Last modified: July 1, 1997
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--------------------------------------------------------------------------- [Continued from Part 1 of 3] B. ALBUM COVERS, NOTES, AND OTHER PACKAGING QUESTIONS o B1. "What are those phrases inside the liner notes for 'Monster'?" Possible alternate names, and working titles, both for the album itself and various tracks from the album. In interviews the band has described its process of naming albums this way: they tape a big sheet of paper up on the studio wall and then variously they write down random ideas when they occur to them. One might speculate that at least some of this list is derived from that process. o B2. "What are the strange symbols on the cover of CD-single for 'What's the Frequency, Kenneth?'" The packaging for the CD single for "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" the first single off Monster, displays some interesting features that newsgroup members have already remarked upon. Each letter of the title is surrounded by a circle. A dot at the upper right corner of each circle contains the rank of the frequency (e.g., "E" the most common letter in English, equals 1) of that letter's occurrence in the English language. Also, found below each title letter, appears the Morse Code (in dots and dashes) for that letter. Notched into the circle around the letter are the semaphore positions (hand-held flags at various angles) of that letter. (See Section C below for info on the "Kenneth" lyrics.) o B3. "Why is there a '4' superimposed over the 'R' on the Green cover?" The story told in interviews is that someone (most likely Michael Stipe) was typing the name of the album and hit the '4' key instead of the 'R' (note their proximity on the "qwerty" keyboard). Somebody (again, most likely Michael Stipe) thought it was a neat idea and carried it on to the packaging as a faint transparent "4" over the "R" in both "GREEN" and "REM" on the CD notes, and by "numbering" the fourth song ("Stand") with an "R". Some later pressings (notably CD club versions) may not have the "4"s on the cover. Some newsgroup readers have connected this to the fact that Lifes Rich Pageant has "OR" in place of "04" in the track listing. When remarking on oddities in R.E.M. packaging and publicity, always bear in mind the band's eccentric creative bent. (See also the answer to the next question.) o B4. "There's a '5' on Document and a '4' on Green, and wait, there's a '10' on Chronic Town, and a '9' on Murmur and an '8' on Fables, and a '7' on Reckoning! Is this some kind of countdown?" This is an urban legend which even the band are weary of denying. The topic has also been the subject of many flame wars, and most newsgroup members don't want to hear any more about it. On AOL in August 1994, Stipe said this about the so-called countdown theory: "the countdown is a silly coincidence. i swear it. pb [Peter Buck] sez were going into neg.#;s next, so there. i did put the #7 on each record for a while but started getting strange mail in volumes about it and so we quit. no reason for 7, it was just a cool typo thing [like typefaces on fables]." o B5. "Who painted the cover art for Reckoning?" The folk or "naive" artist (the term art critics use), Rev. Howard Finster, is a friend of Michael Stipe who painted the intricate snake design for the band. (Presumably Stipe added the song titles.) Rev. Finster also appears in the video for "Radio Free Europe" (at the end, when they tumble the little figure down the wooden ramp; note it was filmed at his home). Also, Michael Stipe has dedicated the song "Maps and Legends" on FotR to Finster when playing it live. (Some may want to note that Finster later was asked to do the cover of the Talking Heads album Little Creatures, too.) o B6. "My copy of the Green LP has names for each side. Are the sides named on other albums?" Almost every R.E.M. album bears creatively-named sides. Here's a list: Album Side A Side B Chronic Town Chronic Town Poster Torn Murmur (side 1) (side 2) Reckoning L R Fables of the Reconstruction A Side Another Side Lifes Rich Pageant Dinner Supper Document Page Leaf Dead Letter Office Post Script Eponymous Early Late Green Air Metal Out Of Time Time Memory The Best of R.E.M. (UK) Us Them Automatic For The People Drive Ride Monster C D New Adventures in Hi-Fi Hi Fi o B7. "Why is the actual song order on Lifes Rich Pageant different from that listed on the back cover? And do some copies actually list the song 'Superman' as 'Superwoman'?" Reportedly, the song order on LRP was changed at the last minute, too late for the cover art to be changed. While it's anybody's guess why this was not subsequently corrected