A Look at 5 Outstanding Songs from R.E.M.’s ‘Reckoning’ Album 40 Years Later

R.E.M.’s second studio album, Reckoning, was released in the U.S. 40 years ago, on April 16, 1984. With this record, the indie-rock band continued to build on the legacy they began establishing with their acclaimed 1982 Chronic Town and their landmark 1983 debut album, Murmur.

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Reckoning reached No. 27 on the Billboard 200, and its lead single, “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry),” peaked at No. 85 on the Billboard Hot 100. R.E.M. previously had broken into the Hot 100 with “Radio Free Europe,” from Murmur, which reached No. 78.

[RELATED: LOOK: R.E.M. Reunites Onstage at ‘Murmur’ Tribute Concert in Athens, Georgia]

Like Murmur, Reckoning was co-produced by Mitch Easter and Don Dixon, and recorded at Reflection Sound studio in Charlotte, North Carolina. The album featured melodic alt-rock tunes showcasing frontman Michael Stipe’s enigmatic, often-mumbled lyrics and gravelly vibrato vocals and Peter Buck’s jangly, arpeggiated guitar riffs.

In 1991, Reckoning was certified gold by the RIAA for sales of 500,000 copies in the U.S.

To mark the album’s 40th anniversary, here’s a look at five of Reckoning’s standout tracks:

“So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)”

The album’s lead single, “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)” is a melodic, mid-tempo pop-rock tune that musically sounds like R.E.M. is channeling The Byrds.

The song was inspired by an incident that took place while the Georgia-based band was on tour in the Western U.S. in 1983. The group had heard that torrential rains were hitting South Central Georgia, and they wanted to phone their friends and family back home to check if they were OK, but were unable to get through.

For the song’s original music video, Stipe insisted on singing his vocals live.

“(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville”

“(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville” was the second single released from Reckoning, although it failed to make an impact on the Billboard charts. Although credited as a band composition, the country-influenced song was solely written by bassist Mike Mills.

Mills wrote the tune about his girlfriend at the University of Georgia, who was getting pressured by her parents to return to her home in Rockville, Maryland, for the summer. The song was about Mills trying to convince her to stay in Athens, Georgia.

Mills also provides prominent harmony and background vocals, and plays piano on the track.

“Pretty Persuasion”

“Pretty Persuasion” grabs the listener with catchy, descending guitar riff, while Stipe’s and Mills’ soaring harmony vocals drive the tune along.

R.E.M. first began performing “Pretty Persuasion” live as early as 1980.

In a 2009 with Rolling Stone (according to Songfacts), Stipe explained what inspired him to write the song’s lyrics.

“It’s about a couple of swingers, a straight couple who employ younger men and women and seduce them,” he said. “I did not succumb. But I was aware of the danger and electricity they created.”

“7 Chinese Bros.”

“7 Chinese Bros.” features a simple infectious guitar riff that propels the song throughout the instrumentally sparse verses, followed by a more rocking, melodic chorus.

Part of the song’s inspiration is the 1938 children’s book The Five Chinese Brothers, by Claire Huchet Bishop. The book tells the story of five siblings with fantastic powers, one of whom can swallow the ocean.

The Reckoning outtake “Voice of Harold,” which was first released on the 1987 Dead Letter Office compilation, features audio track from “7 Chinese Bros,” with Stipe singing the liner notes to the album The Joy of Knowing Jesus, by the gospel group The Revelaires.

“Time After Time (Annelise)”

“Time After Time (Annelise)” is highlighted by droning, hypnotic guitar riff reminiscent of the early Velvet Underground.

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