out comes the incredibly appropriate Nightswimming. We had the nightswimmers and we had that beautiful full moon bathing the whole park in silver light (I remember looking at it while Stipe sang “and what if there were two”).

    However, it turned out that this seemingly impromptu rendition of Nightswimming had nothing to do with any of the factors mentioned above. Stipe explained afterwards that they played it only ‘cos one of the support bands had requested it earlier that day!

  12. 2d Says:

    that’s so psychedelic figgy! a bit scary too… “fairest” just drips of fairytale fantasy romance, like a heart fluttering gently in a lover’s chest as he is offering the most tender of kisses to his loved one… but there is also so much longing in this song, and true sadness at perhaps a time that will never come again. and all fairy tales start with “once upon a time”…

    the thing that comes to my mind now is that old fairytale (was it oscar wilde’s?) about the nightingale who sacrifices herself to make a single, blood-red rose for a young man longing for the affection of a girl. she takes pity in the lover’s suffering and tries to find a red rose for him, as nothing else will suffice. however, she cannot find anything but pure white ones, so the rose bush says to her that, in order to make a white rose turn red, the nightingale must push her breast in the thorn of the rose and let the blood from her heart flow inside the rose bush… she finally accepts this and does so all night long, slowly pushing the thorn further and further, and singing a beautiful but bittersweet song as her life fades from her body… the story ends with the young man offering the rose to the girl, but she chooses another richer young man over him, so he throws away the rose so that it is crushed by a passing carriage… heartbreaking.

    i wouldn’t be surprised if this song were the nightingale’s song in the story…

    here is the story, for anyone who doesn’t know it:

  13. Adam Says:

    This song is just perfect. The “September is coming soon” line creeps in all the time during this season – there is just something in the air. I have had that forever (like Ignis)and that song just nails it.

  14. Ignis Sol Says:

    2d, that reminds me a great Joan Baez song, sung in the beautiful Catalan, called “El Rossinyol” (The Nightingale).

    some lyics:

    Rossinyol, que vas a França, rossinyol,
    encomana’m a la mare, rossinyol,
    d’un bell boscatge, rossinyol, d’un vol.

    Encomane’m a la mare, rossinyol,
    i a mon pare no pas gaire, rossinyol,
    d’un bell boscatge, rossinyol, d’un vol.

    Her version of this traditional song has a beautiful melody and arrangement. A must.

  15. ScottMalobisky Says:

    my favorite month of the year
    has always been

  16. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Hey BWD , WHERE did you get that information? You sound like a real insider there , like you had a beer with the band last night…….

  17. Heyberto Says:

    A former professor of mine at UGA was the chubby guy that went swimming in the video, AND I myself have been skinny dipping in the pool at the best western in that video. This song really takes me back to those college days!

  18. Ignis Sol Says:

    Agree with ScottM.

    In the North American season, September has that perfectly wonderful mix of merriment and melancholy. The early dawns of frolic eventually turn into the gray, glum dusks for the forlorn. I shed a single tear, yet it freezes to my skin awaiting a seasonal change of mercy.

  19. Ignis Sol Says:

    I should have noted that “In parts of the North American season…”

  20. 2d Says:

    scott, you might want to check the “in time” booklet a bit more carefully 😉

    and ignis, indeed a melancholic description of autumn… i have been trying to find in my playlist a song that rivals the beauty of “nightswimming” on a similar topic but i couldn’t! when one matches the purity, it lacks in atmosphere and viceversa. quite intriguing, anyone can share the closest thing they have to this? i’m intrigued! i guess i’d have to say moby – “god moving over the face of the waters”, but that’s in a somewhat different category. i have way too much time on my hands, and i should probably be sleeping. the memories are keeping me awake!

