Orwell’s Animal Farm and “Disturbance at the Heron House”

1987’s “Document” feels especially applicable to America in 2017, Annie Zaleski

On Jan. 20, Paste ran a clever article titled “An Inaugural Day Message via the Words of R.E.M.” The piece creates a narrative about politics and life by jumbling together and rearranging phrases culled from the Athens, Georgia, band’s song lyrics. Workload-wise, the 2400-word piece is impressive; mixing and matching sentiments from a 30-plus-year career certainly isn’t easy….

The last record R.E.M. released via I.R.S. Records — and the first LP the band recorded with producer Scott Litt — “Document” addresses the corrupting nature of money; political witch hunts concerning free speech; circumstances that are both bewildering and unprecedented; and economic and employment oppression. Appropriately, the record’s music is glinting and electrified, and nods to post-punk, folk, funk and fiery rock ‘n’ roll….

In 2003, Stipe admitted that “Disturbance at the Heron House” is his “take” on George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”…

“That song is so fucking political, and it’s so appropriate to what’s going on right now,” he told Filter. “Like, the kind of arrogance that some of the policy makers and world leaders are carrying with them right now is, I think, reflective of the very worst of the United States. It’s that teenage arrogance, as a young country, the know-it-all-kind of thing. That makes me crazy.”

R.E.M. – Disturbance At The Heron House (see also here)

[Verse 1]
They’re going wild, the call came in
At early morning predawn then
The followers of chaos, out of control
They’re numbering the monkeys
The monkeys and the monkeys
The followers of chaos, out of control

[Chorus]
The call came in to party central
A meeting of the green and simple
Trying to tell us something we don’t know

[Verse 2]
They’re meeting at the monument
The call came in, the monument
To liberty and honor under the honor roll
They’ve gathered up the cages
The cages and courageous
The followers of chaos, out of control

[Chorus]

[Verse 3]
Disturbance at the Heron House
A stampede at the monument
To liberty and honor under the honor roll
Just a gathering of the grunts and greens
The cogs and grunts and hirelings
A meeting of a mean idea to hold

[Outro]
When feeding time has come and gone
They’ll lose their heart and head for home
Try to tell us something we don’t know
We don’t know

Animal Farm, George Orwell

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James Dickey and R.E.M.: “Lemons, limes and tangerines”

“I Remember California”

Green

I remember redwood trees, bumper cars and wolverines
The ocean’s Trident submarines
Lemons, limes and tangerines
I remember this

I remember traffic jams
Motor boys and girls with tans
Nearly was and almost rans
I remember this

History is made
History is made to seem unfair

I recall that you were there
Golden smile and shining hair
I recall it wasn’t fair
Recollect it wasn’t fair
Remembering it wasn’t fair outside

Low ebb, high tide
The lowest ebb and highest tide
A symbol wave I must confide
I guess we took us for a ride
I guess it’s just a gesture

I remember this defense
Progress fails pacific sense
All those sweet conspiracies
I remember all these things

I remember traffic jams
Motor boys and girls with tans
Nearly was and almost rans
I remember this…this

Low ebb, high tide
The lowest ebb and highest tide
I guess we took us for a ride
I guess its just a gesture.

At the end of the continent
At the edge of the continent

Applicable copyright is implicit (Copyright © R.E.M./Athens Ltd. for all R.E.M. originals).
These lyrics are official only when stated and in other cases represent a collaborative interpretation by fans.

Poems:

“For the Last Wolverine,” James Dickey

“The Scarred Girl,” James Dickey

Frost, Sandburg, R.E.M.: “Its the end of the world”

“Its The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”

Document

That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and
snakes, an aeroplane and Lenny Bruce is not afraid.
Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn – world
serves its own needs, dummy serve your own needs. Feed
it off an aux speak, grunt, no, strength, Ladder
start to clatter with fear fight down height. Wire
in a fire, representing seven games, a government
for hire and a combat site. Left of west and coming in
a hurry with the furies breathing down your neck. Team
by team reporters baffled, trumped, tethered cropped.
Look at that low playing! Fine, then. Uh oh,
overflow, population, common food, but it’ll do. Save
yourself, serve yourself. World serves its own needs,
listen to your heart bleed dummy with the rapture and
the revered and the right, right. You vitriolic,
patriotic, slam, fight, bright light, feeling pretty
psyched.

