Monday, June 29, 2015

"E-Bow the Letter" is the first single from R.E.M.'s tenth studio album New Adventures in Hi-Fi. It was released in August 1996 just weeks before the album's release. During the same month, R.E.M. signed its then record-breaking five-album contract with Warner Bros. Records. Although it peaked at #4 on the UK Singles Chart, the highest any R.E.M. song charted in the UK until "The Great Beyond" in 2000, the song fared less well in the United States, reaching only #49 on the Billboard Hot 100. It became R.E.M.'s lowest charting lead single since "Fall on Me" released from Lifes Rich Pageant in 1986, when the band was on a smaller record label, I.R.S. Records.


Patti Smith sings guest backing vocals on this song. The song's title refers to the EBow, an electromagnetic field-generating device that induces sustained vibration in an electric guitar string (creating a violin-like effect), and to a "letter never sent" by Michael Stipe. It is believed that the letter in question was written to actor River Phoenix expressing Stipe's concern for his friend's spiraling substance abuse with the letter never being sent due to Phoenix's death. Guitarist Peter Buck can be seen using an EBow in the video for the song at approximately 1:27 to 1:30. R.E.M. has also played the song live with artists including Thom Yorke singing Patti Smith's vocal part.

"E-Bow the Letter" was ranked number 21 on NME magazine's list of the "Singles of the Year". In 2003, song was placed on R.E.M.'s compilation In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003.

Track listing

All songs were written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe, except where noted.

7", Cassette and CD single

  1. "E-Bow the Letter" â€" 5:22
  2. "Tricycle" â€" 1:58

12" and CD Maxi single

  1. "E-Bow the Letter" â€" 5:22
  2. "Tricycle" â€" 1:58
  3. "Departure" (Rome soundcheck) â€" 3:33
  4. "Wall of Death" (Richard Thompson) â€" 3:07


  • Michael Stipe â€" vocals
  • Mike Mills â€" bass, organ, mellotron, moog synthesizer
  • Peter Buck â€" guitar, electric sitar
  • Bill Berry â€" drums, tambourine
Additional personnel
  • Patti Smith â€" vocals on "E-Bow the Letter"


See also

  • List of RPM Rock/Alternative number-one singles (Canada)


External links

  • E-Bow the Letter at AllMusic
  • Lyrics
  • Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics

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