  21. Ignis Sol Says:

    2d, then float away with your memories…your light fingers skimming the surface like a tiny timid stone skipping on and on and on…

  22. Mr Cup Says:

    The southern hemispherical experience is at odds with the impending gloom you guys speak of. September is the start of spring and the anticipation of all that summer fun. I’ve been thinking of this song lately (that time of year) as this album was released around this time of year. Well, the first time I heard it was around this time. A friend of mine worked for the record company and he had a copy a month before it was released. Doing me a huge favour he gave me a copy a month before it was released. I shared a house with two women at the time (I’d converted them to the beauty of the band by this stage – we were all excited). We layed on my bed (nothing untoward) and listened silently. The last 3 songs in particular had us in raptures, but this song just moved us so much – we were floating.

  23. Kirsten Says:

    I presume the line “September’s Coming Soon” is about how you’re running out of time before you have to wait another year before nightswimming again. To me, that line symbolises the excitement of the start of spring. Mixed with “I’m Pining For The Moon” – I can’t wait for September and Daylight Savings and Nightswimming. Different perspective from a different hemisphere I suppose. It’s 25 dec C here today and that excitement of Spring/Summer is already building.
    Can I just say how much I enjoy hearing everyone’s stories. Takes me back to memories that aren’t even mine and places I’ve never been….
    About the song itself, I don’t have much to add. Like everyone else, I love it. It’s beautiful. The imagery, the music, the lyrics – just perfect. I love the photograph on the dashboard reflecting on the windshield in the streetlights. So beautiful.

  24. 2d Says:

    well ignis, i do think i am finally giving in and going off to bed otherwise i will be skimming my playlist so much the songs will refuse to play again! and, as a closing chapter, i shall end my day / start my dreaming with the cure’s “plainsong”! good night everyone!

  25. Ignis Sol Says:

    here come the lunar moths

  26. 2d Says:

    nice, more dreamers are on their way! this is a really good song to start a personal journey on…

  27. Kirsten Says:

    Back in 92 my little brother use to sing “Nightswimming, deserves a quiet night” over and over and over ’cause they were the only words he knew. One day my Mum told him to “shut up and give it one”. He’s 22 now and I know it’s still one of his favourites. And he’s learnt some more words.

  28. ScottMalobisky Says:


  29. ScottMalobisky Says:

    C’est La Vie
    Emerson Lake and Palmer

    “C’est la vie
    Have your leaves all turned to brown
    Will you scatter them around you
    C’est la vie” that one DOES cross the line to tear-jerker

  30. Mr Cup Says:

    The oboe lifts the song to a sublime level for me. Sublime.

  31. Paul Alferink Says:

    Great song. A shout out to the only pop song I know with an Oboe solo. And a shout out to John Paul Jones, who deserves some credit for the orchestration.

    Best Line:
    The photograph on the dashboard, taken years ago,
    turned around backwards so the windshield shows.
    Every streetlight reveals the picture in reverse.

    September’s coming soon, is a good one, too. Physical summer and the end of Nightswimming, and the September of life, when people get largely too old to enjoy the “recklessness and water, because “it’s not like years ago.”

    This song made me want to do things, learn the piano (Kinda, although I did learn how to play this song) and actually go nightswimming. Never did. Did run around naked in a field by a stream, because that was the closest I could get, but it wasn’t the same. . .

  32. maclure Says:

    I’ve just come in and this thread already has 30+ comments! Great write up MP, nailed it. And, like Kirsten, it’s great to hear the stories around this song. I would have quoted the “photograph on the dashboard” line if Alferink hadn’t done so above…

    Just such a tremendous song, so ornate and so simple, so melchanolic but tentatively hopeful and perfect in it’s sequence on AFTP. Sometimes when I hear this song I wonder why REM don’t aim for lush string and orchestral arrangements more often… it’s just so nice when they get it this good. Like a bottle of age old port around a September fire.

