Saturday, September 5, 1987

R.E.M. charted with “It’s the End of the World As We Know It”

It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)


Writer(s): Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe (see lyrics here)

Released: November 16, 1987

First Charted: September 5, 1987

Peak: 69 US, 16 AR, 1 CO, 39 UK, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.2 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 32.0 video, 119.92 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Unlike anything else in their catalog, “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” has been cited as “perhaps the catchiest tune from the band.” DL With its rapid-fire delivery and stream-of-consciousness lyrics, the song is reminscient of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Lead singer Michael Stipe said the words were deliberately written to make people smile. SF Stipe wrote them while the rest of the band went to dinner. He says guitarist Peter Buck hated the song, but finally agreed to allow it on the band’s Document album. SF

The words “came from everywhere,” Stipe told Q magazine in 1992. “I’m extremely aware of everything around me, whether I am in a sleeping state, awake, dream-state or just in day-to-day life. There’s a part in ‘It’s the End of the World As We Know It’ that came from a dream where I was at Lester Bangs’ birthday party and I was the only one there whose initials weren’t L.B. So there was Lenny Bruce, Leonid Brezhnev, Leonard Bernstein…So that ended up in the song along with a lot of stuff I’d seen when I was flipping TV channels. It’s a collection of streams of consciousness.” SF

The song’s melody was built off the song “PSA,” which the band rejected for their 1986 album Life’s Rich Pageant. FT However, it re-emerged in 2003 as “Bad Day,” a cut from the band’s compilation In Time: The Greatest Hits 1988-2003. The title phrase appears to have originated from the 1972 film Conquest of the Planet of the Apes when a human character says, “If we lost this battle, that’s the end of the world as we know it.” SF

The phrase has gone on to inspire “everything from headlines to titles for South Park episodes…to evoke panic and detachment, calm in the storm of accelerating and absurd news cycles.” FT The song spiked in popularity in December 2012 before the supposed Mayan apocalypse WK and again at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.


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First posted 9/18/2021; last updated 12/27/2022.

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