Song of the Day #674: ‘Shaking Through’ – R.E.M.

R.E.M.’s real coming out party came with their full-length debut, 1983′s Murmur. Music fans who missed the low-profile Chronic Town would have a hard time escaping the critical orgasms over Murmur.

Rolling Stone named the album the best of 1983, ranking it ahead of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and it was hailed as the introduction of a new sort of alternative rock… too soft to be punk, too subversive to be pop, music made for college radio — for kids who wanted songs that spoke to their hearts and minds more than their stomachs and feet.

While I acknowledge Murmur‘s importance historically, both for R.E.M. and alternative music, I find it to be one of their weaker albums. Songs such as ’9-9,’ ‘Sitting Still, ‘Pilgrimage’ and ‘Moral Kiosk’ sort of run together for me. My guess is if this had been the band’s second or third album and not their first it wouldn’t be viewed with such reverence.

That said, the album does contain a few great songs. First single ‘Radio Free Europe’ is a classic, as is the lovely ‘Talk About the Passion.’ And ‘Perfect Circle’ is a quiet little stunner that showed early on how special the band could be.

The Murmur track I love best, though, is ‘Shaking Through,’ one of Stipe’s most passionate performances (and weirdest lyrics). If anybody cares to venture a guess as to the meaning of “yellow like a geisha gown” and “could this by three be turned,” be my guest.

Could it be that one small voice doesn’t count in the world?
Yellow like a geisha gown, denial all the way
Could this by three be turned? Honor marches on.
Yellow like a geisha gown, denial all the way

Shaking through, opportune. Shaking through, opportune.

Are we grown way too far?
Taking after rain
Yellow like a geisha gown, denial all the way
Shaking through, opportune. Shaking through, opportune.

In my life.

Is that a steal?
Children of today on parade,
Yellow like a geisha gown, denial all the way
Shaking through, opportune. Shaking through, opportune.
Shaking through, opportune. Shaking through, opportune.

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3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #674: ‘Shaking Through’ – R.E.M.

  1. pegclifton says:

    After doing a little research, I came upon a quote that was attributed to Michael Stipe about his lyrics “It’s like when you have a song in your head, but you don’t know many words, When you try to sing to the song then, you end up singing either nonsense or semi-coherent words based on the line you do know. Then if you listen to those sounds and transform them into words, they sound like and make it coherent” Huh? Anyway, I do like their music :)

  2. Dana says:

    I don’t turn often to this album either. And I have no earthly idea what Stipe is singing about, but that is true for much of what he sings:)

  3. Amy says:

    Now this is my REM :) That’s my Michael Stipe; this is the band I fell madly in love with as a college freshman. College and REM may have become almost synonymous for me that year. While it wasn’t this album that I first discovered, it was definitely this sound that captured my heart. Shaking through. Opportune. Exactly!

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