    My one story to add to the others above is that for some reason I always started dating my girlfriends and finally my wife in the autumn months. September coming soon must do something to me – the wind in your face, anything is possible, and I would pluck up the courage to ask somebody out.

    ps. does anybody know any good covers of this? Gene, now defunct Smiths-alike band from the UK, cite REM as big influences and covered this as a b-side. They did quite a nice job incorporating twiddly guitars. But, as ever, they were a million miles from capturing the magic communicated through the original.

  33. jim jos Says:

    one of my favorite songs of all time, and a deeply personal one for me.

    I read a review of the song “In My Life” by John Lennon, where the reviewer stated that the song was just written by someone who just realized they would not be young forever. Which is how I have always felt about this song, except this song hits home more than even that one does.

    In “Deadbeat Club” by B52s, they talk about going skinny dipping in the moonlight in Athens. Michael Stipe in the video.

    Sadly, I have never partaken in this ritual.

    My fiance was a huge R.E.M. fan, having lived in Athens, she knew the members of the band when she lived there. R.E.M. were a big part of our relationship and I sang this song, along with the cd, to her one time on a car ride out to dinner on a beautiful night. Because of that memory, it was the one R.E.M. song that I played at her funeral.

    The song, “Nightswimming”, now represents that wonderful, more innocent, time in my life when I felt much more alive that is lost now (except for memory); just as the act of nightswimming, and what it represents, is captured so well in the song. It often makes the song too powerful and emotional for me to even listen too. If I do, I am thankful that “Everybody Hurts” and “Find the River” are nearby.

  34. Flandall Says:

    This is one of my favorite R.E.M. songs, and it shocked me to know the guy that helped make Led Zeppelin helped make this. That amazed me when I heard that 14 years ago.

    First time posting here, but I love the blog.

    For me, whenever I hear “September’s coming soon” I think of it as someone around middle age wistfully looking at that old picture on the dashboard, remembering the evenings of nightswimming, yet knowing that September is coming and youth is ever fading. Like so much on AFTP, it seems to talk about aging but with a wistful look back at the years of innocence, of the fear of being caught naked in the water and the excitement of that fear. This song leading into Find the River can choke me up. Nightswimming is, to me, the wistful, longing look back at a youthfulness that can never truly be recaptured, leading to Find the River which reminds those coming in our footsteps to enjoy the scenery that we can only remember through photographs reflected by streetlamps on windshield glass.

  35. Heyberto Says:

    jim jos, that’s such a touching post and reminds me how powerful music can be. It sounds hokey to say, but I appreciate you sharing that with us.

  36. Mr Cup Says:

    Hey Paul
    Back in ’88 a band fron Brisbane’s sunny shore known as the Go-Betweens released an album called 16 Lovers Lane. There is a song called ‘I’m Allright’ which features an equally beautiful oboe solo.
    It’s a brilliant album from a brilliant band and I would recommend it without reservation. The signifigance to REM fans: The Go-Be’s supported REM on the Green tour here…agggghhh…phenomenal! And Amanda Brown (the oboist) is seen on Roadmovie playing violin.

  37. ScottMalobisky Says:

    jimjos that was VERY SAD
    sorry to hear of what must have been a hugely difficult loss

  38. Mr Cup Says:

    Yes, jim jos, very sad to hear that.

  39. Kirsten Says:

    So sorry to hear about your finace Jimjos. I hope you can find some comfort in Michael’s words. Please accept this big hug full of hope & love from the other side of the world with the sincerity it was intended.

  40. Tuck Says:

    “These things, they go away
    Replaced by everyday”

    What a simple, perfect way to describe the happy memories of youth slowly fading as the months and years go by. Kind of like the colors of an old photograph left on a dashboard.

    As someone who’s now in his late thirties and sadly past the carefree stage of life, there is no more bittersweet line. Beautiful.

    I love this band.

  41. 2d Says:

    jim, that is really a sad and touching tale, you are a very brave man to have gone through something like that… i hope you are better and i am really sorry you had to go through it in the first place…

    lots of warm thoughts for you ym friend.

