Electrolite

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"Electrolite"
R.E.M. - Electrolite.jpg
Single by R.E.M.
from the album New Adventures in Hi-Fi
B-side"The Wake-Up Bomb" (Live), "Binky the Doormat" (Live), "King of Comedy" (808 State remix)
ReleasedDecember 2, 1996 (1996-12-02)
RecordedSoundcheck at the Desert Sky Mall in Phoenix, United States on November 4, 1995
Genre
Length4:05
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
R.E.M. singles chronology
"Bittersweet Me"
(1996)
"Electrolite"
(1996)
"How the West Was Won and Where It Got Us"
(1997)

"Electrolite" is a song by R.E.M. released as their third single and closing track from their tenth studio album, New Adventures in Hi-Fi. The song is a piano-based ballad to Los Angeles, Hollywood icons and the closing 20th century. Initially, Michael Stipe objected to including the song on the album, but was won over by Peter Buck and Mike Mills. It has since become one of his favorite R.E.M. songs as well as one of Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke's;[1] Radiohead has covered the song.[2]

The single was released on December 2, 1996, in the United Kingdom and on February 2, 1997, in the United States. Commercially, "Electrolite" reached the top 40 in Canada, Finland, Iceland and the United Kingdom but stalled at number 96 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The single's music video, directed by Peter Care and Spike Jonze, "involved dune buggies, crazy costumes, and rubber reindeer."[3]

Composition[edit]

Los Angeles at night, as viewed from Mullholland Drive

The piano line for the song was originally written by Mills in his apartment before bringing it to the band.[4] The lyrics were composed by Stipe about the two-year period he spent living in Santa Monica and the trips he would take to people-watch on Mulholland Drive.[5] During a June 21, 2008 performance in Atlanta, Georgia, Stipe mentioned that he was inspired to write the song after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. He told the audience that his home in L.A. was badly damaged and he went up Mullholland Drive and watched the lights from the city at night.

Like most of New Adventures in Hi-Fi, this song was recorded while on tour promoting Monster. This song was recorded by Joe O'Herlihy, Scott Litt, and Jo Ravitch during a soundcheck before their November 4, 1995 show in Phoenix, Arizona's Desert Sky Pavilion.

Lyrical content[edit]

In June 2006, the website of the Los Angeles Times featured an article on Mulholland Drive[6] including excerpts from an essay Stipe wrote[7] about the 55-mile-long (90 km) highway:

"Mulholland represents to me the iconic 'from on high' vantage point looking down at L.A. and the valley at night when the lights are all sparkling and the city looks, like it does from a plane, like a blanket of fine lights all shimmering and solid. I really wanted to write a farewell song to the 20th century.
20th century go to sleep.
Really deep.
We won't blink.
"And nowhere seemed more perfect than the city that came into its own throughout the 20th century, but always looking forward and driven by ideas of a greater future, at whatever cost.
"Los Angeles.
"I name check three of the great legends of that single industry 'town,' as it likes to refer to itself. In order: James Dean, Steve McQueen, Martin Sheen. All iconic, all representing different aspects of masculinity—a key feature of 20th century ideology. It is the push me-pull you of a culture drawing on mid-century ideas of society, butt up against and in a great tug-of-war with modernism/rebirth/epiphany/futurism, wiping out all that that came before to be replaced by something 'better,' more civilized, more tolerant, fair, open, and so on ... [see 'reagan,' 'soylent green,' 'bladerunner,' current gubernatorial debates]
"The 'really deep' in the lyric is, of course, self-deprecating towards attempting at all, in a pop song, to communicate any level of depth or real insight.
"Mulholland is the place in films where you get a distance, and the awe, of the city built on dreams and fantasy. Far away enough to not smell it but to marvel at its intensity and sheer audacity. Kinda great.
"The title of the song came from flying into L.A. and/or seeing it from on high and it looking like a blanket of stars or those bizarre sea creatures that light up when you stir up the water. How I got 'electrolite' out of that I don't know, I still can't think of the word I was going for, but it is actually called 'phosphorescence' or 'bioluminescence.' I thought it was 'electro'- something, so I just used light/lyte, giving it the 'lite' of modern fad diet language."

During R.E.M.'s performance on VH1 Storytellers, Stipe introduced the song by saying:

"I had a dentist in Los Angeles, who was also a dentist to Martin Sheen, and Martin Sheen was in the dentist's chair, getting his tooth drilled, when I went up to him and said, 'We have a record coming out in a couple of weeks and you're mentioned in one of the songs, and I just want you to know that it's honoring you; I don't want you to think that we're making fun of you.' And he was saying [impression of Sheen speaking with the dentist working on his mouth] 'Thank you very much!'. He was very nice about it."

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe.

  1. "Electrolite" – 4:05
  2. "The Wake-Up Bomb" (Live) – 5:07
  3. "Binky the Doormat" (Live) – 5:01
  4. "King of Comedy" (808 State remix) – 5:36

Live tracks were recorded at the Omni Coliseum, Atlanta Georgia on November 18, 1995. Taken from the live performance video, Road Movie.

Live versions[edit]

June 8, 1997, New York City

  • Mike Mills – drum machine, piano
  • Michael Stipe – vocals

October 27, 1998, London

July 19, 2003, Wiesbaden

  • Peter Buck – banjo
  • Scott McCaughey – guitar
  • Mike Mills – piano
  • Bill Rieflin – drums
  • Michael Stipe – vocals
  • Ken Stringfellow – bass guitar

October 7, 2003, New York City

  • Peter Buck – guitar
  • Scott McCaughey – keyboards
  • Mike Mills – piano
  • Bill Rieflin – drums, percussion
  • Michael Stipe – vocals
  • Ken Stringfellow – banjo

June 30 – July 5, 2007, Dublin

  • Peter Buck – guitar
  • Scott McCaughey – keyboards
  • Mike Mills – piano
  • Bill Rieflin – drums, percussion
  • Michael Stipe – vocals

March 13, 2008, Austin

  • Peter Buck – guitar
  • Scott McCaughey – bass guitar
  • Mike Mills – piano
  • Bill Rieflin – drums, percussion
  • Michael Stipe – vocals

Personnel[edit]

R.E.M. performing "Electrolite" at the 1998 Rockpalast festival. Left to right: Mike Mills, Ken Stringfellow, Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Joey Waronker, Scott McCaughey.

"Electrolite"

"The Wake-Up Bomb" (Live)

"Binky the Doormat" (Live)

  • Bill Berry – drums
  • Peter Buck – guitar
  • Nathan December – guitar
  • Scott McCaughey – guitar, keyboards
  • Mike Mills – bass guitar, vocals
  • Michael Stipe – vocals

"King of Comedy" (808 State Remix)

  • Bill Berry – drums
  • Peter Buck – guitar
  • Sally Dworsky – background vocals
  • Mike Mills – bass guitar, vocals
  • Michael Stipe – vocals

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1996–1997) Peak
position
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[8] 19
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[9] 24
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[10] 20
Germany (Official German Charts)[11] 83
Iceland (Íslenski Listinn Topp 40)[12] 5
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[13] 92
Scotland (OCC)[14] 20
UK Singles (OCC)[15] 29
US Billboard Hot 100[16] 96
US Adult Alternative Songs (Billboard)[17] 5

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1997) Position
Iceland (Íslenski Listinn Topp 40)[18] 58

Release history[edit]

"Electrolite" was released as a single on 7" and 12" vinyl, cassette, and two-track and maxi-CD singles. The 7", cassette, and two-track CD releases only contain "Electrolite" and "The Wake-Up Bomb" (Live).

