Monday, October 12, 1992

The Smiths “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” released

There Is a Light That Never Goes Out

The Smiths

Writer(s): Johnny Marr, Morrissey (see lyrics here)

Released: October 12, 1992

First Charted: October 24, 1992

Peak: 2 CO, 25 UK, 14 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 108.68 video, 517.28 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Perhaps no other lyric better represents the Smiths than “And if a double-decker bus crashes into us / To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die / And if a ten-ton truck kills the both of us / To die by your side, well, the pleasure, the privilege is mine.” With these words from “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” Morrissey “ups the sad-and-doomed quotient by leaps and bounds,” AMG showcasing his talent for simultaneously romantic and morbid imagery. It is “an introspective and lonely lyric underpinned by a delicate, intricate, acoustic-led band.” XFM

“Every instrument, every sound in the song’s four minutes, is positioned for maximum emotional impact. Johnny Marr’s weepy string arrangements dominate most open spaces that Morrissey’s pensive vocals don’t fill.” AMG Marr, the band’s guitarist who gave the band their jangly-pop sound, described the recording process as “magical.” WK

In his 2002 book Songs That Saved Your Life, Simon Goddard shows how the song’s narrative is similar to the movie Rebel Without a Cause. In the 1955 classic, James Dean – who Morrissey idolized – “leaves his tortous home life, being the passenger to a potential romantic partner.” WK Goddard also characterized the song as an “explicit glamorization of suicide.” WK

The song was first released on the Smiths’ 1986 album The Queen Is Dead. It was released as a single six years later – after the band’s demise – in support of their compilation Best II.’s Tim DiGravina called it “one of the most touching and romantic songs in the Smiths’ discography.” AMG XFM said it “may also be the band at their best.” XFM In 2014, NME ranked it the #12 song of all time. WK


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First posted 1/20/2024.

Tuesday, October 6, 1992

R.E.M. released Automatic for the People

Automatic for the People


Released: October 6, 1992

Peak: 2 US, 14 UK, 4 CN, 2 AU

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 2.27 UK, 18.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: alternative rock


Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to charts.

  1. Drive [4:30] (10/3/92, 28 US, 23 CB, 11 RR, 2 AR, 1 MR, 11 UK, 7 CN, 34 AU, 1 DF)
  2. Try Not to Breathe [3:49] (36 DF)
  3. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite [4:06] (2/20/93, 28 AR, 24 MR, 17 UK, 60 CN, 99 AU, 20 DF)
  4. Everybody Hurts [5:17] (4/17/93, 29 US, 18 CB, 9 RR, 21 MR, 7 UK, 8 CN, 6 AU, 6 DF)
  5. New Orleans Instrumental No. 1 [2:12]
  6. Sweetness Follows [4:19]
  7. Monty Got a Raw Deal [3:16] (38 DF)
  8. Ignoreland [4:24] (11/21/92, 4 AR, 5 MR, 43 CN, 39 DF)
  9. Star Me Kitten [3:15]
  10. Man on the Moon [5:12] (11/28/92, 30 US, 17 CB, 10 RR, 46 AC, 4 AR, 2 MR, 18 UK, 3 CN, 39 AU, 7 DF)
  11. Nightswimming [4:16] (7/24/93, 27 UK, 71 AU, 33 DF)
  12. Find the River [3:49] (12/11/93, 54 UK, 25 DF)

All songs written by Berry/ Buck/ Mills/ Stipe.

Total Running Time: 48:52

The Players:

  • Bill Berry (drums, percussion, etc.)
  • Peter Buck (guitar, mandolin, etc.)
  • Mike Mills (bass, piano, keyboards, etc.)
  • Michael Stipe (vocals)


4.535 out of 5.00 (average of 31 ratings)


“A classic of modern rock…it would be asking a lot to expect any future album to match this.” –


(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

In 1991, R.E.M. soared to levels many would never have predicted for the once college-rock heroes with Out of Time, a #1 album that sold an astonishing 18 million copies worldwide. One would certainly be forgiven for assuming the Athens-based quartet couldn’t possibly reach greater heights. Instead, 1992’s Automatic for the People matched the sales of its predecessor and became the most critically acclaimed album of R.E.M.’s career.

