Leaving New York

September 20, 2007

“Leaving New York” is unquestionably the worst opening track in R.E.M.’s discography, but despite my many misgivings about its content, style and form, it’s still a pretty decent tune. Actually, that may be the most bothersome thing about it — I want very much to dislike it, but I just can’t.

In very basic terms, “Leaving New York” stuffs the rhythmic free-verse style of “Country Feedback” and “E-Bow The Letter” into an Air Supply-esque power ballad. It may well be the single corniest song R.E.M. have ever produced, and frankly I’m a bit puzzled why the same band that makes a point of distancing itself from the goofy yet brilliantly crafted “Shiny Happy People” would not be even more embarrassed by something so syrupy and mawkish.

The words don’t exactly help matters — it may be novel to hear Michael Stipe sing such direct lyrics, but it’s not at all interesting when he alternates between intoning sappy cliches (“it’s easier to leave than to be left behind”) and jaw-dropping clunkers like “leaving was never my proud.” Ultimately the song is saved by a few reasonable hooks and the group’s competent craftsmanship, but all in all, it’s a step too far into unimaginative pathos.

86 Responses to “Leaving New York”


  1. Jeez, Matthew, did Around the Sun steal your puppy or dis your mom or something? I agree that much of the album pales in comparison with the 86-92 run that most people agree is the best period of the group, but Air Supply? Really? Myself, I thought Reveal was the nadir and Sun a slight return to form…

  2. Kirsten Says:

    Oh Matthew, did you have to be so harsh?? OK, “Leaving was never my Proud” may be questionable, but we love them, so they’re forgiven. Lines like “I might have lived my life in a dream, but I swear this is real” and “leaving NY never easy, I saw the light fading out” overrule it. And I have heard Michael on several occasions apologise for the “never my proud” lyric, saying he and Mike decided that very simply, you would know what he means. It’s a sweet song, it’s easy to listen to, it’s ENJOYABLE to listen to, and they return to some lovely harmonies on the chorus.

  3. Aerothorn Says:

    Unlike the last two posters, I feel for you – when I first heard this, I said “I hate this” – which was a first for any R.E.M. song. At least “Be Mine” was tongue-in-cheek and had goofball lines like “I want to wash you with my hair” – this was just a cliched love song, and no amount of musical catchiness could save it from its awful lyrics.

    Over time I’ve come to be able to appreciate it in its way – I no longer hate it – but it is (IMHO) one of their worst songs, and if the entire CD had been like this I would have been horrified.

  4. jim jos Says:

    things I like about this song

    1. The moment when Stipe sings over the top line “you told me its forever”
    2. the harmony of “change, its pulling me apart”
    3. that it is about New York City, in a post 9/11 world and I think that there is a real song that they could have come up with here.

    Things I dislike (which, unfortunately, outweigh most of the good.

    1. “Leaving was never my proud” I once read a list of worst rock song lyrics ever, and that was mentioned as being one of them. I don’t know if it is that bad, but it is pretty bad.

    2. “I told you, I love you, I love you forever” repeatedly over and over again.

    3. Lyrically, its not cohesive at all. I mean what the hell is really going on here? This being R.E.M., that is a trait that I so often love (Harborcoat), but where the older songs seem to have an escaping meaning or a sense of mystery, this one is too straight forward and just comes off as being half written.

    I agree with Matthew, it gets my vote for worst opening track of all the 13 studio albums.

    Do I hate it? no. Do I think its typical of Around the Sun by being at once overblown and under written? Yeah, unfortunately I do.

  5. Kirsten Says:

    Really Aerothorn? See I think Be Mine is way too soppy and hardly ever listen to it, where as this song has a better balance. I think the singer in Be Mine is just a bit too pathetic. LNY is sad. Hoping in your heart that the person you love loves you enough to ask you to stay, then having it not happen.😦 Being afraid of being laughed at, or having your feelings fobbed off as a joke between mates when you want to be so much more. It’s a lot more realistic situation than that of Be Mine. However, I never realised it was suppose to be tongue in cheek, so maybe I’ll give it another listen. But LNY clearly shits all over Be Mine.