It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

Six o’clock – TV hour. Don’t get caught in foreign
towers. Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself
churn. Locking in, uniforming, book burning, blood
letting. Every motive escalate. Automotive incinerate.
Light a candle, light a votive. Step down, step down.
Watch your heel crush, crushed, uh-oh, this means no
fear cavalier. Renegade steer clear! A tournament,
tournament, a tournament of lies. Offer me solutions,
offer me alternatives and I decline.

It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

The other night I dreamt of knives, continental
drift divide. Mountains sit in a line, Leonard
Bernstein. Leonid Brezhnev, Lenny Bruce and Lester
Bangs. Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom! You
symbiotic, patriotic, slam book neck, right? Right.

It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel
fine…fine…

(It’s time I had some time alone)

Applicable copyright is implicit (Copyright © R.E.M./Athens Ltd. for all R.E.M. originals).
These lyrics are official only when stated and in other cases represent a collaborative interpretation by fans.

Poems:

“Fire and Ice,” Robert Frost

“Chicago,” Carl Sandburg

More Imagery and R.E.M: “I believe in coyotes”

“I Believe”

Lifes Rich Pageant

When I was young and full of grace
and spirited–a rattlesnake.
When I was young and fever fell
My spirit, I will not tell
You’re on your honor not to tell

I believe in coyotes and time as an abstract
Explain the change, the difference between
What you want and what you need, there’s the key,
Your adventure for today, what do you do
Between the horns of the day?

I believe my shirt is wearing thin
And change is what I believe in

When I was young and give and take
And foolish said my fool awake
When I was young and fever fell
My spirit, I will not tell
You’re on your honor, on your honor

Trust in your calling, make sure your calling’s true
Think of others, the others think of you
Silly rule golden words make, practice, practice makes perfect,
Perfect is a fault, and fault lines change

I believe my humor’s wearing thin
And change is what I believe in

I believe my shirt is wearing thin
And change is what I believe in

When I was young and full of grace
As spirited a rattlesnake
When I was young and fever fell
My spirit, I will not tell
You’re on your honor, on your honor
I believe in example
I believe my throat hurts
Example is the checker to the key

I believe my humor’s wearing thin
And I believe the poles are shifting

I believe my shirt is wearing thin
And change is what I believe in

Applicable copyright is implicit (Copyright © R.E.M./Athens Ltd. for all R.E.M. originals).
These lyrics are official only when stated and in other cases represent a collaborative interpretation by fans.

Poems:

“The Beautiful Changes,” Richard Wilbur

“The Hospital Window,” James Dickey

“A Noiseless Patient Spider,” Walt Whitman

Politics, Imagery, Metaphor and R.E.M.

“The Flowers Of Guatemala”

Lifes Rich Pageant

I took a picture that I’ll have to send
People here are friendly and content
People here are colorful and bright
The flowers often bloom at night

Amanita is the name
The flowers cover everything
The flowers cover everything

There’s something here I find hard to ignore
There’s something that I’ve never seen before
Amanita is the name they cover over everything

The flowers cover everything
They cover over everything (Amanita is the name)
The flowers cover everything

Don’t look into the sun
Don’t look into the sun

There’s something that I’ve never seen before
The flowers often bloom at night
Amanita is the name they cover over everything

“Cuyahoga”

Lifes Rich Pageant

Let’s put our heads together and start a new country up
Our father’s father’s father tried, erased the parts he didn’t like
Let’s try to fill it in, bank the quarry river, swim
We knee-skinned it you and me, we knee-skinned that river red

This is where we walked, this is where we swam
Take a picture here, take a souvenir

This land is the land of ours, this river runs red over it
We knee-skinned it you and me, we knee-skinned that river red
And we gathered up our friends, bank the quarry river, swim
We knee-skinned it you and me, underneath the river bed