  42. 2d Says:

    “i’m pining for the moon”…

  43. Bruno Says:

    I too am moved by your story jim jos. Without question, although this song means a lot for me, it must of course mean so very much more to you. For what it’s worth in the context of this blog, my sympathies go out to you.

    This song is quite literal and, as can be seen, carries such a strong message for so many REM fans. I personally love that sense of melancholy, wistfulness and loss and find that these qualities can be incredibly moving if portrayed right.

    I wonder though if someone can fill me in on a lyric that I’ve never been sure of (the lines have been discussed a few times here). They are obviously a strong poetic image and for me allude to human connection and intimacy, but I’ve always wondered if the image held a more straightforward meaning.

    It’s the lines:

    “I’m pining for the moon
    And what if there were two
    Side by side in orbit
    Around the fairest sun?”

    Anyone care to weigh in with what this means to them?

  44. Justin Says:

    Ah jeez.

    This song.

    I knew when Matthew got to this one I’d have so much to say. So much to say that I really have nothing to say. I should just post a picture of me kind of shrugging with a goofy grin and watery eyes.

    I am an absolute sucker for late summer and autumn and transitions and melancholy and sentimentality and crying for what’s past and looking forward to what’s next.

    And this song pretty much takes all that, makes a layer cake out of it, and frosts it with awesomeness.

    Over the past few years, as my life has gotten busier (young daughter, job, life), I’ve repeated a pattern. Right around this time of the year I start telling myself I need to listen to this song as much as possible. September IS coming soon. This song was made for this time like “Silent Night” was made for Christmas.

    And yet I don’t. I get caught up in all my stuff, and it’s September, and while the song doesn’t lose any of its wonder after August 31, the perfect time has passed.

    Which kind of becomes a metaphor for the song itself. Time races past. You find yourself looking back. It’s really not like years ago.

  45. ScottMalobisky Says:

    well , Bruno , on the comical side of life I fell for that email hoax about a week ago that stated that on the night of Aug.27 Mars would be as large as the full moon in the sky ……and that it would not happen again until, like , 2287..and I forwarded it foolishly to some freinds and family , the title of the email was Two Moons

  46. Flandall, you shouldn’t be too shocked by John Paul Jones — he’s a remarkably talented guy, and he crafted some really amazing and subtle arrangements for Led Zeppelin. I mean, they weren’t all non-stop cock rock, you know?

  47. ScottMalobisky Says:

    I gotta admit that I am a bit surprised by the gushing sentimentality of that September thang that I sense from so many of you here, the unabashed acknowledgement of that September feeling/YEARNING or whatever it is..(“do ya ever yearn?”–the K. Man) guys are all waxing poetic on this one ………I am surprised by the depth of your recogntion of THAT FEELING as if I should be the only one who’s ever felt it (how stupid of me !!)….And I bet most of you don’t even like football and you STILL feel this way about this time of the year–Me? I’m a football fanatic which only adds to my enjoyment of this time of the year, and school starting up again I think is , also , at the center of THAT FEELING….the sense of new possibilities while wistfully day-dreaming in class about summer vacation past.(the way it used to be anyway …”these things they go away , replaced by everyday ” so true…….And you run and you run to catch up with the sun..As Jim Morrison once sang, “All our lives we sweat and save building for a shallow grave”…Sorry, I’m not quite that negative or cynical , only in certain moments , like when I realize that each second I am closer to death and what the fuck does it really matter?)

  48. narcizo Says:

    to Bruno: I ‘ll try an ad hoc interpretation of that; the August full moon, near the end of the month (and the end of the summer), is considered the most majestic of them all. You have a perfect company for nightswimming…

    Personally, I can’t go nightswimming (though I didn’t this summer) without humming the melody of the song. Just splendid.

  49. ScottMalobisky Says:

    and the cover art shows them swimming (in the daytime)…I just read that this song originally “came together” at the end of the Out Of Time sessions, but was never completed satisfactorily….