  6. Ignis Sol Says:

    I first heard this on a radio station touting itself as an appropriate workplace radio station while I was working in an office where I could play what was inappropriate (good times). The station just happened to be locked into this particular station after my boss was listening to his Primal Scream CD. I heard the amiable DJ say that the new R.E.M. was coming up, so I patiently waited for “Leaving New York.”

    The melody is good enough, but there is something about the adult-oriented feel that unnerved me or made me feel uncomfortable. It lacked the magic and immediate appeal of most of their other first singles and album openers.

    The theme of guilt, loss and regret is poignant. In light of the circumstances of New York in recent years, it is a proper tribute to the city that is mentioned in so many other songs (Sinatra/Minnelli, U2, Madonna, etc). Despite grammatical faux pas, some of the lyrics, I must admit, are great. Most noteably, “and all not lost still in my eye, the shadow of necklace across your thigh…” Splendid.

  7. Theresa Says:

    I’m surprised that you don’t like this song because it’s always been one of my favorites. Of course, I never really got why people don’t like Around the Sun, either. I agree that it’s not their best album, but I’ve always like it. I might like Around the Sun so much because it was one of the first R.E.M. CD’s that I listened to. Like I said before, I’m rather a new fan. I think that you tend to like the first few CD’s and songs you listen to, even if you find other favorites later on. But this song has always been one of my favorites, and I never thought of it as corny or “syrupy.”

    Just my opinion.

  8. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Would you believe me if I said I had a feeling this song was next ? Probably not …….Oh yes ,it’s autumn in NYC ..That’s where Matthew’s at , I believe..I wonder where exactly in that magical maze of intricate pavements……… oh yeah , the song …..

  9. Ignis Sol Says:

    I love “Be Mine.” That damn “I’ll be the sky above the Ganges” line gets me every time. 🙂

    I wish some one would be mine!

  10. Kirsten Says:

    That line (amongst others) makes me want to throw-up.

  11. Mr Cup Says:

    I’m with you Mathew!
    I don’ think Buck has ever given too much away in the videos but the utter boredom he displays in the clip for this song is hard to separate from the music for me. I don’t think it’s the worst song however.

    I am also getting the feeling I’m the only person here who thinks Reveal was OK.

  12. Kirsten Says:

    No, I really love Reveal.

  13. Paul Alferink Says:

    I like everything about this song except for the “Leaving was never my Proud” line. I actually like most of the rest of the lyrics a lot.

    Best line, though:
    memory fuses and shatters like glass
    mercurial future, forget the past

    This is probably the second best 9/11 tinge song, after “I can’t see New York, by Tori Amos, and a damn sight better then, “Have you forgotten” and “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue.” Unfortuately, my wife loves both of those songs, probably in part cause she never pays attention to lyrics.

    I’d argue this song as good or better then most everything else on the album, and as good or better then the following opening songs:

    Radio Song
    How the West was Won and Where it got us
    Airportman

    Radio

  14. ScottMalobisky Says:

    I like Be Mine BECAUSE of it’s extraordinary , redolent lyrics –Daggone It , I knew there was a third “tar” reference song…(!)—That would be quite the uneventful tune if not for the alluring lyrics.

  15. Paul Alferink Says:

    I love Reveal. Best Album since Automatic. And way better then ATS

  16. Kirsten Says:

    Wow Paul, How The West Was Won and Airportman along with Feeling Gravitys Pull would be my favourite opening tracks….

    This isn’t a bad starter, ’cause it sets the general tone of the album.

  17. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Leaving New York is alright to me…I mean it is affecting though kinda run o the mill , kinda queer to me though how Stipe sings it like he can never go back (?)…..I imagine that if I lived there it would be very much more moving.

  18. Kirsten Says:

    He can’t go back because the light is fading. It’s not his choice (ultimately). He’s just biting the bullet.

  19. Elliot H. Says:

    Wow, Matthew, you’re really haulin’ ass with these updates😀
    I never liked this song, which is my default answer for 1/2 of ATS.
    Mr. Cup, Reveal is actually in my top 5 R.E.M. faves (granted it’s like number 5 out of five, but still).