This is where we walked, this is where we swam
Take a picture here, take a souvenir
Cuyahoga
Cuyahoga, gone

Let’s put our heads together, start a new country up,
Underneath the river bed we burned the river down.
This is where they walked, swam, hunted, danced and sang,
Take a picture here, take a souvenir
Cuyahoga
Cuyahoga, gone

Rewrite the book and rule the pages, saving face, secured in faith
Bury, burn the waste behind you

This land is the land of ours, this river runs red over it
We are not your allies, we can not defend
This is where they walked, this is where they swam
Take a picture here, take a souvenir

Cuyahoga
Cuyahoga, gone
Cuyahoga
Cuyahoga, gone

Applicable copyright is implicit (Copyright © R.E.M./Athens Ltd. for all R.E.M. originals).
These lyrics are official only when stated and in other cases represent a collaborative interpretation by fans.

Poems:

“Pear Tree,” H.D.

“Orchard,” H.D.

“An Atlas of the Difficult World” pt. II, Adrienne Rich

“Renascence,” Edna St. Vincent Millay

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” Langston Hughes

Ambiguity in R.E.M.: “Don’t fall on me/Fall on me”

“Fall On Me”

Lifes Rich Pageant

There’s a problem, feathers iron
Bargain buildings, weights and pulleys
Feathers hit the ground before the weight can leave the air
Buy the sky and sell the sky and tell the sky and tell the sky

Don’t fall on me (What is it up in the air for) (It’s gonna fall)
Fall on me (If it’s there for long) (It’s gonna fall)
Fall on me (It’s over it’s over me) (It’s gonna fall)

There’s the progress we have found (when the rain)
A way to talk around the problem (when the children reign)
Building towered foresight (keep your conscience in the dark)
isn’t anything at all (melt the statues in the park)
Buy the sky and sell the sky and bleed the sky and tell the sky

(repeat chorus)
Don’t fall on me

Well I could keep it above
But then it wouldn’t be sky anymore
So if I send it to you you’ve got to promise to keep it whole

Buy the sky and sell the sky and lift your arms up to the sky
And ask the sky and ask the sky

(repeat chorus, etc.)

Applicable copyright is implicit (Copyright © R.E.M./Athens Ltd. for all R.E.M. originals).
These lyrics are official only when stated and in other cases represent a collaborative interpretation by fans.

Poems:

“Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock,” Wallace Stevens

“Anecdote of the Jar,” Wallace Stevens

Details (and Metaphor) and R.E.M.: “I’m Jimmy Dean”

“Electrolite”

New Adventures In Hi-Fi

Your eyes are burning holes through me.
I’m gasoline. I’m burnin’ clean.
Twentieth century go and sleep.
You’re Pleistocene. That is obscene. That is obscene.

You are the star tonight.
Your sun electric, outasight.
Your light eclipsed the moon tonight.
Electrolite.
You’re outasight.

If I ever want to fly.
Mulholland Drive.
I am alive.
Hollywood is under me.
I’m Martin Sheen
I’m Steve McQueen
I’m Jimmy Dean

You are the star tonight.
Your sun electric, outasight.
Your light eclipsed the moon tonight.
Electrolite.
You’re outasight.

If you ever want to fly.
Mulholland Drive.
Up in the sky.
Stand on a cliff and look down there.
Don’t be scared
you are alive.
You are alive.

You are the star tonight.
Your sun electric outasight.
Your light eclipsed the moon tonight.
Electrolite.
You’re outasight.

Twentieth century go and sleep.
Really deep. We won’t blink
Your eyes are burning holes through me.
I’m not scared I’m outta here.
I’m not scared. I’m outta here.

Applicable copyright is implicit (Copyright © R.E.M./Athens Ltd. for all R.E.M. originals).
These lyrics are official only when stated and in other cases represent a collaborative interpretation by fans.

Poems:

“Metaphors,” Sylvia Plath

“Those Winter Sundays,” Robert Hayden

“Traveling through the Dark,” William Stafford

“The Observer,” Adrienne Rich