for later domestic vinyl and CD pressings, it *has* been corrected for many foreign and record club versions. Bear in mind that the off-beat creativity of the mixed-up list, and the cryptic "lyrics clues," is typical of the band. Note also that some European issues of LRP have the proper track order, but list "Superman" as "Superwoman." On a related note, the song "When I was Young" is listed on the sleeve of Fables of the Reconstruction, but was dropped at the last minute, destined to reappear later in quite revised form on LRP as "I Believe." o B8. "What is the name of that last song on Green?" The instrumental version on the CD-single for "Stand" is called "The Eleventh Untitled Song (Instrumental)." One can therefore infer that it's simply called "Eleventh Untitled Song." Reportedly, however, some of this cut's lyrics were included in a Fan Club mailing under the title, "So Awake Volunteer," so some people consider that to be its intended title. Recently, an industrious group reader posted that while browsing the Library of Congress, he discovered that the song is copyright-registered under the title of "11", its track number. o B9. "What is that on the front cover of Chronic Town?" The Spitting Gargoyle on Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. o B10. "Whose half-face is on Lifes Rich Pageant?" Bill Berry's. Gruesome makeup and photography courtesy Stipe. The spliced-together photos constitute a visual pun ("buffalo bill"). o B11. "The spine title of my copy of Fables is Reconstruction of the Fables, not the other way around! Do I have a limited ed. or something? Alas, no. It's neither a misprint, nor rare, and the "two" titles indeed refer to one and the same album. The "real" title of the album is circular, you might say ("Fables of the Reconstruction of the Fables of the Reconstruction of ... [ad nauseam]"). You'll notice that on one side of the CD booklet, it says "Fables of the" and on the other side it says "Reconstruction of the." You can flip the booklet and use either cover you wish. The spine of the CD says "Reconstruction of the Fables," whereas the face of the disc itself says "Fables of the Reconstruction," but with "Reconstruction" printed upside-down, and "of the" printed vertically, it can be read either way. (However, note that the newer European reissue discs just have "Fables of the Reconstruction") Anyway, it's a play on words, like much of the band's genius. Does it mean "tales about the post-Civil War period in American history," or does it mean "putting back together those tales of old in our own weird way"...? It all depends on which way you show the cover. o B12. "Who is that on the cover of Document?" Michael Stipe, hiding behind a camera. Note there are several images superimposed over each other at different angles. The car is a black Checker Marathon (the kind of car most cabs used to be) which Michael used to drive. o B13. "On the Reckoning liner, it says 'Help Carl Grasso.' Who was he?" Carl Grasso was reportedly the art director (or product manager) for IRS back then; supposedly the band used to drive him nuts with what they would and wouldn't allow on the album covers. Grasso is also credited for album design on Murmur. o B14. "Is the Chronic Town EP available separately?" As a regular release, it is only available as part of the Dead Letter Office compilation album. However, there are reportedly a number of limited edition box sets that include CT on a separate disk within the entire multi-album package. An example of this is the UK set called The Originals released in 1995 with CT, Murmur, and Reckoning included with new packaging. o B15. "Why isn't the song 'Revolution' on New Adventures in Hi-Fi, like all the other new songs they were performing on the Monster World tour?" The choice of whether to include a song on an album is one only the band itself can really comment on, but recall that `Revolution' really dates back to the time of Monster's release (some of the "possible song names" on the album notes of Monster refer to versions of "Revolution", so it really should be considered an outtake of that album.) Besides, most of the song's many contemporary political references (O.J., Ollie North, etc.) had become outdated by the time of the release of NAIHF, and this is also a likely reason for the song not having been included. (Nonetheless, I'd look for it as a track on a future maxi-single release.) o B16. "I thought there was a R.E.M. song called 'Sponge' that was on the radio in 1995. I don't see it on New Adventures." The song "Sponge" recorded by R.E.M. is actually a composition by Georgia singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt, and R.E.M's cover of the tune is included on the compilation record Sweet Relief II along with other Chesnutt songs performed by various bands. The proceeds of the album go to a charity fund that assists musicians with medical expenses (Chesnutt himself is a parapalegic). The song "Sponge" comes from his album West of Rome (which Stipe produced) and he did an interesting (if loose) "cover" of R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World..." for the Surprise Your Pig R.E.M. tribute album. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- C. THOSE DARN LYRICS; AND OTHER MUSIC-RELATED QUESTIONS o C1. "What are the words to the chorus of 'Sitting Still?'" A few years ago, Michael Stipe claimed in a Rolling Stone interview that the chorus begins "Up to par, Katie bar the kitchen door but not me in." Careful listening, however, leaves some listeners dubious about "door" at least. In the album version of the song, it sounds more like "signs" (which makes a certain amount of sense given the song was reportedly inspired by Stipe's sister's teaching deaf children.) In an AOL posting regarding this song Stipe said: "Sit. still -- come on now, that is an embarrassing collection of vowels that i strung together some 400 yrs ago! Basically nonsense... 'Katie bar the kitchen door' is a southern term that meant you better watch out." The second line of the chorus has been confirmed by a friend of the band as being, "Setting trap for love, making a waste of time, sitting still" which careful listening confirms. In this author's opinion, therefore, the entire chorus is, "Up to par Katie bars the kitchen signs but not me in, setting trap for love making a waste of time, sitting still." You may, however, hear it differently. o C2. "How exactly do you people think Michael Stipe could have written lyrics for some songs on Murmur, Reckoning, etc. without having specific words in mind? He is often quoted as saying 'the earlier songs don't have lyrics per se.' How does he do that? Seems ridiculous, but at the same time... witty." Chris Piuma suggested, on r.m.r: "Take a song that you like but can remember only a few lines to. Now, while not listening to it, sing it. Most people either sing 'la la la doo doo doo' or they start making up nonsense words. Now record yourself doing this. Write down what you sang. It will probably come out as more or less meaningless stuff that revolves around that line you did know. OK, now take your lyrics and edit them so that they fit the song (syllable-wise) and so that the words make sense and the sentences make an odd sense but the paragraphs make no sense. Then, when you sing the words, distort them into sounds which might seem like completely different words. Use this process as an editing tool." "Voila! You soon have a lyric that isn't a lyric per se." No one is saying this exactly how Stipe created his early lyrics (or versions one hears on live tapes from early shows), but it's an example of how this sort of thing could evolve. (Note that this speculation does not extend to lyrics for Document and beyond, whose enunciation on the album and denotative meaning are obviously more clear and deliberate.) R.E.M. lyrics (or at least our collective best guesses) are available via WWW. o C3. "What the heck is the chorus of 'The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight'?" Well, it's not "Call me in Jamaica," or even "Only in Chalawaika." The chorus is "Call when you try to wake her up, call when you try to wake her." (Stipe's alternate version related on AOL was "Call me if you try to wake her up.") o C4. "What is that weird sound/voice at the beginning of 'Superman'?" It's reputed to be the sound that occurs when you pull the string on a certain talking Japanese Godzilla doll. (Translated: "This is a special news report. Godzilla has been sighted in Tokyo Bay. The attack on it by the Self-Defense Force has been useless. He is heading towards the city. Aaaaaaaaagh....") o C5. "What do the lyrics to 'What's the Frequency, Kenneth?' mean?" Stipe was quoted in several interviews at the time of Monster's release as saying it is written from the perspective of a person who's getting older trying to understand current youth culture. Note that the lyric (printed inside) contains a quote from Richard Linklater, director of the film Slacker: "Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy" -- a rebuttal of sorts to older generations who would claim Generation Xers, or "slackers," are merely spoiled, lazy brats. (This line of argument is that "slackers" have chosen to exclude themselves from mainstream society as a protest against its empty values.) It has also been noted that the "shirt of violent green" mentioned in the