  20. Matthew Says:

    Oh, I love “Be Mine” and I really don’t think the two songs have very much in common. We’ll get to that one much, much later on though.

  21. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Wow, I have always like “Leaving New York” and found it to be a good, but not great song. It has a melancholy feel to me that I associate with NYC post-9/11. And while its a love song I have always envisioned it as a love song to the city. Anyway, that said, I prefer ATS to Reveal and think that “The Lifting” is easily the worst opening song of any REM CD. Although, even though I like LNY it would be the 2nd worst opening song. As far as worst REM album, has to be Reveal. I like the first half well mostly (except Lifting and Reno) but the end is a clunker. I actually thing ATS generally iomproves as it plays.

  22. Kirsten Says:

    I don’t get the connection with 9/11 that you all keep mentioning. As far as I can see, the song would be the same if it were Leaving LA.

  23. millroy Says:

    Oh man. Thank you, thank you, thank you Matthew. I never knew if the “never my proud” line bothered anyone else but myself. I remember when I first played ATS. I was moving along, getting a feel for the new CD when that line hit me like a drywall nail to the forehead. I think it ruined me for the rest of the album, as I’ve honestly never listened to the whole thing through since that first time.

    I would be embarrassed if I were with a friend of mine who knew nothing about R.E.M. and this song happened to come on the radio/TV/mp3 player/computer, because it is so far away from what they are capable of.

  24. Paul Alferink Says:

    I love Feeling Gravities Pull. How that song doesn’t make emponymous. . .
    Airportman is fine and atmospheric. Just like Leaving New York better. And How the west is won is fine. Too friggin long with so little going on. New Adventures wasn’t my favorite, either, though a lot of people loved it. I think it suffered because it was written on tour, and a hard tour at that.

  25. maclure Says:

    My giddy Aunt, some opinions flying about on this one… Firstly, can somebody explain to me why “Leaving was never my proud” is a bad lyric. I quite like it. It never bothered me, although I’ll think of you all every time it comes up and I’m listening to LNY. Is there some reason it’s bad? Have I missed the big reveal?

    The verse ruins this song for me. Too stilted and it doesn’t flow, and there’s no middle 8 when I think maybe there should be one. Nice chorus, good harmonies with Mike back again – I was quite pleased with this first single and was dissapointed when ATS largely did not turn out similarly (ie. still not many Mike harmonies, still not enough guitars). This is better than Radio Song for an opening track for sure, and AirportMan…

  26. Kirsten Says:

    It’s just really bad English, Maclure. I’m sure he sat on it for hours, trying how best to re-word it. Maybe he should have re-written the lines before it to make it fit better….

  27. millroy Says:

    It’s not even bad English, like a slang or colloquial turn of phrase. It’s not English. Does this make it a bad lyric? I don’t want to make such lofty claims, but it killed it for me.

    It’s not that breaking the ‘rules’ is ‘bad’ in a grand or moral sense, but if you’re going to buck convention, buck it for a reason. Make that change work. “My proud” didn’t work. For me, it grates on my ear, points itself out as wrong, and leaves me with the taste that, like Kirsten says, Michael just couldn’t figure out how to get the line to work and left it how it was.

    And it did all that without even giving me a solid notion for what he wanted to say. It doesn’t tie me to a concrete image or evoke a feeling. It gives me the abstract notion that this guy singing has never been good at leaving things behind. But man, I don’t care, because I’m not feeling it anymore because dude can’t speak English.

  28. ScottMalobisky Says:

    BWD, are you daft ???!! How can you hate ‘The Lifting’ ??!!..ESPECIALLY as an opening track…….. I am truly befuddled by your comments ……(I’m reaching across Nevada now to shake you back to your senses…oh , if only I was able to astral project like some people I know…..)

  29. ScottMalobisky Says:

    shoulda sang “leaving was never my prow—ESS” like with “Am I living in a beautiful vacuum cuz’ I can’t see it–BAH?”…I’m a blithering fool by golly.

  30. ScottMalobisky Says:

    I think he means he’s not proud to be the leaver as opposed to the left behind , the dumper as opposed to the dumpee..

