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Mike Mills says R.E.M. didn’t expect “Losing My Religion” to be a hit

Craft Recordings

R.E.M.’s Mike Mills is reminiscing about the band’s music in a new interview with Vulture and says he’s still surprised that “Losing My Religion” wound up being such a big hit for the group.

“When we started out, radio was still the dominion of what people disparagingly referred to as ‘corporate rock.’ It was safe and there was nobody taking many chances on it,” he says. “So the fact that we were able to break some of those doors down was very gratifying.”

Mills says “Losing My Religion” was only expected to be a “warm up track” to help get the next single played on the radio, but it took off. 

“Nobody would expect a five-minute song with no chorus and a mandolin being the lead instrument to be played on the radio at all — much less become a worldwide number-one hit,” he says. “It was just crazy. Anybody that says they saw that coming is lying to you.”

The tune was so big, Mills says they were once riding in the jungle in Paraguay and heard it being played on the radio. “That was pretty surprising,” he says. “That’s when we knew we had a worldwide hit.” 

Released February 19, 1991, “Losing My Religion” was the first single off R.E.M.’s hit album Out of Time. It reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is the band’s highest-charting single to date. It also topped the Billboard Alternative Airplay and Mainstream Rock charts.

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