Song of the Day #5,077: ‘Oddfellows Local 151’ – R.E.M.

R.E.M.’s 1987 album Document, their fifth, is an underrated entry in their discography. Underrated by me, at least. I rarely think of this album when I conjure up R.E.M.’s best work, but it is a consistently great collection.

Document started the band’s collaboration with producer Scott Litt, who would go on to produce their most successful albums, and it featured their first top ten hit in ‘The One I Love.’ It was also their first album to go platinum.

‘Oddfellows Local 151’ is the album’s final track, and its ominous groove is typical of the album’s sound. It features some of Michael Stipe’s typically inscrutable lyrics, but guitarist Peter Buck explained its meaning in an interview with Q magazine:

That song is actually about all these winos who used to live down the street from us. They used to live in cars. We call them the The Motor Club. These old guys would sleep in the cars and drink all the time. I think there was a guy called Pee Wee as well. Michael [Stipe] knew them because he used to live right next door to them. Every once in a while you’d give them five bucks or drop off a bottle.

[Verse 1]
Oddfellows Local 151 behind the firehouse
Where Peewee sits to prove a sage, to teach
Peewee gathered up his proof, reached up to scratch his head
Fell down and hit the ground again

[Chorus]
Firehouse
Firehouse

[Verse 2]
Why do the heathens rage behind the firehouse
Where Peewee sits upon the wall to preach?
This boy and girl that gather pearls of wisdom
Falling from his mouth
Wash off the blood, wash off the rum

[Chorus]
Firehouse
Firehouse

[Verse 3]
Oddfellows Local 151 behind the firehouse
Where Peewee sits upon the wall to preach
This boy and girl that gather pearls of wisdom
Falling from his mouth
Wash off the blood, wash off the 151

[Chorus]
Firehouse
Firehouse
Firehouse
Firehouse

[Outro]
Ooh, ooh, ooh
Firehouse

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #5,077: ‘Oddfellows Local 151’ – R.E.M.

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I probably listened to this album once in college, but didn’t return to it.

  2. Peg says:

    It really does make a difference when someone explains the lyrics 😊

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