  50. Bandwagon03 Says:

    Really great comments everyone. I cant add much original ideas to this discussion, but i do so love this song. It is a very nostalagic song about wrapping up the summer, looking back, perhaps at a simpler time. The piano melody is haunting.

    JimJos- Sorry to hear about your loss, my Sister-in-law was a big fan of this song too, i always think of her when i hear it. She always said that the “Photograph on the Dashboard” line really didnt make a lot of sense to her lyrically, but visually it was perfect…she turned me on to a lot of quirky, odd things in life, but, perhaps one of the best was when she let me listen to “Murmur”.


    RIP Dede

  51. maclure Says:

    to Bruno as well: Maybe because I’m a bit lacking in artistic imagination, I always imagined those lines about the 2 moons fairly literally. When you can see the moon at night (and if you’re naked and in water I bet it helps) you often lose yourself in the bigness of life, the universe and your insignificance in it. And for a moment you are transported out of yourself (I once read an amazing article by a guy whose name I can’t remember who talked about these moments as “intimations”) and for a moment your thoughts turn other-wordly, maybe even surreal. You imagine, what would it be like if our planet had two moons? Scratch that, what if we lived on another planet somewhere else? I think this line sums up the way your thoughts can run away with you when you relax, perhaps when you’ve had a drink, when the worries of the world have been put aside for a while… for example, whilst Nightswimming. I just love the fact that these lines are included as a sort of whimsical footnote.

    Or, perhaps the second moon is a reflection of the first in the water.

  52. jim jos Says:

    thank you so much, you guys, thanks for your kindness.

  53. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Full lunar eclipse here last night! Seems to tie in with this string of posts.

    And yes, I know my info was from In Time and not groundbreaking, but not everyone reads the booklets, liner notes, etc. (Although likely everyone HERE does).

  54. 2d Says:

    yes, scott doesn’t 😛

  55. Ignis Sol Says:

    I’m sorry for your loss jim jos, I hope music like R.E.M’s can lift you and us all in times like that

    The moon was great last night! Did you plan this Matthew? I stayed up until after midnight to view it. Perfect view even in the city.

    Pink moons, holes in space…and what’s going on with Saturn?

    Didn’t the guy who produced Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” also produce an R.E.M. album?

    I went skinnydipping last month in Eastern Washington State U.S. It was fabulous. The night was warm and so was my young companion…. 🙂

  56. Bruno Says:

    Well thanks,

    That was some good and fitting ‘two moons’ thoughts (along with the well-timed eclipse – good job Mathhew!). I think I especially like Maclure’s reasoning – I’ll go with that.

    On another note, I’ve completely wasted (or used well) two days now – including hours at work – contemplating loss of youth and innocence and love and that whole happy shebang by simultaneously reading this thread and following up in blogs the movie ‘Brokeback Mountain’ after watching it (again) a couple of nights ago.

    Somehow Nightswimming and the melancholy it often brings out in me became wrapped up together with Ang Lee’s terribly sad and beautiful film and together they successfully performed the double-whammy!

    Have you seen it REM peoples? The loss and tragedy of those two character just knocks me out. I remember it sticking with me powerfully for days last time I saw it too.

    Ooooh my head hurts. Not to mention the little beater in my chest!

  57. 2d Says:

    yes i have seen it but, truthfully, it did not leave such an impact on me… don’t remember why, i got the sad tale but somehow it didn’t connect with me so much. from recent movies, i liked “the fountain” much much much more, that movie was one of the best films i have seen in a long time. and in my life. there is much beauty and sadness and philosophy in there, some hidden, some not so much. and the acting was superb.

    it felt like a counterweight to “le fabuleux destin d’amelie poulain”. both katharhic, both amazing, but very different in portrayed life and emotions.

