Elegy and Allusion: Andy Kaufman, Montgomery Cliff, Dan Rather in R.E.M.

“Man On The Moon”

Automatic For The People

Mott the Hoople and the game of Life. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Andy Kaufman in the wrestling match. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Monopoly, Twenty one, checkers, and chess. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mister Fred Blassie in a breakfast mess. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Let’s play Twister, let’s play Risk. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
See you heaven if you make the list. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Hey, Andy did you hear about this one? Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Hey Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby. Are we losing touch?
If you believed they put a man on the moon, man on the moon.
If you believe there’s nothing up my sleeve, then nothing is cool.

Moses went walking with the staff of wood. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Newton got beaned by the apple good. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Egypt was troubled by the horrible asp. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mister Charles Darwin had the gall to ask. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Hey Andy did you hear about this one? Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Hey, Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby. Are you having fun?
If you believed they put a man on the moon, man on the moon.
If you believe there’s nothing up my sleeve, then nothing is cool.

Here’s a little agit for the never-believer. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Here’s a little ghost for the offering. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Here’s a truck stop instead of Saint Peter’s. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mister Andy Kaufman’s gone wrestling [wrestling bears]. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Hey Andy did you hear about this one? Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Hey Andy are you goofing on Elvis, hey baby, are we losing touch?
If you believed they put a man on the moon, man on the moon.
If you believe there’s nothing up my sleeve, then nothing is cool.

“Monty Got A Raw Deal”

Automatic For The People

Monty this seems strange to me.
The movies had that movie thing,
but nonsense has a welcome ring
and heroes don’t come easy.

Now, nonsense isn’t new to me.
I know my head, I know my feet,
but mischief knocked me in the knees.
Said, Just let go. Just let go.

I saw the ocean meet the man.
I saw you buried in the sand.
A friend was there to hold your hand,
Said, Walk on by.

So, I went walking through the street.
I saw you strung up in a tree.
A woman knelt there said to me,
said, Hold your tongue, man. Hold your tongue.

You don’t owe me anything.
You don’t want this sympathy. [waste your breath]
Don’t you waste your breath. [waste your breath]
for the silver screen.

That nonsense doesn’t mean a thing,
they tried to bust you in a sting,
but virtue isn’t everything
so, don’t waste time.

Now, here’s a rhyme that you can steal.
Put this on your reel to reel.
Mischief threw a rotten deal.
Monty’s laying low, man.
He is laying low.
Just let go, y’all.
Just let go.

You don’t owe me anything.
You don’t want this sympathy. [waste your breath]
Don’t you waste your breath. [waste your breath]
Monty this seems strange to me.

“What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?”

Monster

“What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” is your Benzedrine, uh-huh
I was brain-dead, locked out, numb, not up to speed
I thought I’d pegged you an idiot’s dream
Tunnel vision from the outsider’s screen
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh
You wore our expectations like an armored suit, uh-huh

I’d studied your cartoons, radio, music, tv, movies, magazines
Richard said, “Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy”
A smile like the cartoon, tooth for a tooth
You said that irony was the shackles of youth
You wore a shirt of violent green, uh-huh
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh

“What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” is your Benzedrine, uh-huh
Butterfly decal, rearview mirror, dogging the scene
You smile like the cartoon, tooth for a tooth
You said that irony was the shackles of youth
You wore a shirt of violent green, uh-huh
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh
You wore our expectations like an armored suit, uh-huh
I couldn’t understand
You said that irony was the shackles of youth, uh-huh
I couldn’t understand
You wore a shirt of violent green, uh-huh
I couldn’t understand
I never understood, don’t fuck with me, uh-huh

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:

“When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” Walt Whitman

“To Helen,” Edgar Allan Poe

Montgomery Cliff and Elizabeth Taylor:

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About plthomasedd

P. L. Thomas, Associate Professor of Education (Furman University, Greenville SC), taught high school English in rural South Carolina before moving to teacher education. He is a column editor for English Journal (National Council of Teachers of English) and series editor for Critical Literacy Teaching Series: Challenging Authors and Genres (Sense Publishers), in which he authored the first volume—Challenging Genres: Comics and Graphic Novels (2010). He has served on major committees with NCTE, and has been named Council Historian (2013-2015), and formerly served as co-editor for The South Carolina English Teacher for SCCTE. Recent books include Ignoring Poverty in the U.S.: The Corporate Takeover of Public Education (Information Age Publishing, 2012) and Parental Choice?: A Critical Reconsideration of Choice and the Debate about Choice (Information Age Publishing, 2010).He has also published books on Barbara Kingsolver, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, and Ralph Ellison. His scholarly work includes dozens of works in major journals—English Journal, English Education, Souls, Notes on American Literature, Journal of Educational Controversy, Journal of Teaching Writing, and others. His commentaries have been included in Room for Debate (The New York Times), The Answer Sheet (Washington Post), The Guardian (UK), truthout, Education Week, The Daily Censored, OpEdNews, The State (Columbia, SC), The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, NC), The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC) and The Greenville News (Greenville, SC). His work can be followed at the becoming radical (http://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/) and @plthomasEdD on twitter.

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