Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch”series where wefind out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music and musicians from the 60’s to today. Enjoy the trip!

“Man On The Moon” R.E.M.

This R.E.M. song is a tribute to American comedian Andy Kaufman, who had died at age 35. When he was a teenager, R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe saw Kaufman on Saturday Night Live, and has cited him as a huge influence ever since. There were many rumours that his death was just a major hoax (the same way there are still rumours that the moon landing was faked – hence the title).

People and things mentioned in this song: Mott the Hoople, Life, Monopoly, Twister, Risk, checkers, chess, twenty-one, wrestler Fred Blassie, Elvis Presley, Moses, Sir Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin.

Kaufman was known for his Elvis-impersonations, which he once performed on Saturday Night Live. Stipe tries one of his own on the line, “Hey, baby are we losing touch?”

This was used as the title for a 1999 movie about Andy Kaufman, starring Jim Carrey. R.E.M. did the soundtrack, which included this song.

In the liner notes for Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011, Peter Buck recalled how the music for this song came together: “‘Man on the Moon’ was something that Bill [Berry] had this one chord change that he came in with, which was C to D like the verse of the song, and he said, ‘I don’t know what to do with that.’ I used to finish some of Bill’s things … he would come up with the riffs, but I would be the finish guy for that. I sat down and came up with the chorus, the bridges, and so forth. I remember we showed it to Mike and Michael when they came in later; definitely we had the song finished. I think Bill played bass and I played guitar; we kept going around with it. I think we might have played some mandolin on it in the rehearsal studio.”The lyric, though, was another matter. Stipe struggled to find the right words and was against the clock because the album was due soon. Instead of working through it in the studio, the band took a few days off, during which Stipe listened to the track on a cassette in his rental car until he found inspiration. “When we reconvened, Michael walked into the studio, sang, ‘Man On The Moon’ once, and walked out,” Peter Buck said in the In Time compilation. “We were all stunned. It was one of those magic moments I’ll remember long after the award ceremonies and the photo sessions have disappeared into the mists of time.”

Now, Andy did you hear about this one?
Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby
Are we losing touch?

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