  58. 2d Says:

    and don’t worry bruno, always look on the bright side of life! if you haven’t seen amelie, rent it and watch it, it will leave your heart so big it will seem like it’s about to burst! and if you have seen it, see it again! of course, this is just my opinion, but there is no sweeter movie than it. a movie for dreams and dreamers.

  59. Ignis Sol Says:

    Bruno, I saw Brokeback Mountain in an audience full of mostly gay and lesbian people (not surprising for Seattle or my neighborhood and it was the early opening) and you could feel the sentiment in the air after the film ended. After the brief quiet, the crowd erupted in boisterous applause. The film stayed with me for days, but I am glad to report that “Nightswimming” still has impact on me every time I listen to it.

    Funny thing is, I have only heard it play on the radio once; in my car and just a few months ago. I was driving and I got all sentimental.

  60. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Senator Craig declares , “I’m not gay!”…..And he’s not lying , I mean he likes women too..:)……That’s the strangest part of being gay (to me), the fact that you are as turned-off to sex with a member of the opposite sex as a totally straight person is to the thought of sex with somene of the same gender (or so I hear)…weird…My late gay brother who died of AIDS in ’95 once told me in response to a quesion of mine that he “tried” to have sex twice as a teenager with a female , “the first time I couldn’t get it up and the second time I threw up”

  61. Ignis Sol Says:

    ScottM, with all do respect, I am “gay” and I have had relations with women I am very turned-on to. I have “straight” male friends who are sometimes with guys, too. I have freinds who are bi and some who are poly, too.

    I guess it is best not to label ourselves. Labels are for food, I have heard said. Maybe my community is just more accepting and open to these intricacies in lifestyles. I guess since I live in this urban archipelago, I assume other people look at us this way or maybe they should.

    The Senator probably is not gay. For your entertainment, please read my local papers take on this issue from Seattle weekly paper The Stranger:
    Dan Savage, who I have known and writes a popular syndicated column, is the Editor of the paper.

    ScottM, I am sorry about your brother. Everyone has their experience and definitions of their sexuality. And that’s a good thing. Right?

  62. 2d Says:

    love knows not of gender, age or race. at least, that’s how it should be… but people always label what they are afraid of. it makes them feel safer to think of a gay man as effeminate and a straight man as “manly”, that way they think they are further from the “unknown” than they actually are. of course this is a mental projection, a defense mechanism if you will. it starts to get really bad when all the frustration turns to violence. no person has the right to inflict harm on another, at least not for things that are none of their business and that don’t negatively affect others.

  63. 2d Says:

    oh and scott, that must have been rough for you, i’m very sorry to hear about your tragedy 😦 it seems like this song and the respective thread has opened many hearts today… take care.

  64. Ignis Sol Says:

    Very intriguing thread, opening hearts and minds and getting closer to finding the river….
    (I am a dork, I know)

  65. Kirsten Says:

    Hey Scott, sorry to hear about your brother. And Bandwagon03, sorry about your sister-in-law. These people oviously mean a lot you both. Sending more big hugs across the oceans…

    Bruno, I always thought the “two moons” line was about the reflection in the water. But I also like to think of it as just a beautiful, amazing miracle.

    Speaking of which, I saw the eclipse last night. A bit cloudy, but it cleared up around 8pm to get a gorgeous view. Stunning and very fitting with this song.

  66. Ignis Sol Says:

    Yeah, Kirsten the eclipse was wonderful last night (my view was at around 1am). So we were both gazing upon the moon, eh? Hmmm? 😉

  67. Kirsten Says:

    Yes, and I was thinking about you all. I was thinking about this song and I was wondering if you would all be able to see it from where you were. I was lucky I guess, I could see it at a more reasonable hour.

