E-Bow the Letter

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"E-Bow the Letter"
R.E.M. - E-Bow the Letter.jpg
Single by R.E.M.
from the album New Adventures in Hi-Fi
ReleasedAugust 27, 1996 (1996-08-27)
RecordedBad Animals Studio, 1996
GenreAlternative rock
LabelWarner Bros.
R.E.M. singles chronology
"E-Bow the Letter"
"Bittersweet Me"
Patti Smith singles chronology
"Summer Cannibals"
"E-Bow the Letter"

"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 number four 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 number 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.

The song features American singer-songwriter and "Godmother of Punk" Patti Smith performing backing vocals. Smith was cited as a major influence by band members Michael Stipe and Peter Buck and also provided backing vocals for "Blue" the closing track on the band's final studio album Collapse into Now.


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. 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.[1] The song is about Stipe's friend, the actor and musician River Phoenix.

"E-Bow the Letter" was ranked number 21 on NME magazine's list of the "Singles of the Year".[2] In 2003, the song was placed on R.E.M.'s compilation In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003. Pitchfork Media founder and owner Ryan Schreiber described it on the website as "possibly one of the greatest songs ever written."[3]

Track listing[edit]

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" – 5:22
  2. "Tricycle"[4] – 1:58

12" and CD Maxi single

  1. "E-Bow the Letter – 5:22
  2. "Tricycle"[4] – 1:58
  3. "Departure" (Rome soundcheck)[5] – 3:33
  4. "Wall of Death"[6] (Richard Thompson) – 3:07


A photograph of Patti Smith looking to the side of the camera while performing onstage
Patti Smith—an influence on Peter Buck and Michael Stipe—provided backing vocals to the song.


Additional personnel


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1996) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[7] 23
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[8] 27
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[9] 48
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[10] 6
Canada Rock/Alternative (RPM)[11] 1
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[12] 11
Germany (Official German Charts)[13] 65
Ireland (IRMA)[14] 8
Italy (Hit Parade Italia)[15] 16
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[16] 32
Norway (VG-lista)[17] 6
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[18] 2
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[19] 4
US Billboard Hot 100[20] 49
US Alternative Songs (Billboard)[21] 2
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[22] 15

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1996) Position
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[23] 53
Canada Rock/Altenrative (RPM)[24] 30

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Monroe, Jazz (27 September 2018). "Listen to R.E.M. and Thom Yorke's Version of "E-Bow the Letter" | Pitchfork". Pitchfork. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  2. ^ "End of Year Lists". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 2008-03-04.
  3. ^ R.E.M.: New Adventures in Hi-Fi: Pitchfork Review
  4. ^ a b Recorded during soundcheck at the Riverport Amphitheater, St. Louis, Missouri; September 22, 1995.
  5. ^ Recorded during soundcheck at the Paleur, Rome, Italy; February 22, 1995.
  6. ^ Taken from the Richard Thompson tribute album, Beat the Retreat. Produced by John Keane.
  7. ^ "Australian-charts.com – R.E.M. – E-Bow the Letter". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  8. ^ "Austriancharts.at – R.E.M. – E-Bow the Letter" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  9. ^ "Ultratop.be – R.E.M. – E-Bow the Letter" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  10. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 9921." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  11. ^ "Top RPM Rock/Alternative Tracks: Issue 9925." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  12. ^ "R.E.M.: E-Bow the Letter" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  13. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – R.E.M. – E-Bow the Letter". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  14. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – E-Bow the Letter". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  15. ^ "Indice per Interprete: R" (in Italian). Hit Parade Italia. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  16. ^ "Charts.nz – R.E.M. – E-Bow the Letter". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  17. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – R.E.M. – E-Bow the Letter". VG-lista. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  18. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  19. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  20. ^ "REM Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  21. ^ "REM Chart History (Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  22. ^ "REM Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  23. ^ "RPM Year End Top 100 Hit Tracks". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  24. ^ "RPM Year End Alternative Top 50". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved July 17, 2018.

External links[edit]