Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
The photograph on the dashboard, taken years ago
Turned around backwards so the windshield shows
Every streetlight reveals the picture in reverse
Still, it's so much clearer
I forgot my shirt at the water's edge
The moon is low tonight

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
I'm not sure all these people understand
It's not like years ago
The fear of getting caught
Of recklessness and water
They cannot see me naked
These things, they go away
Replaced by everyday

Nightswimming, remembering that night
September's coming soon
I'm pining for the moon
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit
Around the fairest sun?
That bright, tight forever drum
Could not describe nightswimming

You, I thought I knew you
You I cannot judge
You, I thought you knew me
This one laughing quietly underneath my breath

The photograph reflects, every streetlight a reminder
Nightswimming deserves a quiet night, deserves a quiet night

Lyrics submitted by Novartza, edited by kevin10400

Nightswimming Lyrics as written by Peter Buck Bill Berry

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Nightswimming song meanings
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  • +10
    My Interpretation
    This song is about memories, lost love, lost youth, shadows and light, warmth and water on a moonlit night. Water is where we came from. To go back to it, naked, at night, is like going home. Many are the reckless kids who have gone skinny dipping. The lyrics remind us of risks taken and perhaps regrets of some actions we didn't take. Simply a gorgeous song, quite sad, but also a reminder about how beautiful (and fleeting) life is.
    almondgirrlon March 27, 2012   Link
  • +6
    General Comment
    Sportcarder I think you're definitely reading into that too much. I think its way simpler than that. It's just describing a summer night, swimming with friends and treasuring that night together, looking back at the memories. September coming soon means summer is almost over and soon school will start. It might even be referring to college, in which case they'd be saying goodbye soon.
    narsilon April 17, 2002   Link
  • +5
    General Comment
    This song is wicked beautiful. What I get out of the song is that there's someone who is driving around and is reflecting upon his growing up, and the nightswimming, which represents that innocence. The photograph is a reminder of that innocence in that sense. And the streetlights keep flashing, showing the picture. Kind of like how the mind works. I think the person is also reflecting upon a friend or so, whom might be in the picture with him and the person thinks that maybe they really didn't know each other. But what do I know?
    TasChiBandGirlon October 06, 2002   Link
  • +4
    General Comment
    I used to listen to this song driving around as a little kid with my dad all the time. its funny that now i listen to this song and think about those times While this song is about reflecting on the past in a sence.
    ralph2869on October 13, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General Comment
    i miss you all so damn much
    Dead$yon June 10, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General Comment
    Ralph, I had to look at your profile after you said "as a little kid". It just doesn't seem that long ago to me. But I went to my first REM concert the year you were born. :)
    SMUSER17000412on October 16, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General Comment
    i may be way off here but i think this song is about michaels homosexuality,nightswimming being the term he uses for "cruising".Several people have mentioned skinny dipping but take this as a metaphor for unprotected sex add that to the discovery of aids in the 80s and the line "it's not like years ago,the fear of getting caught " makes alot more sense. People need to give Stipe more credit than just saying its about a nice warm night going skinny dipping,he's way cleverer than that.
    blue_meanieon June 16, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General Comment
    blue_meanie I agree it's a wistful rememberance of cruising in his youth, and "I forgot my shirt" and "recklessness" a reference to unprotected sex in the era before AIDS. It's why 'nightswimming' deserves a quiet night, somewhere away from the crowds for "fear of getting caught". The photo on the dashboard, illiminated by streetligts, shows him his younger self, causing him to remember his youth; "september's coming soon" is an acknowledgement that he's approaching middle-age.
    Paegaon August 24, 2005   Link
  • +3
    General Comment
    The idea of an old photograph on a dashboard being reflected in reverse in the windscreen as the streetlights go by is one of the most poetically astounding images I've ever heard in a song. It should be the dictionary definition of Nostalgia.
    iaftoton October 31, 2013   Link
  • +3
    My Opinion
    I think there are 2 differnt types of songs. You can listen to a song for the first time and you are left with the sense that the composer had written it with a very specific meaning behind it. You can listen to another song and due to the very ambiguos wording, it lends itself to many interpretaions. Maybe that is the intent of the composer. I'm sure it was written from one specific event or meaning by the composer, but is written in such a manner as to allow the listener to decide for themselves, what it actually means. If we understood the meaning behind every lyric of every song or simply assumed there was one, it would take all the pleasure out of listening to it in the first place. I love and appreciate the fact that I can listen to a beautiful song and feel as if the composer was inside my head when he/she wrote it. How else could they write those lyrics that so clearly reflect my thoughts and feeling during a specific time in my life. It's as if it were written personally for me. Where there are times that I have to satisfy my curiosity as to the meaning of a song, there are also times I want to allow myself the comforting thought that someone completely understood how I was feeling. And here is my proof, in a song.
    Distarr60on April 19, 2012   Link

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