  68. protimoi86 Says:

    i love how during the “september’s coming soon” line, you can almost hear Stipe smiling, as he remembers fondly what happened one september night

  69. ScottMalobisky Says:

    so then , Ignis , in my book you are “bi” though I would bet the house that you prefer males by a wide margin.. ………this is totally irrelevant but today I realized something I never knew (and I got a kick out of it); Nedermeyer in Animal House and Maestro on Seinfeld are the same guy, I suppose I shoulda noticed that

  70. Ignis Sol Says:

    Honey, who says 1 am ain’t reasonable? I’m just starting my night or day! Hip hip hooray… It’s Ignis, here! 😛

  71. Ignis Sol Says:

    I guess you are right, ScottM. I will admit that. I am cool with that.

    Yeah, and isn’t that also Newman in Basic Instinct gettin’ all sweaty over Sharon Stone’s ****?

  72. Kirsten Says:

    Showing my age a bit I guess Ignis!! 🙂 However, on a hot Summer night, when it’s still 30 deg C at 1am, lying on the grass staring at the moon is a still a great thing to do.

  73. Ignis Sol Says:

    I should be showing my age. Hell, I just pulled out a grey nose hair! Holy Stipe, it is slow this last hour at work….
    there is so much traffic down on 2nd Ave in Seattle now.
    ……….Oh, the Mariners are playing tonight…. in a couple of hours…
    I wish R.E.M. was playing instead..

  74. Mr Cup Says:

    It doesn’t rain too much in Perth. But if there is anything to be seen in the night sky, you can be sure it will be thick with cloud and drizzling rain. Fine the next!

  75. kris Says:

    This song got me banned from Wikipedia. I had never contributed to the ‘public information website’, and I saw an opportunity with Nightswimming. A few years ago I read in Rolling Stone a reader’s survey in which one of the categories was “Best Song to Kiss To”. Nightswimming was the winner, of course. So I added that tidbit of info to the Wikipedia page. But the trolls who police the site couldn’t find any collaborating evidence for that claim on the internet (note to self: internet does not have all the answers), so they erased my text and banned my IP address for vandalism. I don’t know what ticks me off more; not being believed, or that someone could possibly not consider Nightswimming the Best Song to Kiss To.

  76. Paul Alferink Says:

    >Yeah, Kirsten the eclipse was wonderful last night (my view was at around 1am). So we were both gazing upon the moon, eh? Hmmm?

    Jesus Christ! I hope you too aren’t going to start breaking into “American Tale” song now, are you?

  77. Paul Alferink Says:

    My book here tells that this song was around since Green, but that doesn’t make sense .. .

  78. kirkl Says:

    really disappointed that this masterpiece didn’t warrant at least 100+ responses.
    kris…wonderful post.

  79. Kirsten Says:

    No Paul, but we might sing Nightswimming. It’d make a beautiful duet! 🙂

  80. 2d Says:

    i could not see the lunar eclipse… not from my high tower surrounded by other high towers…

  81. Mr Cup Says:

    In an effort to get this to 100…or heaven forbid the lofty reaches of High Speed Train…who among you is interested in forming a club that gets together once a year (through the trickery of internet) and divulge their annual Nightswimming experience? Once a year, in August, we swim beneath the full moon sans costume.

    I know of a group who do a nude run every year on Xmas eve. They don’t know each other or hang out, but once a year they do a nude.

    Guys and gals…show of hands. Who’s in?

    (To my friends south of the equator…suck it in.)

  82. Dave S. Says:

    Regarding “pining for the moon / and what if there were two, / side by side in orbit, / around the fairest sun,” a couple readings spring to my mind, but I’ll share the one I feel is strongest:

    “Pining,” being a romantic longing, “for the moon” could be seen to conjure a desire to be with the moon; to be the other in orbit together, sharing its seeming sense of permanence (though admittedly cyclical). The wistful sense of nostalgia at the root of the lyric suggests to me that in the narrator’s mind such heavenly –“fairest” — bodies are immune to the kind of loss and the effects of time’s passage. After all, the moon is not “replaced by everyday,” whereas the narrator arguably feels a palpable loss of what was, who he was and/or who his friends were, as evidenced by the next verse. The moon’s relationship, you could say, is linked to the “bright, tight forever drum”, never losing touch with its counterpart, unlike, it would seem, the narrator and those who had been in his life.