  31. Kirsten Says:

    I believe he is ashamed to be leaving, for taking the coward’s way out – it’s easier to leave than to be left behind.

  32. millroy Says:

    I’m ashamed for not getting that.
    I never really committed to figuring the song out, which maybe I should have done before commenting on it.😀

  33. Kirsten Says:

    Not figuring it out was never your proud?!?

  34. Scott Says:

    The song sounds like “Daysleeper” suffering a blunt head trauma.

    The harmonies and vocal countermelodies are the most appealing aspects of a workmanlike performance. Of course, if you’re going to sing “Leaving was never my proud” at intervals to get those harmonies, you should have plenty of opportunity to reflect on the banality of the sentiment.

    Remember how much vitriol was unleashed here at “I’ll Take the Rain”? Here’s a whole album of breakup songs (including breakups with reality, the U.S. government and Q-Tip), each of which has at least one “leaving was never my proud”-level line.

    Here’s a fun game: Take any four lines from any four songs on “Around the Sun,” and you get a whole new mediocre lyric that’s one part genuine J.M. Stipe, one part group-therapy free-writing and one part, like, Creed.

    Let’s play!

    I’ll bring you a big bouquet
    I picked it myself today
    It complements your eyes
    There’s love at the end of the line

    I try to walk like a big wham bam
    I try to float like a telegram Sam
    I came across like a battering ram
    I’m trying to divine you

    I got my signals crossed
    It’s overwhelming because
    I’m all alone and I can’t get back
    Get back with my wanderlust

    It’s easier to leave than to be left behind
    Leaving was never my proud
    Leaving New York, never easy
    I saw the light fading out.

  35. ELF Radio Says:

    WHAT??

    I’ve lost all respect for this blog… “Leaving New York” is a fabulous song, one of my absolute favorites. Old-school fans always confuse me — you like “1,000,000” and “Wendell Gee,” but not “Leaving New York?”

    Unfathomable.

    Yeah, the “my proud” lyric is pretty bad, but when i first heard the song i heard it as “leaving was all in my power,” which sounds much better.

    But other than that, the song is sheer haunting perfection. You’re just a little too old to hear it with fresh ears. Any attempt to argue this fact will only reveal the clownish depths of your shambling, embarrassing ignorance. You might as well just evacuate your bowels and drool all over yourself right now.

  36. Martijn Says:

    I remember positively hating it when I first heard it, though I like it a bit better now. The other day I was going through old diaries and found my review of Around The Sun, written just after it had been released… it’s never been a favourite, but I don’t think I’d ever been that harsh on a new album by a favourite band before… I also made the “worst song ever” joke you managed to refrain from :S

    I’m adding myself to the list of people that adore Reveal though!

  37. Isaac Says:

    I seriously recommend listening to the DVD audio/5.1 surround sound version of Leaving New York if you have a copy of the re-released Around the Sun CD/DVD and a surround sound system. The surround sound provides an ambience that is missing in the stereo version, and Mike Mills backing vocals, which come through the rear speakers during the last two choruses, are much more pronounced. It still may not be the greatest R.E.M. song every written, but the surround version is a big improvement.

  38. Libor Says:

    I´m really surprised, because I didn´t like ATS but I always thought Leaviny NY was only classic (and best) REM song on it – although I usually don´t like their first singles. And that “leaving was never my proud” line? I love it and I also wanted to put it on my t-shirt.. I´m quite shocked so much people don´t like that line, I don´t see what´s wrong with it. There´s only one thing which doesn´t make me sense – I come from non english country and due to grammaticality I thought there should be “leaving was never my pride”, cause proud is adjective.. this seems weird to me, could someone explain please? (and sorry for my english mistakes🙂

  39. 2d Says:

    this is not a bad song, but to me it sounds like r.e.m. by numbers, in the bad way. it’s like they’re putting a lot of effort in creating a classic r.e.m. song, almost like they’re an r.e.m. cover band and not the real thing. i agree that it’s the worst opener, but only because of the very clunky intro. the song itself has quite a few redeeming features, a good/bad combo of lyrics (“mercurial future” is quite a nice mental picture for instance), some hooks, atmoshpere. what it lacks, for me, is effortlessness (?).