The Nirvana Effect

The post-Nevermind era found “overzealous major labels desperately seeking the next Nirvana.” PF The “amped-up, aggressive nature of grunge threatened to make R.E.M.’s increasingly refined, mandolin-plucked pop seem, well, out of time.” PF “The knee-jerk response would’ve been to let Peter Buck pounce on the distortion pedal” PF and, indeed, he wanted to make “a noisy rock album, but as the songs evolved the mood was increasingly introspective, even sombre.” CM “Instead of trying “to compete in a world where teen angst was all the rage, R.E.M. set about crafting a rueful response to the onset of middle age – and remind us that life goes on even after your slam-dancing days are over.” PF

Automatic for the People “captures the group at a crossroads, as they moved from cult heroes to elder statesmen.” AM Buck said, “The world of Hüsker Dü and the Replacements, all that had gone.” CM “R.E.M.’s career up to that point had represented the platonic ideal of a left-of-center rock band infiltrating the mainstream—a step-by-step process that saw the band turn bolder and its audience get bigger with each album, culminating in the multi-platinum, MTV-saturating success of Out of Time.” PF

Response to Out of Time

Automatic for the People arrived a mere 18 months after Out of Time – a swift turnaround time for a sequel to a blockbuster album that still seemed ubiquitous well into 1992.” PF R.E.M. responded by “turning away from the sweet pop of Out of TimeAM to create a “haunting, melancholy masterpiece.” AM This was “an austere but nakedly emotional album” PF of “poetically introspective” BN “folk songs” AM that were “a bit softer, moodier.” PM This is the band “at its most beautiful.” PM

Thematically, these were songs about “the anxiety of aging, the inevitability of death, the loss of innocence, and the impossibility of holding on to the past.” PF “R.E.M. have never been as emotionally direct…nor have they ever created music quite as rich and timeless.” AM

The Music

“Eloquent examinations of death and loss are countered by graceful arrangements, soothing melodies and Michael Stipe's achingly beautiful vocals.” UT “The music has a grand, epic sweep provided by layers of lush strings, interweaving acoustic instruments and shimmering keyboards.” AM The latter was provided by Mike Mills while Bill Berry was “stepping up on bass more often than before” IB and Buck was “still fiddling with his mandolin from the Out of Time sessions.” IB “But then the early 1990s were to R.E.M. what the late ‘60s were to the Beatles – a period where the band took a break from touring to immerse itself in the possibilities of the studio, breaking down traditional instrumental roles in the process.” PK

The Album Title and Cover Art

“The phrase ‘automatic for the people’ is the satisfaction-guaranteed slogan” PF from Weaver D’s Delicious Fine Foods, “a popular diner in the band’s native Athens. It also speaks to the pressures of a band that had just sold 10 million albums and needed to serve up more hits.” PF

“That striking cover photo is actually a close-up of a star ornament” PF which is part of the sign for the Sinbad Motel in Miami, near Criteria Studios where most of the album was recorded. “Rendered in brutalist grey, it appears as fierce and fearsome as a medieval cudgel. The image bluntly reinforces the notion that while Automatic for the People isn’t a loud album, it’s certainly a heavy one.” PF

The Songs:

Here’s some insight into each of the individual songs on the album.

“The album’s haunting acoustic opener” PF is “an elegiac song about rock & roll and what was then referred to as Generation X.” CM It is “a headlight…at the head of the record asking what it means to move forward, leading tenderly down the road into a record of lush mid-tempo masterworks.” PM It starts “as an ominous death march before launching into a tirade against the emerging grunge sound.” RV “The rock-into-oblivion” AZ tune is “among the quartet’s strongest hits.” AZ It “doesn’t just establish Automatic for the People’s patient pace and nocturnal atmosphere; …it sets its emotional tenor as well.” PF

“The video…gamely adopts Seattle-scene aesthetics—a never-ending mosh pit rendered in flickering black-and-white…But when Stipe crowd-surfs atop a sea of hands belonging to fans several years his junior, he’s not trying to ride a trend, but starkly illustrate just far from the alt-rock zeitgeist R.E.M. had drifted in the Year of Grunge. When he sings, ‘Hey kids, where are you?/Nobody tells you what to do,’ it’s with a combination of awe and envy.” PF It “isn’t so much a rallying cry as an expression of anxiety.” AZ

“Try Not to Breathe”
“Michael Stipe’s grandmother is beautifully eulogized in Try Not to Breathe,” PM in which a “gentle sea-shanty sway…frames an ailing elderly person’s desperate pleas for a quick death.” PF This “is one of the songs…where everything is right, you can’t imagine [it] with a different section, tempo, different instrumentation or approach. Not only that…the lyric…place[s] all sorts of images in your mind, being slightly…vague in it’s poetry. And the harmonies are beautiful! Harmonies aren’t something that can be explained, they just go straight for your heart and soul.” AD

“The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite”
“Dr. Seuss turns up in a spin on ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight.’” PF While “Sidewinder” “borrows a vocal hook from ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’…It owes little else” AD to it. While some consider it “a perfectly fine REM pop song,” AD others consider it “a tune that threatens to join ‘Stand’ and ‘Shiny Happy People’ in the R.E.M. silly-song sweepstakes.” PF However, it “manages to stay on just the right side of the charming/cloying divide.” PF It “is not exactly rock but is at least uptempo.” CM

