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Superman – R.E.M.


Released by R.E.M. in 1986 on their “Life’s Rich Pageant” record, “Superman” is classic early R.E.M and unique for a few reasons:
1. It’s a cover version of a 1968 song by The Clique and is the first non-original song to appear on any R.E.M. record
2. Bassist Mike Mills is the lead singer because Michael Stipe didn’t want to sing the song (one of only four times Mills rocked the microphone in the band’s long career)

Although Stipe was never a big fan of the song, R.E.M. and their fans were as the song received decent airplay on modern rock stations from the mid-1980s through the 1990s.

Hear R.E.M.’s “Superman”
Superman – R.E.M.

Bonus Superman Songs for Comic Book Fans
superman-2007-calendar-01Over the years, the Superman/Lois Lane characters have received mad love from everyone from Jerry Seinfeld to many bands. As “Superman” churned through my head, a bunch of other Superman songs got their chance in the rotation and I’ve included them below. Think of them as bonus tracks for comic book fans.

Superman (It’s Not Easy)” – Five for Fighting: A popular and possibly far-too-sensitive song by one-man band “Five for Fighting” about Superman’s neuroses. The song hit #14 on the Billboard charts.

Superman by Five for Fighting

Superman” – Stereophonics: A #13 hit from 2005 in the U.K. by British band Stereophonic.

Superman by Sterophonics

O Superman” – Laurie Anderson: A bizarre #1 hit in England in 1981 by performance artist Laurie Anderson. You’ll either love or hate this one but it’s a must-hear song–at least once.

Superman by Laurie Anderson

“Superman (Main Title)” – John Williams: A cinematic classic from 1978. You can’t top Williams for memorable movie themes.
Superman by John Williams

Resignation Superman” – Big Head Todd and the Monsters: A reluctant superhero hangs up his cape in this caper.
Resignation Superman by Big Head Todd and the Monsters

Kryptonite” – 3 Doors Down: A hugely popular song and completely over-rated in my book. A #3 Billboard hit in 2000
Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down
Kryptonite.mp3

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I'm an obsessive music collector, cataloger, commenter and trivia nut. Sometimes I'm even a listener. One-hit wonders have always been a guilty pleasure.

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6 Responses to "Superman – R.E.M."

  1. mik says:

    R.E.M.? Now you’re speaking my language. Though, I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t realize it was a cover. I just listened to the original song and have one question: how does a Texas band make it sound like they’re Armenians speaking English as a (distant) second language? Cool to hear. thought. And kind of interesting that this was the first cover to appear on an REM album, when the next year they released Dead Letter Office, which was like 90% covers.

    Whenever I think about Superman and music, I think of two things. One awesome. One a profound violation of my earholes. The first is Bad Religion’s Do What You Want, wherein you get to hear what they really think of Superman. Punk bands are known for short songs, but rarely has so much bile been packed into 60 seconds:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBMDRXA2ZfI

    The other is, well, it’s Margot effing Kidder:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJYmKBQTfEs

  2. Michael Waterman says:

    REM sounds like Armenians speaking English because the band is actually from Georgia, not Texas. Had the band hailed from Texas, they would have more of a Kazakhstani accent, more along the lines of Borat.

    The Superman movie clip you posted instantly transported me me back to sitting in a sold-out theater in the summer of 1978. Viva la romance!

    The Bad Religion clip reminds me of all-ages, small-venue shows from the 1980s. Slam dancing. Stage diving. Three feet from the band. Sweaty. Awesome.

  3. Jessica says:

    O Superman – 6:14 into the song and I want so badly to stop listening however since I have come this far I must complete the entire song. I am convinced that is an earworm that will now stick with me all day and throughout general conversation I am going to find a way to work it into various points of my day to share with others.

    An impressive odd find, and now I have to know did Laurie continue on her England fame, or just another British production known for it’s unique sound?

  4. Matt Thurston says:

    A couple years before the suprise hit “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm,” Canadian folkies Crash Test Dummies debut album, 1991’s “The Ghosts That Haunt Me,” featured a great song called “Superman’s Song.” (Evidently it was a huge hit in Canada helping CTD earn the Juno Award in 1991 for Group of the Year.) I saw it on MTV’s 120 Minutes late one night during my Provo, UT days, and went out and bought the album the next day. The lead singer, Brad Roberts, sounded like a bastard mix of Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, and Peter Murphy. The killer video was also part of the song’s appeal, a somber affair set at a church or funeral home with various aged superheroes attending Superman’s funeral. The emotional kicker is that they are wearing business suits, but bits and pieces of their tattered superhero costumes are sticking out from their shirt and pant cuffs.

    In any case, no “Superman” Song List is complete without this little gem.

    Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmlVeaL_pLg&feature=related

  5. Jessica says:

    Quit possibly the best 4:16 time spent of my day. Although I have to admit it was easier to listen to the folk story Brad Roberts was singing than to watch him actually sing it. I think most CTD songs are more powerfull lyrically than musically however, I tend to enjoy each equally.

    Great addition to the Superman song list – and much rather have the Crash Test Dummies version stuck in my skull.

  6. Bone says:

    Short shrift given to Laurie Anderson here, dog. Far from a bizarre one-hit wonder (in silly old England, at that), she’s a true American original with a most impressive resume. I bought Big Science when it first came out, and it knocked the universe seriously off kilter. Twenty-eight years later, it’s still ahead of its time. I think I’ll throw it on the turntable when I get home from work.

    Did you know she’s married to Lou Reid?

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