  40. xman Says:

    i agree about the dvda release. the synth really fills out where the song felt hollow otherwise.
    i like this song ok. it’s an unspectacular opening song, but it’s better than “radio song” which is hindered by its dated lyrics, krs-one, and its whitebred attempt at funk instrumentation, or “how the west was won”, which is just boring.

    i was listening of a lot of 70’s/80’s power ballads when ats came out, so some songs, like this one, were a pleasant surprise to me. sometimes too pleasant though, i guess.

    does anyone else hear the similarities between the opening riff and the punky brewster theme?

  41. xman Says:

    sometimes i feel kind of…embarassed to play r.e.m. around my friends because of songs like these- not because they’re bad songs, but to a non-r.e.m. fan, this song is on the level of celine dion or summat.

    can michael have his balls back please?

  42. Mr Cup Says:

    I thought the ‘my proud’ thing would catch on like the whole”my bad’ thing. Sometimes I like being wrong…very wrong.

  43. Bryan Says:

    Some linguistic analysis of “leaving was never my proud” from the wonderful Language Log: link

    They compare it to another use of adjective-as-noun in Fretless: “Don’t threaten me with angry”

  44. dan Says:

    “leaving new york” is the opposite of organic. whenever that chorus hits it’s like DUH.

    first single, or enjoyable b-side? could have gone either way, which is not a good thing to say about an r.e.m. song.

    on one hand the slightly jangly guitars are nice. it almost recalls “drive” at first.

    but yeah, i’m in the “want to hate it but kinda enjoy it” camp. the end part is good.

  45. Bert Echo Says:

    The “I saw the light fading out” line has always gotten me. I have interpreted that as sensing that your lover has lost that spark for you….to me the song is about breaking it off immediately instead of going through the torture of waiting for the inevitable end of a relationship.

    I like the song, but I must admit that when I first heard it, I thought R.E.M. had truly become an Adult Contemporary band. The harmonies are great, though.

  46. wolfy Says:

    You may not have seen the intyerview Michael gave in 2004 where he said this was “a love song to NYC reflecting the reality of 9/11”. In that sense, it blows you away. There is a real disillusionment but esp. if you live in NYC,

  47. mouserobot Says:

    Leaving New York is kind of a cookie cutter REM song, but it grew on me after a while. I also agree with you that some of the lyrics on the song, and Around the Sun in general, are pretty corny. Some of them seem like bad high school poetry. But Stipe sings with such conviction that he almost gets away with it.

  48. John Says:

    I hear this song differently from most because it is inextricably linked to a traumatic life experience. Perhaps that lends it a depth it doesn’t deserve, but I think the song bears up to — and actually improves with — repeat spins. Yes, the lyrics are trite and the music lacks any rhythmic complexity or musical adventurousness. All that said, the band still is able to deliver what I feel is a poignant song, a feat that is testament to the talent of this trio. We’re always more forgiving of our favorite bands, giving the benefit of the doubt to songs we never would to those from an unknown act, and I suppose that may be the case here. Still, as bad as Around the Sun is — and I agree with most here who call it R.E.M.’s worst — it has its moments, of which this is one.

  49. ScottMalobisky Says:

    libor, proud rhymes with around and out, just poetic license

    it’s easier to leave than be left behind, the bumper sticker of a rapture enthusiast? :)…I’ve seen many a license plate frame stating “In case of rapture the car is yours.” , which is revoltingly obnoxious–amazing to me how they don’t see that?–then one day I saw a bumper sticker that read “In case of rapture can I have your car ?” PRICELESS

    I wonder if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has this one on his ipod .

  50. David T. Says:

    “In case of rapture can I have your car?” – hilarious!

    Bury magnets
    Swallow the rapture

    Was anyone else struck by the similarity between the opening few bars of LNY and those of the “re-formed” Beatles’ version of John Lennon’s Real Love (Anthology 2)? Both openings are stark and seemingly promise something rather ominous (but both are then followed by someting much poppier sounding in the choruses).