  83. 2d Says:

    ha ha, well i for one am half a world away from anywhere, really. 😀

  84. Mr Cup Says:

    Oh yeah 2d, we don’t leave home. Just find a place wherever you are.
    It’ an online nightswim community. Sort of the opposite of a Spencer Tunick photo shoot. Private. Undocumented. Only talked about.

  85. Kirsten Says:

    Depends on the weather…..

  86. Mr Cup Says:

    You know it’s going to be cold!

    Shrinkage concerns for the boy?

  87. ScottMalobisky Says:

    I’ll get a woodie

  88. Mr Cup Says:

    I’ll get a wookie

  89. Paul Alferink Says:

    My wife is an attorney. She asked the Public Defender what defense we could possibly have to a DUI she was prosecuting. He said there really wasn’t one, so he might have to pull out the Chewbacca defense. She laughed, but she didn’t get it. I had to explain it to her later. . .

  90. ScottMalobisky Says:

    I don’t get it .

  91. Kirsten Says:

    Now explain it to me….

  92. Mr Cup Says:

    Never upset a Wookie????

  93. huub Says:

    @Paul Alferink: I know a dutch metalband which uses oboe a lot (another messiah), but maybe that’s not pop?

    On this song: It’s so beautiful that I can’t think of anyone who does not love this song. It’sa tearjerker, but a good one, çause the main element is a great piano instead of corny guitarriffs and over the top vioolins in it. The lyrics are good because everybody can relate to it, everybody knows, in some way.

  94. 2d Says:

    the chewbacca defense is from south park 😉

  95. Gary Smith Says:

    The Chewbacca defense…

  96. Gary Smith Says:


  97. Gary Smith Says:

    …a quiet

  98. Gary Smith Says:

  99. Gary Smith Says:


  100. Gary Smith Says:


  101. Mr Cup Says:


  102. Michael Black Ph.D. Says:

    Several of these posts brought tears to my eyes. Obviously, most of us feel this one deeply.

    Nightswimming takes me back to a late August night, the moon like a prop in a school play. Picture three friends; bored and inspired to go skinning dipping, only to get caught in the water by the sheriff’s deputies (who knew they had boats?).

    In any event, I imagine they had a good laugh at our pale skinny assess flashing in that moonlight as we dashed up the shore to hide the beer.

    I tripped at the edge of the water and fell into the weeds, buck naked. Got poison ivy everywhere.

    And now, every year, I listen to Nightswimming on one of the last days of August and fondly recall those friends and that night.

    And then I listen to Find the River and consider how we’ve gone our separate ways. And though I miss them deeply, I can’t believe how lucky we were to know each other for awhile and to have experienced that night.

  103. Scott Uhlinger Says:

    The best part of college life in small town Georgia during the 90’s? A run through the library on campus in speedo’s with 30 other euro swimsuit wearing freakshows and then off to the 170 foot high waterfall on campus for nightswimming. I miss those days more than i can say. Thanks to REM for providing the expression.

  104. Kevin Says:

    This song to me is a bittersweet reminiscence of an innocent time, the “bitter” part being a realization that one is getting older and being able to do such things as skinny-dip is not possible, at least not in the way it was when one was younger. “September’s coming soon” is the key here…a realization that the autumn of life is looming.

    I was in college in the 80s and I look back fondly on the sorts of things that I did in college that are similar to what is described in Nightswimming. After parties in Tallahassee at FSU, my friends and I would walk through the humid night air and play wiffleball at the football stadium. Saturday afternoons were spent at a nearby spring, where we’d swim and rope-swing. Now, at 41, I see the autumn of my life approaching and listening to Nightswimming fills me with a bittersweet nostalgia.

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