lyric may by a reference to a Spider Robinson short story entitled "Lady Slings the Booze," which also makes use of the phrase "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" o C6. "What is the connection between 'WTF,K?' and Dan Rather?" The title of the song itself, it needs to be explained, refers indirectly to the incident in Oct. 1986 in which Dan Rather, anchor for C.B.S.'s network news broadcast, was attacked by two unknown men in the street in New York City wearing suits and sunglasses. The men kept asking Rather "What is the frequency?" and called him "Kenneth" while they shoved and accosted him; to date the incident has never been explained completely (though some have theorized that "Kenneth" might be Ken Scheafer, an electronics expert with whom Rather had worked in connection with Soviet TV broadcasts). Since the incident, "What's the frequency?" and calling a clueless person a "kenneth" have become a trendy youth culture catch-phrases (which is probably, why Stipe wanted to use it, rather than an interest in Rather). Very recently, a man was arrested in conjunction with the incident and identified by Rather as his attacker. Reportedly, he was a mentally-disturbed individual who had fantasized many conspiracy theories about the media being against him, and was also responsible for the murder of a CBS technician. Please note that the supposed reference to Rather and CBS news in the "Ignoreland" lyric was incorrect, so there is *no* tie-in that we know of between the two songs regarding the newsanchor. Mr. Rather, meanwhile, has taken the "tribute" in good spirits and has been quoted as saying he has always liked R.E.M., that he owns the Monster CD, and suggested jokingly that the band's name really stands for "Rather's Excellent Musicians," before proceeding to sing the chorus of "It's the End of the World As We Know It," during a David Letterman appearance. Also, before the band's 1995 appearance at New York's Madison Square Garden, Rather joined them onstage during a sound check for a quick rendition of WtFK? Also note in passing that the album Lolita Nation by Game Theory, released in 1987 and produced by Mitch Easter (there's another R.E.M. connection) contains a similarly titled song: "Kenneth -- What's the Frequency?"; WTF,K? is not a cover of that, of course -- the resemblance pretty much stops at the title. Other newsgroup readers here have noted that the phrase may also have popped up in the movie "The Conversation" and in Dan Clowes' comic "Eightball". o C7. "Who is Michael Stipe referring to in the song 'Can't Get There from Here,' in the lines, 'Brother Ray can sing my song,' and the last line, 'Thank you, Ray'?" In It Crawled... Bill Berry and Peter Buck are quoted discussing this song, which they refer to as a "jazz ballad." Bill says, "We wanted to get an Otis [Redding] sound on that one," and Peter elaborates, "It's like a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Ray Charles and James Brown and all the great Georgia music giants." Given these quotes, a probable answer is "Ray Charles." (Remember too that Michael Stipe often cites, among his musical influences, singers whose records were in his parents' record collection when he was young, like Elvis, Henry Mancini, and possibly Ray Charles.) o C8. "Where did Stipe get the words in 'Voice of Harold' (from Dead Letter Office)?" Stipe used the liner notes to a gospel album in the studio during the recording of Reckoning with the same backing music track as "Seven Chinese Brothers." See the .gif files of the front and back covers of the album on the WWW Home Page for more information about actual text (there is also a text transcription for those without graphics. This graphic file and transcribed text were obtained from a photocopy of the actual album still in the possession of Reflection Studios where the song was recorded. If you are familiar with the lyrics, you can now see that Stipe didn't sing the entire text, and what he did sing wasn't always in sequence. o C9. "Who is 'Monty' in 'Monty Got a Raw Deal' on AfTP?" Montgomery Clift, actor. He was considered to be one of the most handsome movie stars ever in Hollywood at his prime, though he lost much of those looks in a car accident. His films included "Raintree County," "A Place in the Sun," and "The Misfits." He died fairly young due to depression and alcohol abuse. A biography of Clift, written by Robert Laguardia, was published in 1977. Answers to questions about other real people mentioned in R.E.M. lyrics can be found in the document, "Real People Mentioned in REM Songs, v.1.2" researched by Gary Nabors and periodically posted to the group (email firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy if you missed it). o C10. "Who speaks during the break in 'Exhuming McCarthy'?" From Marcus Gray's It Crawled From The South: "...the spoken-word middle eight, lifted from a McCarthy documentary the band watched during the album's mixing stage. The film, Point of Order, takes as its climax a key moment during the televised army-McCarthy hearings of 1954 (the Senator was engaged in trying to root out subversives in the armed forces). "On June 9th, McCarthy repeatedly tried to ruin, by associating him with a left wing group, a young law associate of the Army counsel Joseph N. Welch. The associate was not involved in the hearings, and Welch replied to McCarthy's irrelevant and spiteful harangues thus: 'Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you no sense of decency?'" o C11. "What does the title of 'Green Grow the Rushes' refer to?" It may refer to the poem, "Green Grow The Rashes," by the Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796), whose opening verse reads, Green grow the rashes, O; Green grow the rashes, O; The sweetest hours that e'er I spend, Are spent among the lasses, O! It has been noted that Burns' was but one of many variations of a then-popular lyric by this name, many of them bawdy, and most sung by workers or soldiers to while away the hours. A historically- unconfirmed story says that immigrants to the New World from the British Isles were especially fond of the song (their "finest worksong"?), and to the panish born population the Anglo-Americans who sang this work song became known as "greengrows" (later shortened to "gringos"). Since Stipe has been quoted as saying the song concerns American exploitation of migrant (Mexican) workers by U.S. corporations, one might speculate he had some or all of these possibilities in mind. Rec.music.rem reader <email@example.com> suggested another song of the title might be alluded to. The folk song called "Green Grow the Rushes, O" completely unconnected to the Burns lyric, is very, very old; it was first written down in Hebrew in the 16th Century and is probably much older. There are many versions and it is a popular Christmas Carol and harvest song. I'll sing you one, O Green grow the rushes, O What is your one, O One is one and all alone and evermore shall be so. Whichever traditional song Stipe is alluding to, the premise that it was identified with Anglo-American colonists is probably still valid. o C12. "What is the snippet of music heard on some versions of Reckoning, but which is not on current CD recordings of the album?" People often ask about the fragment of song that appears after "Little America" on early versions of the LP pressing of Reckoning; this is not referring to the intro to "Rockville". This somewhat abstract sequence fades in, lasts about ten seconds, then fades out, and has vocals with indecipherable lyrics. Mitch Easter (producer) called this studio outtake "found art," and it was drawn out and edited by Mitch and Don Dixon at Reflection Studios. (For those who have the R.E.M. Succumbs video collection, it plays during the clip before "Left of Reckoning" that depicts a person trying to walk through a hurricane rain storm, and is repeated at the very end of the "LoR" footage.) The recent "gold CD" re-issue of Reckoning restored this clip to the album proper. o C13. "What is that song 'Photograph' that Michael Stipe sings, and why wasn't it on an R.E.M. album?" The compilation Born to Choose CD features, among other things, the track "Photograph," co-written and performed by R.E.M. and Natalie Merchant. The album was put together to raise funds for the non-profit Pro-Choice organization NARAL (the National Abortion Rights Action League). o C14. "What is that song where Michael Stipe sings 'You were in my dream'?" Stipe sang background vocals for the song "Your Ghost" which appears on the solo album Hips & Makers (Sire/4AD) by Throwing Muses' lead vocalist Kristin Hersh. o C15. "What is the R.E.M. song with the line 'First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin...'