  51. ScottMalobisky Says:

    picked up Being John Malkovich for three fins yesterday , finally I get to see this flick I’ve been vey curious about for awhile

  52. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Scott,

    As to The Lifting and me being daft(Which, of course, is a real possibility) the song itself is okay (although I prefer the more stripped down, languid version to the faster, slicker version on Reveal. The production is so over the top is ruins an okay song for me. Also, just don’t like it as a first track.

  53. adam Says:

    just a gorgeous gorgeous ballad… an honest love song from Stipe – gorgeous in every way.. the whole ATS is kind of an odd, different, high sheen and love and war fest…. but I think this is one thier most melodic, beautiful songs ever – love letter to someone, and to NY

  54. Mr Cup Says:

    1) Rapture enthusiast? Too funny!
    Scott M, can we call you Bisky the Doormat from now on?

    2) Nothing like an ATS post to bring people from the woodwork!

    3) ELF Radio: I have just relieved my bowels of contents, had a bit of a self reflective drool and it’s gone pretty well for me so far. Feeling that mellowness that accompanies a colonic evacuation. May I now ask you what is it about freedom of speech that irks you so much?
    Leaving New York may well be haunting perfection for you. Good for you. It may not move others in the same way. They may choose to express as much in this open forum. Good for them.
    Wendell Gee (as an example) has been a song that has provide an effing lot of joy for me over the years. I know it’s not a great song and far from perfect. Hell, even some of the band don’t like it. Good for them. No one is telling you what to feel. We are just sharing opinions, anecdotes and stories. Please, feel free to join in should you desire.

    4) Where are my pipe and slippers? I feel like listening to Fall on Me until the sun comes up.

  55. Bruno Says:

    I have a bit of a different take. Basically cause I’m a jaded f***!

    I thought they were absolute magic early on, and loved the Out of Time, Automatic periods too. But then I fell off the bandwagon big time.

    And this might make my perspective a little skewed but, looking at the stuff they have done since then, well, they just seem so tired (on what I hear anyway).

    Granted they had to come back down to Earth again but I almost wish they had disbanded and maybe formed another band to carry on.

    I mean they are going to grow up of course (Yep it happens to us all, ELF Radio) so like maybe here, you get a glimpse of the crutches. But its just such a pale imitation (of life?).

    When I first heard this I thought ‘There’s that REM sound’ but then it turns out it was mostly the multi-vocal parts and the rest was just plodding along. And the video (just watched it again). If I were to come across this I’d be wondering if the band were actually breathing.

    Having said that (yes I agree the ‘proud’ bit grated on me too), I love Mike’s higher harmony coming in on the ‘I told you’ part and the chorus does pull off a warm melody.

    Just too much plodding along and not enough ‘In the mood…Well alright’ for me. Dublin (new album?), please…!

  56. Bruno Says:

    Wow, that was negative, REM peoples – back to my damn soup!

  57. Bruno Says:

    Yeah I think he found himself stuck between ‘frown’ and ‘out’ and couldn’t find a better way to make the chorus work but still wasn’t able to go back to the drawing board and find another way to get it. The ‘proud’ bit is, as others have said, just uncomfortable. It leaves a weird taste in the mouth.

    Damn shut me up…

  58. maclure Says:

    Bisky the Doormat, it is! And good call on the bumper stickers… arf, arf.

    Re: John’s comment – sometimes I think we are LESS forgiving with bands we know. I think some of us here are sort of married to the music of REM, or at least we are in a long term relationship. And in the same way my wife doesn’t easily forgive me if I leave the toilet seat up (but probably would forgive one of the frequent visitors to the house for doing the same), we are LESS forgiving to a band we’ve lived with and know well. I think in view of REM’s back catalogue ATS was a disappointment because it was an album that underperformed in all the ways that REM usually do perform. If I try to imagine listening to LNY without any “history” attached to it of it coming from REM, I think it’s a darn good song. I remember thinking this when it came out on radio. I liked the harmonies and the sentiment. It may not have been good enough for me to check out the band further or buy the record. That said, if somebody had bought me Around the Sun for Christmas and it was an album by a group I’d never heard of called “Baldy, Hairy and the Air Rage Guy” I’d probably be most grateful, listen to it for a while, quite like some of it, copy 3 tracks to my mp3 player, ignore other bits and then put it away as I do with stacks of other average CDs in my collection.

