Lunch Break: REM, “What’s the Frequency Kenneth” and “Man on the Moon”

It is hard to appreciate just how on top of the Remnants Peter is till he leaves for a few days.

Meaning guilt is enough of an impetus for Steve and me to acknowledge the void, and to try and fill it up a tad.

So, I thought I would turn to a band I really have loved over their career, who have a great body of work, and yet who have barely merited a whisper in Remnantland.

I was a fan with my first listen to Radio Free Europe, and with their third album and the song Fall on Me the issue of buying their next disc sight unseen was beyond settled.

I do have all their albums, and I think I put their brilliant Automatic for the People on my essential 30 or 50 or however many albums we listed a few years back.

For a sample, I picked a rocker from the great Monster album, a song fostered by a news miscue elicited by Dan Rather, but not meant to be heard by the viewing public when he asked “What’s the frequency Kenneth”, ostensibly of the sound guy on the news show.  This is kind of a fun live version, with a couple of different performances spliced together.

For a second piece, a live treatment of the beautiful Man on the Moon that concludes said Automatic for the People as perfectly as does The End wind up Abbey Road.

3 thoughts on “Lunch Break: REM, “What’s the Frequency Kenneth” and “Man on the Moon”

  1. Saw REM in their infancy opening at Emerald City, NJ for Gang of Four and Bunnydrums. Recognized they were something special right then and there and was pretty excited when the gargoyle EP came out a while after.

    Lost interest pretty quickly and by the time they were huge I was gone. Never saw them live again.

  2. As I remember the What’s The Frequency Kenneth story, Dan Rather was mugged in New York and the mugger said to him, “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”

    There are songs I like by REM but I think their best is probably their most popular. It’s The End of the World As We Know It. I love the chorus on this song, fantastic vocals. I do like the way the lyrics don’t say anything, or anything I can decipher anyway. They’re just great sounds. The rest of the song is engaging but the chorus, or the second chorus, or the bridge or whatever it is, is just superb.

  3. I too love “Cuyahoga.” I love a lot of REM’s stuff, and understand Steve losing interest, but for me they did try to mix it up album to album. I saw them on the “Automatic for the People” tour, and again with Sonic Youth on the “New Adventures in Hi Fi” soiree.

    They were fine both times, but I always felt they were more of an intimate band, and did not translate so well to stadiums simply because they seemed to write intimate songs.

    BTW,. you are completely right Gene. Per Wiki, “The song’s title refers to an incident in New York City in 1986, when two then-unknown assailants attacked journalist Dan Rather, while repeating “Kenneth, what is the frequency?”

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