7 Chinese Bros. was the second track on R.E.M.'s second album, Reckoning, which was released in April 1984. The song may have been influenced by the book The Five Chinese Brothers, which was published in 1938 and tells the story of Chinese siblings with extraordinary powers.
All of the performances in this playlist features are by R.E.M., including several live versions before the song was recorded. It also features one interesting variation, Voices of Harold, which has Michael Stipe singing the liner notes from a gospel album (The Joy of Knowing Jesus by the Revelaires) to the music of 7 Chinese Bros. Supposedly, looking for inspiration before he had to record the actual lyrics, he picked up the record, which was left in the North Carolina studio where Reckoning was being recorded, and proceeded to sing all of the liner notes. After that, the recording was done with the real lyrics and the rest was R.E.M history.