Song of the Day #1,181: ‘Half a World Away’ – R.E.M.

R.E.M.’s Out of Time was released in 1991, and marked the band’s giant leap into the mainstream. First single ‘Losing My Religion’ became an unlikely smash, perhaps the first song featuring lead mandolin to reach Billboard’s top five. Guitarist Peter Buck was learning to play the mandolin for the first time when he stumbled upon the riff that would become ‘Losing My Religion.’

Out of Time is an odd mix of some of the best music the band ever recorded (‘Country Feedback,’ ‘Losing My Religion,’ today’s SOTD) and some of the worst (‘Radio Song,’ ‘Shiny Happy People‘).

Despite those extremes, the album feels very much like a single vision, with a consistent, crisp sound and unlikely instrumentation. It was an accidental blockbuster, an example of the band following its muse toward success. How nice to see something this odd become that popular.

I was a freshman at the University of Florida when Out of Time was released. It was the year of the serial killer Danny Rollings, whose killing spree nearly derailed my first weeks of college. I shared a dorm room in Fletcher Hall with four other guys, including a fundamentalist Christian Air Force cadet and a batshit crazy Marine who once pulled out his gun and took turns pointing it at his dorm mates.

I would often walk across the street to a little standalone used CD shop to buy new music, and it was there that I purchased Out of Time. Half of my CD collection probably came from that store, but Out of Time is one of the only specific titles I remember buying there. It’s probably a Chipotle now.

This could be the saddest dusk
I’ve ever seen
Turn to a miracle
High alive
My mind is racing
As it always will
My hand is tired my heart aches
I’m half a world away here
My head sworn
To go it alone
And hold it along
Haul it along
And hold it
Go it alone
Hold it along and hold, hold.

This lonely deep sit hollow
I’m half a world
Half the world away
My shoes are gone
My life spent
I had too much to drink
I didn’t think
And I I didn’t think of you
I guess that’s all I needed
To go it alone
And hold it along
Haul it along
And hold it
Blackbirds backwards forwards and fall and hold hold.

Oh this lonely world is wasted
Pathetic eyes high alive
blind to the tide that turns the sea
This storm it came up strong
It shook the trees
And blew away our fear
I couldn’t even hear

To go it alone
And hold it along
Haul it along
And hold it
To go it alone
And hold it along
Haul it along
To go it alone
And hold it along
Haul it along
And hold it
Blackbirds backwards forwards and fall and hold hold.

This could be the saddest dusk
I’ve ever seen
Turn to a miracle
high alive
My mind is racing
As it always will
My hands tired my heart aches
I’m half a world away and go.

6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,181: ‘Half a World Away’ – R.E.M.

  1. Dana says:

    Actually, that store might actually be a Chipotle, or least the new Chipotle on University Ave. is quite close to where that store used to be.

    I’m not going to argue that “Shiny Happy People” and “Radio Song” aren’t weaker songs on this album, but the truth is I still enjoyed listening to them within the context of this album (more so “Radio Song” than “Shiny Happy People”). And, as you said, the rest of the album is really very strong. In fact, “Losing My Religion” is one of those songs that I never grow tired of hearing (or singing on Wii). Today’s SOTD is most certainly a highlight on the album as well.

    Oh, and why did they never interrogate that gun wielding nut job during those killings? 🙂

  2. Clay says:

    Ha… good question. I have to admit, it crossed my mind that he might be involved!

  3. pegclifton says:

    a “batshit crazy Marine” pointed a gun at you! You never told us about that; I’m sure I would have remembered. Maybe it’s just as well or I would have not slept again. That was such a terrible time in Gainesville and for all of us. Anyway, I like this song and agree with Dana that I never tire of hearing “Losing My Religion” either.

  4. Amy says:

    The place of which you speak is, of course, Hyde and Zeke’s, and they appear to still be in business, albeit in a different 😦 location.
    http://www.yelp.com/biz/hyde-and-zeke-records-gainesville
    I just love the indignation of the first (and, initially, only) reviewer, as he warns music lovers to “Support this place before it becomes another footnote in the history of the local music scene.” Glad to see that it is, indeed, part of your personal music history, as it also part of mine.

    As for your batshit crazy Marine roommate, in fairness, he pointed the gun at all of you; it’s not as though he was aiming it at you alone. 🙂

    Now on to the music (which should never again be thought of in the same universe as Danny Rollings!) – this album, and, in particular, this song, is simply sublime. “Near Wild Heaven,” “Belong,” “Half a World Away,” and “Me in Honey” never fail to transport me. I just adore this album. Having come to the REM party late (with Fables of the Reconstruction as opposed to Murmur), I could hardly bemoan them the success they suddenly had as “Losing My Religion” became an unexpected hit, but I do remember feeling a bit sad that I had to share them with the rest of the world. Still, when I play this song, I feel as though they’re just mine.

  5. Dana says:

    Ah, Hyde and Zeke’s. Great local record store. There was also, as I recall, Einstein’s in the same area. Clay, which one did you buy this CD from?

  6. Clay says:

    I believe it was Hyde and Zeke’s.

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