As a regular visitor to the R.E.M. vinyl sections of several Twin Cities record stores (and music shops in whatever city I might be visiting), I’ve noticed a strange aberration over the past year or so. While you’ll usually see the likes of Murmur, Reckoning and Fables of the Reconstruction among the ranks, singles are less common and vary store-to-store. So why am I seeing the “Nightswimming” picture disc single everywhere I go?
Now, rest assured that I’m not complaining. “Nightswimming” (from 1992’s classic Automatic for the People) is one of my favorite songs of all time and one-third of what I feel is the best consecutive trio of songs ever sequenced (Automatic ends with “Man on the Moon,” “Nightswimming” and “Find the River”). The picture disc, featuring a candid grayscale shot of band members Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry opposite the playable side, makes the single an extra cool collectible, and it’s backed by excellent live versions of prime cuts like “Belong” and “World Leader Pretend,” to boot.
I figured it was a local thing until I saw copies at record stores in both Boulder and Phoenix. While R.E.M. continues to be a solid seller of physical product, R.E.M. vinyl is still a fairly niche market and “Nightswimming” was never that big of a hit to begin with, so this a pretty obscure object to be so ubiquitous.
The possibilities are endless. Perhaps a warehouse featuring boxes full of the picture disc was recently emptied out? I hope it’s something more interesting than that. Has my frequent patronage spurred these stores to order more R.E.M. stuff? I would love to hold sway like that. Is Warner Brothers is making a really late push for the single to top the charts?
Maybe you’ve seen the “Nightswimming” single at your local record store, too. Don’t worry if you didn’t pick it up last time – you’ll probably see it the next time you go shopping.