Region Date Label Format Catalog
Germany December 1996 Warner Bros. Maxi-CD W0383CD
United Kingdom December 1996 Warner Bros. Promo one-track CD W0383CDDJ
United Kingdom December 1996 Warner Bros. Promo 7" record ?
United Kingdom December 1996 Warner Bros. Maxi-CD W0383CDX
United States February 4, 1997 Warner Bros. Promo one-track CD PRO-CD-8575
United States February 4, 1997 Warner Bros. 7" record 7‒17446
United States February 4, 1997 Warner Bros. Maxi-CD 9 43810‒2
United States February 4, 1997 Warner Bros. 12" record 9 43810‒0
United States February 4, 1997 Warner Bros. Cassette 9 17445‒4
Australia February 1997 Warner Bros. Maxi-CD 5439174464
Australia February 1997 Warner Bros. Cassette 5439174464
Japan February 1997 Warner Bros. Maxi-CD WPCR 966
Japan October 1998 Warner Bros. Maxi-CD WPCR-2182
United States February 1999 Warner Bros. Two-track CD 9 17446‒2

The song was included in R.E.M.'s Warner Brothers greatest-hits compilation In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003. The music video appears on the accompanying DVD In View: The Best of R.E.M. 1988–2003.

The public debut of the song was performed by Mills and Stipe on June 8, 1997 in New York City for the Tibetan Freedom Concert and released on Tibetan Freedom Concert. Another version recorded on October 27, 1998 for Later with Jools Holland in the BBC Television Centre in London was released as a b-side to "Suspicion" with a recording of "Man on the Moon" from the same performance. The July 19, 2003 performance also appears on the Perfect Square DVD. A version recorded live in-studio at Clinton Studios in New York City on October 7, 2003 was included in the promotional disc A Joyful Noise – In Time with R.E.M.; the promo includes several other songs from that session. R.E.M.'s performance from their 2005 Dublin rehearsals was released on the live album Live at The Olympia and their 2008 performance from Austin City Limits appears on R.E.M. Live from Austin, TX.

"Suspicion" single

Region Date Label Format Catalog
Germany June 1999 Warner Bros. Maxi-CD 9362‒44717‒2

A Joyful Noise – In Time with R.E.M.

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United States 2003 Warner Bros. Promotional CD PRO-CD-101236

References[edit]

  1. ^ "R.E.M. interview". The Big Takedown. June 2008.
  2. ^ Craig Rosen (August 26, 2008). "Concert review: Radiohead casts hypnotic spell". Edmonton Journal. Archived from the original on May 31, 2009. Retrieved August 28, 2008.
  3. ^ Craig Rosen. (1997). R.E.M. Inside Out: The Stories Behind Every Song. Da Capo Press. ISBN 1-56025-177-8.
  4. ^ Caro, Mark (June 30, 2008). "Mike Mills reveals R.E.M.'s songwriting process, sort of". Chicago Tribune.
  5. ^ "R.E.M. - Electrolite w/intro — live Hollywood Bowl 5/29/08". R.E.M. May 29, 2008. Archived from the original on January 2, 2009. Retrieved August 24, 2008.
  6. ^ Thomas Curwen (June 21, 2006). "'If you ever want to fly...'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 24, 2008.
  7. ^ Michael Stipe (June 22, 2006). "06.22.06 MICHAEL ON MULHOLLAND DRIVE". R.E.M. Archived from the original on October 18, 2006. Retrieved August 24, 2008.
  8. ^ "Ultratop.be – R.E.M. – Electrolite" (in Dutch). Ultratip. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
  9. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 3190." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
  10. ^ "R.E.M.: Electrolite" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
  11. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – R.E.M. – Electrolite". GfK Entertainment Charts.
  12. ^ "Íslenski Listinn Topp 40 (20.2. '97 – 26.2. '97)". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). February 21, 1997. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  13. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – R.E.M. – Electrolite" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
  14. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
  15. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
  16. ^ "REM Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
  17. ^ "R.E.M. Chart History (Adult Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
  18. ^ "Árslistinn 1997 – Íslenski Listinn – 100 Vinsælustu Lögin". Dagblaðið Vísir (in Icelandic). January 2, 1998. p. 25. Retrieved February 16, 2020.

External links[edit]