“Everybody Hurts”
“Even the album’s karaoke-ready sing-alongs cast dark shadows…Everybody Hurts is either the most depressing song ever about trying to stay optimistic or the most sanguine song about coping with depression.” PF In his Amazon review, Steve Knopper has a more upbeat take, suggesting that this “sympathetic ballad…must have prevented countless suicide attempts.” AZ

Musically, “the string section is tastefully done and suitably soaring.” AD The song is largely absent of “traditional percussion,” PF which is interesting when one considers that it was “crafted by drummer Bill Berry.” PF He brought in what Buck called “a one-minute long country-and-western song…[that] didn’t have chorus or a bridge…We went through about four different ideas about how to approach it and eventually came to that Stax, Otis Redding, ‘Pain in My Heart’ vibe.’” CM It became “the centrepiece of the album.” CM

“New Orleans Instrumental No. 1”
This is “beautifully short and concise, and wonderfully evocative.” AD

“Sweetness Follows”
“The whole album feels as though it’s in recovery from, or preparing for, some great trauma.” PF “‘Sweetness Follows’ renders its funereal scene of family dysfunction with church-organ sounds clashing against dissonant drones.” PF Despite dealing with the “fear of parental and fraternal death,” IB this “sounds lovely.” AD

“Monty Got a Raw Deal”
This is an “elegy for 1950s screen heartthrob Montgomery Clift cross-wired with allusions to Let’s Make a Deal host Monty Hall.” PF It “contains some great little guitar parts and develops very well over the course of just over three minutes… it’s just a good, solid song.” AD This song addresses “the lingering violence of history” PM and rumours about “Stipe’s sexuality and physical health as the AIDs crisis decimated lives throughout North America.” PM

The “Crazy Horse-cranked IgnorelandPF is “a firekcracker;” CM the “most seething, spiteful track R.E.M. ever produced.” PF It is also “the only guitar rock song on the entire album, but still doesn’t sound out of place, which is a strange thing. The production over the course of this album is very rich, very detailed and all the songs arrangements and instrumentation are suitable, and ‘correct.’” AD

It is the only “explicitly political song” PF on the album. “Michael Stipe protests with a vitriolic rage…attacking politicians who forget the social ills they were elected to fight.” RV

“Star Me Kitten”
This has a “beautiful organ/keyboard part, wonderful minimal musical backing with just the right amount of guitar to make your spine chill. Stipe sounds in good voice here.” AD

“Man on the Moon”
“The luminous country-rock reverie Man on the MoonPF “touches on death and fame and the games of youth.” CM Buck described it as “a funny little song about two people who are dead but are supposed to be alive: Elvis, and the comedian Andy Kaufman.” CM It humorously features “Michael Stipe affecting an Elvis Presley imitation.” AZ

The song “centers on a subtly subversive chorus line – ‘If you believe they put a man on the moon’ – that effectively presents conspiracy theory as fact and truth as a matter of opinion, an unwittingly ominous harbinger of the info wars that would eventually be waged in U.S. politics.” PF It “is a perfect REM pop song, and very happy sounding too. It’s an uplifting song and a highlight,” AD marked by a “wistful guitar chord.” IB

Coldplay’s Chris Martin called Nightswimming “the greatest song ever written.” CM This is “essentially a demo embellished by John Paul Jones’ wondrous string arrangements” PF – yes, this is the famed bassist and keyboardist from Led Zeppelin. Otherwise, it only features Mike Mills – usually a bassist – on piano and Stipe on vocals. It possesses an “aching grace.” BL The “repeating piano parts are very pretty.” AD

Among the song’s “stream-of-consciousness memories…there is mourning for the loss of the exuberance and fearlessness of adolescence.” IB R.E.M. reminisce about “their college years in Athens Georgia of late-night parties and skinny dipping.” CM

“Find the River”
”The promise to symbolically keep trying to ‘Find the River’ with its hint of acceptance and growth of spirit optimistically concludes an album of intense opinion, expression, and ultimately, lamentation.” IB It is “a song to float off to, a song to dream to, a song to fall asleep to…It’s also a song to awake to – open your sleep filled eyes, look up at the window and see a day breaking in orange and yellow, wiping away the darkness.” AD


Automatic for the People is “a classic of modern rock…it shows the band on a creative roll with no shortage of original ideas.” CD It “doesn’t just prove that R.E.M. have stood the test of time, it proves to be R.E.M.’s finest moment” IB and “the band’s most emotional, most human album.” BL “While the record is not an easy listen, it is the most rewarding record in their oeuvre.” AM “It would be asking a lot to expect any future album to match this.” CD “It’s an album that—in surveying a fraught political landscape, the fragility of our mental health, and the fate of our planet – still speaks emphatically to our current condition.”

Resources and Related Links:

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First posted 10/6/2011; last updated 6/18/2024.