    The thing is, what we expect from R.E.M. is more than this because they have delivered more than this in the past…

  59. Flandall Says:

    Banal. Sappy. I am mixed about this song. That part of me that still remembers leaving for the Army or getting married and all the other sappy moments of life likes this song. The part of me that rebelled in the ’80s against Air Supply and hair bands and crappy New Wave music hates it.

    That being said, this to me is a Michael and Mike song. I can see them huddled by a mixing board being orgasmic over what string to put in where, while Peter sits in the back drinking straight out of a bottle of Port wondering where the guitars went. Definitely makes me think of some of his quotes from the Robin Hitchcock docu I saw on Sundance last spring.

    By the by, worst opening song is (IMHO) Radio Song. Ye gods that song has held up poorly over time.

  60. millroy Says:

    LOL at “Baldy, Hairy, and the Air Rage Guy”

  61. Bruno Says:

    Um, Flandall, I don’t hear any strings. Did I miss something?

  62. dan Says:

    if this song wasn’t by r.e.m. i’d NEVER listen to it.

  63. joejoe Says:

    maybe it will be awesome on the Live dvd. oh wait, it isn’t.

  64. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Hey Bruno , is that Goat’s Head Soup ?

  65. ScottMalobisky Says:

    insightful , maclure the macanudo…. I’ll accept that, BWD…now what’s your beef with Reno ? (that’s alright , Man, you can wait til the posting to let it out)

  66. Bruno Says:

    Yup, goat’s head, beatle dead door floyd kink velvet soup.Adding R..E..M!

  67. Paul Alferink Says:

    I don’t remember the release of Real Love. I heard the song years ago when it’s just John Lennon singing it on his acoustic. Based on that, I don’t hear it. . .

  68. David T. Says:

    Paul – the Beatles’ full-band version of Real Love was the less hyped single that followed Free As a Bird…the intro was the most distinctive part of the recording for me; the rest of it was a little on the fluffy side (though I kind of like it anyway…I’ll pretty much buy just about anything in which Beetle is spelled with an “a”).

    I’m a much bigger fan of the Lennon solo guitar version (and also of the Regina Spektor cover on the Darfur CD)…

  69. Paul Alferink Says:

    I was too. I remember the song coming out. It just never made an impression on my enough to remember what the remixed version sounded like (although I remember like the Lennon acoustic version much better also.

  70. Justin Says:

    “Leaving New York” is not comparable to “Be Mine” at all. For one simple reason: “Be Mine” is written “in character”, and “Leaving New York” is Stipe’s love song to the city.

    Concerning “Be Mine” –

    Peter Buck: “We could have made it like Whitney Houston, a power ballad. Scott Litt said, ‘You know, if we produce this the right way, it’ll be just like “I Will Always Love You” and it will be No. 1 for 16 weeks.’ And we said, ‘Yeah…so let’s not produce it the right way.'”

    Michael Stipe: “Well, what is total sincerity? I have to ask. Who in this world is totally sincere about anything? What is a love song if it doesn’t have a little bit of creepiness and weirdness in it? Everything does. Am I pulling a trick on the world? No. I’m showing something that’s a little bit more full-spectrum.”

    That’s why, to me at least, there is no comparison between these two songs. One is written from an imaginary perspective, one is a strictly personal statement. One’s palatable, the other isn’t.

    Stipe used to be a little more impish and subversive in his craft and his celebrity. Once he copped to his “homosexuality” that game was over. I still love the guy’s voice, and he still has flashes of absolute lyrical brilliance, but the days of the mischievous Stipe are over, and I miss them dearly. These two songs are endemic of that reality.

  71. Kirsten Says:

    So we need a return to the “A little bit of ah-ha and a whole lot of oh-year!” as stated on the notes of Dead Letter Office.

