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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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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

“The One I Love”: R.E.M. and e. e. cummings Love Poetry

“The One I Love”

Document

This one goes out to the one I love
This one goes out to the one I’ve left behind
A simple prop to occupy my time
This one goes out to the one I love

Fire (she’s comin’ down on her own, now)

This one goes out to the one I love
This one goes out to the one I’ve left behind
Another prop has occupied my time
This one goes out to the one I love

“Untitled (track 11)”

Green

This world is big and so-awake
I stayed up late to hear your voice
This light is here to keep you warm
This song is here to keep you strong

I made a list of things to say
But all I really want to say
All I really want to say is
Hold her and keep him strong
While I’m away from here
Hold her and keep her strong
While I’m away from here

I’ve seen the world and so-awake
And stay up late to hear me sing
Just hold her
I’ve seen the world and so-awake
And stay up late to hear me sing
Just hold him
Hold her and keep her strong
While I’m away from here
Hold him and keep him strong
While I’m away from here

“Losing My Religion”

Out Of Time

Life is bigger
It’s bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no I’ve said too much
I set it up

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper
Of every waking hour I’m
Choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool
Oh no I’ve said too much
I set it up

Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I’ve said too much
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

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:

#67 [hate blows a bubble of despair into] e. e. cummings

#8 [it may not always be so; and i say] e. e. cummings

[somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond] e. e. cummings

#34 [my father moved through dooms of love] e. e. cummings

[love is more thinker than forget] e. e. cummings AUDIO

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] e. e. cummings

“Exhuming McCarthy” and The Crucible

An excellent entry point to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is R.E.M.’s “Exhuming McCarthy”:

“Exhuming McCarthy”

Document

You’re beautiful more beautiful than me
You’re honorable more honorable than me
Loyal to the Bank of America

It’s a sign of the times
It’s a sign of the times

You’re sharpening stones, walking on coals
To improve your business acumen.
Sharpening stones, walking on coals,
To improve your business acumen.

Vested interest united ties, landed gentry rationalize
Look who bought the myth, by jingo, buy America

It’s a sign of the times
it’s a sign of the times

You’re sharpening stones, walking on coals
To improve your business acumen.
Sharpening stones, walking on coals,
To improve your business acumen.

Enemy sighted, enemy met, I’m addressing the realpolitik
Look who bought the myth, by jingo, buy America

“Let us not assassinate this man further Senator,
you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir?
At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

We’re sharpening stones, walking on coals
To improve your business acumen.
Sharpening stones, walking on coals,
To improve your business acumen.

Enemy sighted, enemy met, I’m addressing the realpolitik
You’ve seen start and you’ve seen quit
(I’m addressing the table of content)
I always thought of you as quick
Exhuming McCarthy
(Meet me at the book burning)
Exhuming McCarthy
(Meet me at the book burning)

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.

Connected resources:

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible: Fact & Fiction (or Picky, Picky, Picky…) by Margo Burns

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

McCarthyism (Wikipedia)

R.E.M. Takes a Bite out of Dogma on ‘Exhuming McCarthy’: The Story Behind Every ‘Document’ Song