Man on the Moon by R.E.M. Lyrics Meaning – Unraveling the Enigmatic Tribute to Belief and Disbelief


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for R.E.M.'s Man on the Moon at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning

Lyrics

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
I’ll see you in heaven if you make the list yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

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?

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his 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

Now, 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 his 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, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Now, 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 his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believed there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

If you believed they put a man on the moon
Man on the moon
If you believed there’s nothing up his sleeve
Then nothing is cool

Full Lyrics

When R.E.M. launched ‘Man on the Moon’ into the stratosphere of modern rock, they did more than release a hit; they crafted an aural canvas, rich with cultural references and the bittersweet taste of skepticism. The track stands as an enduring testament to the band’s lyrical depth and their ability to entwine poignancy with a touch of cryptic humor.

Not merely a song but a narrative portal, ‘Man on the Moon’ ushers listeners into a reflexive space where disbelief and wonder coalesce. The tune, with its entrancing harmonies, props the door open for us to question the fabric of reality amid the whirling dance of iconic figures and fables.

A Surreal Ode to Andy Kaufman

Diving into the playful yet profound pool of ‘Man on the Moon,’ one cannot overlook its homage to the enigmatic comedian Andy Kaufman. Known for his reality-bending antics, Kaufman’s spirit permeates the lyrics as R.E.M. subtly probes the blurry lines between fact and fabrication.

Channeling Kaufman’s own wrestling with authenticity, the song juxtaposes life’s competitive games with the wrestler’s legacy, questioning what is real in the echoes of his theatrical life. It’s as if the band dares us to peer behind the curtain of entertainment and see the truths Kaufman toyed with.

Skepticism in a Post-Moon Landing World

The repetitive chorus, ‘If you believed they put a man on the moon,’ challenges more than historical events; it speaks to the post-modern mindset of cynicism, where every claim demands scrutiny. It’s not the moon landing itself under R.E.M.’s lens but rather our capacity for belief in the incredible.

Coupled with ‘If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve,’ the song invites skepticism as a counterpart to wonder, hinting at magic tricks as metaphors for grand narratives we digest daily. Behind every wonder, behind every grand tale, the song seems to ask: what’s really happening?

History’s Eccentrics and Icons Assembled

Mott the Hoople, Newton, Darwin—R.E.M. assembles a motley crew of influential figures, binding them with Andy Kaufman in a tapestry of human curiosity and folly. The band’s mention of these cultural icons elicits reverence and cheekiness, a balance that defines much of their work.

Each vignette, from Moses with his staff to Newton’s apple, serves as a reminder of humanity’s repeated collisions with the unknown, and our attempts to make sense of it through myth or science. R.E.M. turns history and pop culture into a playground, romping through the absurdity and greatness of human endeavor.

Cryptic Lines and Catchy Refrains

‘Here’s a little agit for the never-believer,’ the band declares, using a cryptic term (agit) that adds depth to this riddle of a song. Is it agitation for the skeptic, or a trigger to agitate thought? In this lyrical puzzle, even the throwaway lines demand a second glance.

The refrains ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah’ punctuate the verses with a nod to the history of rock and roll, where such simple exclamations take on an anthemic quality. Each ‘yeah’ is a heartbeat in the song’s rhythm, a universal acknowledgment of collective experience in the inexplicable.

The Hidden Meaning: Belief as a Spectrum

A closer examination of ‘Man on the Moon’ reveals its richer layers—a commentary on belief’s spectrum. From profound religious figures to trivial board games, the song suggests that whether it’s the divine or the mundane, our beliefs shape the narratives we live by.

Thus, the song is an ode to the human condition, encompassing doubt, faith, and the peculiar joy found in recognizing that, like Kaufman’s bizarre universe, reality may always have another trick up its sleeve. It’s an existential journey, wrapped in the sublime strumming of Peter Buck’s guitar.

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