Thursday, 20 January 2011

Food and drink in the works of REM

When I was much younger I imagined being on Mastermind, with the works of REM as my specialist subject. Then, one day, I saw the programme and someone was answering questions on REM in the specialist round. He only got a few more correct than I did without preparing. I no longer wanted to be on Mastermind.

Vocalist Michael Stipe must have the largest vocabulary of any rock lyricist. The words always approach a subject from an interesting and oblique angle. Here’s some of my favourite food and drink imagery in REM songs:

“I have got to find the river
Bergamot and vetiver run through my head and fall away

There is nothing left to throw
Of ginger, lemon, indigo
Coriander stem and rows of hay”
(Find the River)

“Today I need something more substantial: a can of beans or black-eyed peas, some Nescafe and ice.”
(The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite).

“That’s sugarcane that tasted good, that’s cinnamon that’s Hollywood.”
(Imitation of Life).

“Birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom!”
(It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine)

“I cried the other night
I can’t even say why
Fluorescent flat caffeine light
It’s furious balancing”

“a tea made from the leaves of eucalyptus fragrances and coriander seeds”

“after wine and nectarines, the fireflies and time, move like syrup through the evening, with a sweet resign.”
(Summer Turns To High)

“It’s a new day today and the coffee is strong.”

“I’d settle for a cup of coffee, but you know what I really need.”
(I don’t sleep I dream)

"Hot Java, a steaming hot cup of joe...
Got a cup of sugar I can borrow, a nice bit of cream?
A nice cup of coffee, to set the scene."
(Java [1995 fan club single])

You may have noticed a coffee theme emerging. I have an REM coffee mug (won in a raffle at the Monster LP release party in Athens, Georgia). Some of the coffee references possibly link to the theme of sleeping and (Rapid Eye Movement) dreaming that regularly emerge in the band’s records. I am also guessing that Michael Stipe likes a good cup of coffee.

Do you know if they do the same specialist subject twice?

Allison Hazen commented on your link [to this page from FaceBook]: "Some of the references also describe the physical in terms of food, such as, moving like syrup, fragrances, and the color of light in terms of food. This is a very southern trait. We use it in our speech all of the time. That's part of why others think we are linguistically colorful."

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