Mad World: R.E.M.? No. Gary Jules? Yes. Tears For Fears? First.

Peter Buck (REM), Taken at the Lancashire Coun...

Peter Buck via Wikipedia

Hey there, blog subscribers.  This is one of those old posts I’m republishing from the archive.  Usually, I’ll do this if there’s something going on that reminds me of an old post or if I’m just in the mood to jump back into old conversations.  In this case, it’s both.

R.E.M. does not sing “Mad World.” Gary Jules does. And it’s a Tears for Fears cover?  Those first two sentences are for the good folks finding their way here by searching “REM Mad World.”  The third sentence is an admission: if it’s not “Shout” or that other song, I don’t know it.  “Everybody Wants to Rule The World.”  That’s a great one.

I was listening to WXPN tonight and they were streaming some indie band who said “we promised to learn a song by the beautiful Leonard Cohen for tonight. But then we didn’t.” Just last night a friend emailed me and said “I actually don’t listen to all that much Leonard Cohen (interpretation, I don’t listen to leonard cohen but I don’t want to sound uncool by saying so straight out.”)  Get on that, sister.


1) This post is from July, 2008. Everyone who wasn’t already a Leonard Cohen fan then now surely is.  I need to ask my friend about that.

2) A few days ago, I heard The Decemberists talking about their new record, The King Is Dead.  Colin Meloy was getting into the influences behind the ablum’s vibe and used the adjective REMy. I thought, well yes, “Down By The Water” is basically “The One I Love” with different words, more accordion, and Gillian Welch.  Then David Dye mentioned that Peter Buck played on three tracks and asked Colin Meloy what that was like. Meloy said that Buck was really cool about the influence and put the band at ease by saying he learned everything he knew from the Byrds.  Turns out, by the way, that “Down By The Water” isn’t just an REM sound-alike, it’s a self-conscious tribute.  It’s a great song on it’s own, but I can’t get “The One I Love” out of my head whenever I hear it.  That’s not a bad thing, though, and it enables a pretty sweet indie/80s alt mashup when the Decemberists do the inevitable support spot for R.E.M. or joint-awards-show performance.  Speaking of mashups, I’m still waiting for my Wilco/Belle & Sebastian performance of “This Is Just a Modern Rock Song/California Stars.”  Come on, fellas.  Don’t make me do it myself.  I have a novel to finish.

15 thoughts on “Mad World: R.E.M.? No. Gary Jules? Yes. Tears For Fears? First.

  1. Oh, i think its too dark for church. I was also confused on this for a while…Gary Jules SINGS the song for the Darko soundtrack and Michael Andrews PLAYS the music. Yes, its a Tears for Fears cover, but their version is all speedy, and well…awful really.


  2. thanks for Jules/Andrews clarification. That makes sense.

    As far as this song in church, think of it as a Maundy Thursday song, song from the perspective of the about-to-be-handed-over-and-crucified Jesus.


  3. Someone very dear to my heart used to do a cover of Mad World blended with Silent Night with just a male vocal and an acoustic guitar. It was excellent, and effectively unsettling.


        1. agreed. “The Stranger Song”, “Suzanne”, “So, Long Marianne”, “Famous Blue Raincoat”, “If It Be Your Will” are five others that come right to mind for me, but “Hallelujah” is my favorite, and Leonard’s studio version of it from 1984 is my favorite version ever.


  4. His poetry is amazing as well….”A Thousand Kisses Deep” comes to mind…….and of course the song…”I’m Your Man” The 2009, Live in London, DVD is really great.
    Thanks for educating us CC!


    1. I have his poetry book that was published when he was an undergrad, Let Us Compare Mythologies. There are some excellent, excellent poems in there. I’m fond of “Prayer For Messiah”, among others.


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