Listen to the original version of "Superman," the 1969 pop-psych song that REM covered

Originally published at: Listen to the original version of "Superman," the 1969 pop-psych song that REM covered | Boing Boing


That’s funny, the song is so REM-mie, I would have never guessed in a million years that it wasn’t theirs.


I knew it was a cover back in the day, but I wouldn’t have had any way of hearing the original. Don’t think I have until now, and I know I did want to.

I don’t think it is, particularly lyrically. They just perform it like them and also they were always considered very Byrds like so the baroque pop/country and psyche stuff all fits. I do remember Mike Mills talking about how good Michael Stipe sounded singing Jimmy Webb songs (Galveston, Wichita Lineman) I’d surely pay to hear that.


I had no idea either. I think I like the original quite a bit better. Their delivery is so earnest I have to believe they really think they are Superman.

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Yeah, this is one of those “Wait, All Along the Watchtower is a Bob Dylan song?”

I prefer Tommy James & the Sondells’ version of Sugar on Sunday, but I never actually looked up the lyrics. I always thought it was “Angeline” not “femme jolie.”


Count me as another one who had no idea this was a cover. I thought as well that it was so REM-like that I wouldn’t have even had the idea it was a cover. And I mildly disagree that it’s not REM-like lyrically. This has the same repetitive, chant-like quality as, say, “Orange Crush” or “The One I Love.”


Thanks for this. I’d always suspected this was a cover. I don’t think it sounds like a song REM would write. For one thing, it sounds completely different from everything else on that album.

Video link for the BBS


Given how many didn’t know I suspect (but don’t remember) that the European version of the record made it clear whereas the US one apparently didn’t.

It was a single. That’s how I knew.


It just occurred to me that it’s kinda scummy to make that a hidden track, because it means they cannot properly cite the writers.


This is some good shit

i think i knew it was a cover, but it was pre-internet days and i had never heard the original before now. my question is, how did a bunch of genius arty music nerds in georgia hear this song in the early 80s? it couldn’t have been easy to run across. talk about a deep cut!


I can’t think of R.E.M. without thinking that their big break was translated propaganda excuses for the Tiananmen Square Massacre and they think they just made a cheesy pop song. The most savagely ironic thing you ever saw, but their motives were also ironic in an entirely different way, so some kind of double-negative of irony is formed and the result is something Stipe (at least) considers embarrassing trivia. And it was almost the theme tune to Friends.

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This explains why they refused to perform it . Must have been publishing rights issue

Another “Superman.”

Loved this as a pre- and teen and the whole superhero-as-masculinity thing.


Same here–and now I get why they wanted to cover it, the original’s great! Their cover is pretty faithful, it turns out.

Ah, I miss R.E.M. but they had a great run.

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I’m not sure earnest is the word I’d use. It’s one of those lyrics like “Every Breath You Take” that could almost be a romantic song, until you realize the singer is talking about obsession and control.

@noahdjango linked to the original in last month’s superhero song topic

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Yeah, I’m there with you. I didn’t know it was a cover either. Makes sense, though. R.E.M. did a lot of covers back in the day, it was one of the great things about going to their shows. You never know what they’d toss into the mix. Dead Letter Office highlighted that trend, and also included the truly marvelous “we’ve been drinking and recording all day and now I’m just going to read the liner notes from this Christian album in the studio” song Voice of Harold, played to the music from 7 Chinese Brothers.


Stipe has been pretty outspoken about the cringeworthiness of Shiny’s flattened-out success – irony is a poor weapon of mass consumption. But, then, they did go ahead and make that video…

Losing My Religion was a bigger hit from that album anyway, so I don’t think you can hang their 90s mainstream popularity entirely on Shiny. As for me and my house, we will skip to Country Feedback.