?" This is a cover of the Leonard Cohen song "First We Take Manhattan," which first appeared on the Cohen tribute album I'm Your Fan and later appeared as a b-side on a single for "Drive" (see the discography for more details about releases). It was originally on Cohen's album I'm Your Man. o C16. "Has Michael Stipe done a duet with Tori Amos?" Amos was quoted as saying that she and Stipe were "talking about doing a duet for a film called `Don Juan de Marco and the Centerfold.'" (Rolling Stone #691, p. 20). News reports indicated, first, that the song (entitled "It Might Hurt a Little Bit") was not included because Ms. Amos was unhappy with some of the other cuts on the album, and then that it wasn't included because the producers of the movie had dropped it in favor of a more marketable Bryan Adams song. Later, it was reported that that the cut would appear on a soundtrack album for a new film called "Empire Records" sometime late in July 1995 (but it did not), and then that it would be on the soundtrack for the Winona Ryder film "How to Make an American Quilt" (which it was not). As of the release of Amos' Boys for Pele album, it was still not clear if the song would be released (one might do well to keep an eye out for it on the many Tori Amos b-sides and EP releases). Recently, rec.music.rem regular <firstname.lastname@example.org> reported the following information from Tori Amos on the single: "She told me the record companies are `fighting over it,' and she seemed pretty down about the possibility of anything happening with this song." o C17. "In 'Country Feedback," what is 'Est' in the line, 'Self help, self pain, EST, psychics, fuck all'? Are they referring to electro-shock therapy?" No. Electro-Shock Therapy, usually called Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) is not pronounced like a word, but is pronounced as separate letters ("E-C-T" rather than "EST"). The EST in "Country Feedback" is probably the self-assertiveness encounter therapy called EST, which stood for "Erhard Sensitivity Training". Werner Erhard, in the seventies, concocted weekend "self-improvement" seminars to make people "tougher" and more "responsible." He made tons of money by locking large groups of future yuppies in Holiday Inn convention rooms, yelling at them a lot, and refusing to let them leave, even to go to the bathroom (this was supposed to make them more successful in life). o C18. "Where is Rockville, in '(Don't Go Back to) Rockville'?" From the book Remarks, The Story of R.E.M. by Tony Fletcher: "Mike Mills too was improving [his songwriting]. He wrote a plea to ... a new girl in Athens who had been making a big impact on all the boys, begging her not to spend the summer of '80 in Maryland. 'Don't Go Back To Rockville', with its memorable chorus and frantic pacing, became an instant live favorite." The original version of "Rockville" had a harder rock sound; the band worked up the country and western style as a joke for friend and band lawyer Bertis Downs. This new version was so successful they recorded it that way. o C19. "What does the term 'Star 69' refer to, in the song of that name on Monster?" For those who don't have the service in their area, many phone companies now offer a service that allows one to dial directly back to the number from which your most recent incoming caller dialed. The sequence of buttons to activate this service is "* - 6 - 9", and some of the phone companies offering the service just call it "Star 69," while others just refer to it as "Last Number Callback" or something similar. It presumably was developed to allow people to more easily track down the perpetrators of prank, obscene, telemarketing, and other types of harassing calls, as well as to allow you to recontact someone who has called you, whose number you don't have, and from whom you might have accidentally been disconnected. o C20. "Who was Andy Kaufman and why does Michael Stipe sing about him in 'Man on the Moon'?" Andy Kaufman was a celebrated conceptual comedian from the 1970's who, while most popularly known for his role on the sitcom "Taxi," also became infamous through his stand-up comedy routines for a performance-art style of character creation, audience manipulation, and general strangeness. His act was as much an indirect commentary on the act of performing itself (which would obviously interest Michael Stipe) and perhaps even the act of believing in something, or reality, itself (which seems to be what 'MotM' is largely about). More information on Kaufman can be found on the web at URL http://fly.hiwaay.net/~bkm/akhome.htm. o C21. "What is an e-bow, from 'E-bow the Letter'?" A hand-held electronic gadget that-when held over the strings of an electric guitar-produces a characteristic sustained tone (yes, it is used by Peter Buck on the track). [For more information surf to www.ebow.com.] o C22. "What is that being said before 'Be Mine'?" It sounds like someone saying, perhaps on a CB radio, "...Ah, speed zone up here, too." Mike Mills mentioned in an interview that he recorded a demo version of the song on the tour bus, so perhaps the clip is meant to allude to this. [Continued in Part 3 of 3] -- Ron Henry / email@example.com Official Rec.Music.Rem FAQ at http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/8789/remfaq.htm "I never thought of this as funny."