Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Rock Turtleneck Goes Back to R.E.M.'s "(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville"
These days, whenever R.E.M. puts out a new record, I listen to it pretty much non-stop for a couple of weeks, looking for glimmers of their magic. Then I go back to their old stuff.
In this case, I have found myself enoying their faux country classic “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville” from my favorite R.E.M. LP, 1984’s Reckoning.
The tune was written by bassist/pianist Mike Mills as a plea to a ladyfriend who was moving from R.E.M.'s home base in Athens, GA to her parents’ place in Rockville, MD.
Every state seems to have a Rockville. When I was a student at the Universtiy of Connecticut, the local courthouse was in the neighboring town of Rockville. When someone woud get arrested or do something that could get them arrested, we would say “Don’t go back to Rockville and waste another year.”
“(Don't Go Back to) Rockville” was part of R.E.M.’s live set as far back as 1981. Back then, they did the song as an upbeat rocker (pretty much the way they did all their tunes back then) which you can hear here:
During the sessions for Reckoning, they cut it as a country tune as a lark for their manager Bertis Downs, who was a fan of the genre. Lyrically, it certainly fits the George Jones/Hank Williams mold of hard livin’ and lost lovin’:
At night I drink myself to sleep and pretend
I don’t care if you’re not here with me
‘Cause it’s so much easier to handle
All my problems if I’m too far out to sea
But something better happen soon
Or it’s gonna be too late to bring you back
Don’t go back to Rockville
And waste another year
Here are the boys doing a very countrified, very funny version in 1984 on the MTV late-night show The Cutting Edge:
In 1992, at the height of R.E.M.'s popularity, Mike stopped by the Regis & Kathie Lee show to plug their mega-selling Out of Time CD and and played a solo version of "Rockville." Take it away, double-M.
Get the must-have Deluxe Edition of Reckoning here: