(Don’t go Back to) Rockville

This is Mike Mills’ song*.  On Reckoning, this song was supposed to be a fast song (punk/thrash). But as a joke, it was played in a country-style**.  It stuck.

This is a pretty popular song. For whatever reason, I have never learned to play it.  Fortunately, there seem to be a lot of videos of REM and others playing it (unlike 9-9 or Bandwagon).

The 1985 Meredith College version has some good looks at Peter Buck’s hands:

You can see the transition at the end of the verse right at 0:30 here.

Bridge at 3:01 can be seen fairly clearly.

Frustratingly, every time Peter plays the riff at the end of “Waste another year” he is off camera!! You do see a snippet of it here in 2008/Athens, Greece.

This great version really shows Peter playing part of the chorus at the very end:

And this version from 2013 throws it all out the window, though I think some of the major differences that you can see are the result of playing this on the 12 string.


E, A

Verse “Bridge”:

B,  A, Abm, Dbm, Bm***, A


E, A, B–>B7+


E, A, B, E, A, B

F#m, E?,  A, B

Then go to the “verse bridge”

I think this is pretty much how he plays it. My fingers just won’t do the B correctly, so I’m keeping my 2nd finger up and muting the 3rd string with my first finger.



*”The song was written by Mike Mills (credited to Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe) as a plea to his then girlfriend, Ingrid Schorr, not to return to Rockville, Maryland,[4] where her parents lived.[5] Schorr, who later became a journalist, has written about her amusement with the factual inaccuracies about her relationship with Mills and the background of the song that often appear in books about the band.” Wikipedia

**”Peter Buck has stated that the song was originally performed in a punk/thrash style, and that it was recorded for this single in its now more-familiar country-inspired arrangement as a joke aimed at R.E.M. manager Bertis Downs.” Wikipedia

***Though I think the Bm sounds best, it appears from videos, especially the 12 string version below (but even on the Meridith College video), as if Peter Buck is playing like this or like this.  Mike Mills below on Regis and Kathie Lee, plays a B. I think, in the words of my buddy Jay, that you can use “artistic license to do it your way”.

+I think most of the time, PB is barring this B and sliding the 4th finger up to a B7.  That is very hard for me to do–my hand is much smaller than his.  I probably will play this as an “A” bar chord when I play it live.

Mike Mills’ version on the Regis & Kathie Lee Show, 1992:

He is playing the chorus like this: E, F#m, B–>B7

Interesting early recording–October 1980!


Further Reading

In the spring of 1980 I was at college in Athens, Georgia. My once-good grades had given way to behavior that my parents were starting to get wind of, and they instructed me to come back home to Maryland for the summer. I didn’t want to go. Everything in Athens was so… fresh and exciting. I had just started taking part in the innocent decadence that would sustain the scene for the next several years. And I was just beginning a romance with Mike Mills, the bass player in the weeks-old R.E.M. A few weeks before the end of spring quarter he said to me—we were at Tyrone’s, the local rock club, standing between the Rolling Stones pinball machine and the Space Invaders game, playing neither—”I finally meet a girl I like and she’s got to go back to Rockville.”  I’m Reading as Fast as I Can 


Possible Lyrics


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