  72. Martijn Says:

    I love that “Beatles” version of Real Love (although somehow I can’t bring myself to put the Beatles in the artist tag… but it’s much more beautiful than Free As A Bird. Pisses all over, say, Robbie Williams’ Angels or Oasis’ Don’t look Back In Anger.

  73. Kevin McGlinchey Says:

    This is a song that comes back to me every time I’m stuck in Manhattan tunnel traffic trying to get out of town. Leaving New York’s never easy…then my mind hits the “leaving was never my proud.” I’m reminded of a band working in a second language, like the Scorpions. Anyway, I’ll give Michael a pass and write that part off as the mole on Cindy Crawford’s face.

  74. Michael Black Ph.D. Says:

    The lyric “Leaving was never my proud” makes sense if you consider it in relationship to the common slang phrase “my bad.”

    Both break the same rule in that they involve supplanting a more nuanced and grammatically acceptable word with a very rudimentary suggestion of it.

    To my point, “my bad” translate to “my fault,” whereas I think “my proud” translates to “my satisfaction.” At least that what’s the context suggests. The narrator is saying that the act of leaving a relationship is something he or she has never taken satisfaction in doing.

    I think the song is outstanding. It’s indirect, wistful, idiosyncratic, and open to many interpretations. In short, it’s classic REM.

  75. Michael Black Ph.D. Says:

    The lyric “Leaving was never my proud” makes sense if you consider it in relationship to the common slang phrase “my bad.”

    Both break the same rule in that they involve supplanting a more nuanced and grammatically acceptable word with a very rudimentary suggestion of it.

    To my point, “my bad” translate to “my fault,” whereas I think “my proud” translates to “my satisfaction.” At least that what’s the context suggests. The narrator is saying that the act of leaving a relationship is something he or she has never taken satisfaction in doing.

    I think the song is outstanding. It’s indirect, wistful, idiosyncratic, and open to many interpretations. In short, it’s classic REM.

  76. ScottMalobisky Says:

    I thought “my bad” was “my bag”, what you are referring to there Mr. Black ?? I always thought that it was “my bag” in that context, meaning “my fault”. Seriously.

  77. Michael Black Ph.D. Says:

    “My bad.” At least in my neck of the woods (That being the English speaking world) Google it. Seriously.

  78. ScottMalobisky Says:

    the English speaking world is shrinking in direct correlation to the diminishing occurence of blue eyes in new born babies.Graph it .Seriously…..(LOL)..You’re a hoot , Man. And a veritable wealth of information.

  79. Michael Black Ph.D. Says:

    Gracias!

  80. ScottMalobisky Says:

    manana never knows


  81. […] project. My opinions haven’t really changed — I may have overstated my distaste for “Leaving New York” and “Final Straw,” but let’s face it, even if give them a bit more credit, I am […]

  82. ScottMalobisky Says:

    I’ve come to realize that this song is just gorgeous, wasn’t giving it enough credit……Very moving. Maybe that’s because I’m in love ……with someone besides myself.

  83. ScottMalobisky Says:

    It lies in wait.

  84. khanlee Says:

    Ah, finally a reasonable explanation for the bizzare lyric re “my proud”, (though Mike, we don’t care about your degree. Keep it on your wall.) But for the coherent explanation, many thanks. That goes a long way towards changing my view of the song as wrong, very wrong, to something much more charitable.
    I don’t care a fig about or for New York, and haven’t looked back the several times it’s been time to leave. Yet the song makes me feel somehow a bit more fond of the place. And now I can listen to the song without wincing. Thanks again for that, Mike.

  85. Henrietta Hanks Says:

    The line I have always heard is “Leaving is never my prow”. “Prow” is an old word meaning gallantry. (The form that is still used is “prowess”) It works with the line before it, “Its easier to leave than to be left behind”. Gallantry is never the first to leave.

    Around the Sun is a diamond mine, dark at first.

  86. Kenneth Says:

    The tone of the song to be used as the opener as well tells us listeners that this album is going to be different (far from home). I first heard this song in 2005 or something on a music channel and remembered the questionable line “leaving New York never easy”. I was like, where is the the ‘is’? But then I hadn’t heard it in three years, and I thought “maybe I remembered the line wrongly”, but no. Obviously not.


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