See No Evil

October 31, 2007

Make no mistake — Television’s “See No Evil” is a classic, and the original recording on Marquee Moon is probably the most perfect that band ever recorded aside from that album’s epic title track. Nevertheless, the song is so perfectly suited to R.E.M. that when they performed it, it sounded as though the song was written specifically for them. Though they certainly lose the subtle disco-ish rhythm of the Television recording, R.E.M. fully integrated the song into their ’80s style, with Peter Buck adapting the melodic guitar parts into this jangly aesthetic, and Mike Mills and Michael Stipe transferring the vocal interplay of the original into something that sounds like it could easily be one of their mid-80s originals. As great as it is, they couldn’t quite capture the magic of Television’s original “See No Evil,” but they certainly did a wonderful job of making it their own.

28 Responses to “See No Evil”

  1. ScottMalobisky Says:

    never heard this one

  2. Kirsten Says:

    Crickey Matthew, I can’t keep up! I do have work to do you know!! 🙂

    I thought this was an REM original until about 2 years ago when I heard another version of it. I figured it was too obscure for most people to know, so I looked it up and found that it was a cover. Great song. They did it a lot in their early shows and with so much energy. Another fun one to sing and dance to.

    I hear
    I hear no

  3. MM Says:

    One of REM’s best covers…up there with Have You Ever Seen the Rain.

  4. Kirsten Says:

    Their version of Have you ever seen the Rain is fantastic. But there are so many others – Wild Thing, Louis Louis, Paint It Black….

  5. xman Says:

    good cover, like it better than the original..never a big fan of warbled vocals, myself..walkin through the park with the one i love…there’s a certain energy to this recording…

    so many good covers: gentle on my mind, tom’s diner, born to run(!), academy fite song, i can only give you everything, lion sleeps tonite 92, all i have to is dream, kinga da road…the list goes on and on.

    blast from the past: me in honey is 4 chords, not 2 even though it’s just I-V over and over in the keys of C# and D#… they have a tendency to play down how many chords there are in a song sometimes..nothing to be ashamed of!

  6. Paul Alferink Says:

    Thanks for the you Tube link. I had never heard them do this song before. . . .

  7. ScottMalobisky Says:


  8. maclure Says:

    Hey, is that Peter joining in the vocals at the end of that You Tube clip. Well I never. Thanks for the link MM.

  9. jim jos Says:

    wow, thanks for the link, I never knew that a live performance was recorded. Smashing guitar solo from Peter, proof that if he wanted to solo over half of the R.E.M. catalog he could of. But the music is that much better for it. Nice to see him cut lose on this though.

  10. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Ah, a little post-punk. I miss Joy Division, Television, Bauhaus, Wire, etc. Sometimes its easy to forget that bands like REM and U2 both grew out of that asthetic. I was listening to U2’s “Boy” album the other day and it blew me away how post-punk parts of that early album were. Nothing like the anthemic epics they do now. Songs like “An Cat Dubh” and “Shadows & Tall Trees” would almost fit in on albums by the likes of the above mentioned. I am very glad that style has made a bit of a comeback of late with bands like Interpol, Bloc Party, and Angels & Airwaves. Not as good (Interpol might be) but still fun.

  11. Clive Says:

    I’ve never been too keen on the studio recording R.E.M. did of ‘See No Evil’ circa 1988, maybe I’m put off by the poor sound quality (Academy Fight Song recorded the same way).

    This song is meant to be played live. It sounds great on the Rockpalast show in 1985. Towards the end of that show I think Michael is getting bored of singing the same songs night after night. They come out for an encore and play a load of covers and there is a sense of freshness and enjoyment from the band to be playing other peoples songs for a while. This was where I first heard R.E.M. play ‘See No Evil’.

    P.S. Yes, Peter Buck does sing at the end of the Rockpalast performance – chanting ‘I see no evil’ in to Michaels’ microphone.

    P.S. P.S. Only got my hands on Marquee Moon about a month ago and I love that album. I love their ‘See No Evil’ but in a different way to I love R.E.M.s cover. A charming song.

  12. Dark Bob Says:

    I agree the song comes across much better live, than on the studio recording. Another good example of the band’s ability to choose really cool cover songs. Has anyone heard their cover of Witchata Lineman? I’m actually listening to it as I’m writing this and it is AWESOME. Recorded live from the Monster tour I think.

  13. ScottMalobisky Says:

    yeah, DB, that’s a touching one
    and now I’ve heard this too

  14. Eclipse Says:

    wow, i’ve never heard this cover, but i love Television and this song. where does one find this?

  15. xman Says:

    88 fanclub single. mp3 is on murmurs board, i believe..

  16. dumbek Says:

    Love it. Love it. Love it. Their version totally turned me on to Television, as their version of Academy Fight Song introduced me to Mission Of Burma. Add me to the better-live-than-studio list, but I love it either way.

  17. Kirsten Says:

    Their version of Witchata Lineman is just beautiful.

  18. Figgy Says:

    19 years ago I bought a bootleg tape of REM’s 1984 performance at Dublin’s SFX Centre. Terrible sound quality but still very enjoyable. That’s when I first heard ‘See No Evil’, a real stand-out song from the set. A short while later I bought ‘Marque Moon’ to check out the original – and what an album that is! Just one example of how REM have guided me towards other bands and artists over the years.

  19. Figgy Says:

    I also love REM’s take on ‘Wichita Lineman’. Any plans to review that one, Matthew?

  20. Dark Bob Says:

    Speaking of REM’s unique choice of cover songs, has anyone ever heard a version of them doing I WILL SURVIVE by Gloria Gaynor? I heard this several years ago and thought they did an awesome job. It was done acoustically and much slower than the disco version. I mean, I would never be caught dead listening to the original song but REM really did something special with it. Does anyone know if it’s available?

  21. Kirsten Says:

    I’ve got a copy of them doing I Will Survive. Michael’s half way through the first chorus when he announces “that’s the only words I know”. It’s a bit more spoken-word than sung. Doesn’t do the song a huge amount of justice, but it’s a nice, acoustic but fun version. Sounds like they’re playing it to a crowd of about 25 people…..

  22. maclure Says:

    Changing the subject – has anyone watched that TV interview with Michael posted on It’s hilarious! I feel sorry for Michael, he doesnt know whats going on, the presenter seems to be a bit of a tit. But good news, they’re talking about touring the next album next summer…

  23. maclure Says:

    I mean the interview in Germany… watch to the end, I think its quite funny how Michael turns the interviewer “inside out” by the end.

  24. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Figgy , I do recall vaguely MP mentioning a while back that he would cover Wichita Lineman.

    “and I need you more than want you
    and I want you for all time”

    He needs her more than he wants her but he wants her for all time , now that’s a need.

  25. ScottMalobisky Says:

    maclure , tried to check out that interview but once again my lame assed computer let me down (it will download eventually if given enough time)

    DB, that’s a brain twister for the ages , being caught dead listening to I Will Survive :)…

  26. Dark Bob Says:


  27. Paul Alferink Says:

    Yeah, REM version of I will survive is pretty half baked. The best version I know of the song is Cake’s

  28. xman Says:

    notice to all- i’m sharing a bunch of rarities on the murmurs board under the send in mp3s page…so if u wanna hear “shine”, “it suits me well”, etc…go there!

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