Automatic For The People -An R.E.M. Mixtape For The Next Administration

When you grow up in rural Georgia in a small town like I did, then the radio can be one of the few windows to an outside world. That and a collection of cassette tapes that you purchased over time at Turtle’s or Record Bar in Athens, GA when you went to the orthodontist or the doctor. Why Athens? Greensboro, GA only had 3500 people and was the county seat. If you wanted to go somewhere that had “something” you had to travel.

However, I was sent to Athens to go to high school. A kid from the “country” drove 30 miles each way to attend high school in a college town that became the hub of alternative rock music and the college sound.

So what happened was that the cassette collection I had in my home in Greensboro became a home for bands like R.E.M. Many a summer day in a hay field had me with a Sony Walkman with an R.E.M. tape playing.

I wear three lanyards where I teach high school. Don’t ask; it’s complicated. One of them has an IPod Shuffle (1st generation). My students invariably tease me about such antiquated equipment. After I tell them that I control their transcript and ultimately their academic lives, I then explain that it has all of my R.E.M. on it.

This past spring, I met one of the more eclectic gentlemen with a passion for public school, a knack for the law, and the ability to wear life like a loose cloak. And he worked with R.E.M for years.

And he knows where Weaver D’s is. And like me, knows that Philomath is an actual place near Athens.

R.E.M. disbanded in 2011, but they never disappeared. Their songs were politically and socially charged and are still pertinent to today’s political terrain. In fact, maybe more so.

So I dedicate this post to Bertis Downs and dedicate this R.E.M. mix tape to Donald Trump and his new cabinet in hopes that maybe they would listen to the words that others say instead of speaking out loud to listen to themselves.

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  1. Welcome To The Occupation” – from the album Document

“Hang your collar up inside
Hang your freedom higher
Listen to the buyer still
Listen to the Congress
Where we propagate confusion
Primitive and wild
Fire on the hemisphere below”

With a President-elect and the most inexperienced cabinet ever assembled, I sincerely hope that Trump has some understanding of what he will be responsible for. If he’s worried about how many Twitter followers that he has, he will soon realize that there will be no need for Twitter to become the focus of the media and the world. The microscope that his life will be examined through will not be forgiving. His life is not his own.

  1. Can’t Get There From Here” – from the album Fables of the Reconstruction

“Hands down, Calechee bound, landlocked, kiss the ground
Dirt of seven continents going round and round
Go on ahead, Mr. Citywide, hypnotized, suit-and-tied
Gentlemen, testify”

“Mr. Citywide, hypnotized, suit-and-tied” might be one of the most appropriate phrases to describe Trump. But with all of his campaign promises and fiery rhetoric, he is about to realize that he can’t get there from here. At least some of us know where Philomath is considering that we can’t go back to Rockville.

  1. Cuyahoga” – from the album Life’s Rich Pageant

“This is where we walked
This is where we swam
Take a picture here
Take a souvenir.”

I thought it very ironic that the RNC Convention tok place in Cleveland, a democratic stronghold, but what makes this song so pertinent is the tribute to the original settlers of our country. This song also came to mind because I have not really heard Trump make comment on the North Dakota pipeline debacle.

  1. Everybody Hurts” – from the album Automatic For The People

“When your day is long
And the night, the night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough
Of this life, well hang on.”

The video for this song is still one of the greatest ever. When I think of the lyrics, I am reminded that one of the promises made by politicians in seeking election is that they understand the plight of the average person. Trumo certainly played on those emotional appeals, but something tells me that while he may outwardly sympathize, he has no perspective to empathize.

There are too many people of varying race, creed, socio-economic background, and orientation who do not see the world as a friendly place. Trump has not done much to make them all feel welcome. This song preaches inclusion, not exclusion. It celebrates bridges (look at the video), not walls.

  1. Get Up” – from the album Green

“Life is rough, rough (get up, get up, get up)
I’ve seen you laying down (get up)
With the loving kind (get up, get up)
I know life is hard, hard (where goes your time?)
Where to turn? Where to turn? (get up)”

If you did not vote in this election, then Get Up for the next one.

  1. Losing My Religion” – from the album Out of Time

“Oh life, it’s 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”

Life is bigger than Trump. Now that he will be president, he has many lives that are bigger than his. The term “losing my religion” has been explained to me as losing faith in someone or something. That makes sense when I think of the electoral college.

Besides, religion and spirituality are two different things.

  1. Orange Crush” – from the album Green

“(Follow me, don’t follow me)
I’ve got my spine, I’ve got my orange crush
(Collar me, don’t collar me)
I’ve got my spine, I’ve got my orange crush
(We are agents of the free)
I’ve had my fun and now it’s time to serve your conscience overseas
(Over me, not over me)
Coming in fast, over me (oh, oh).”

This song refers to the Vietnam War. And while Orange Crush is a soft drink from my childhood it is a direct reference to Agent Orange. My hope is that Trump and his cabinet will have enough spine to not insert our country into military action when not necessary.

  1. World Leader Pretend” – from the album Green

“I sit at my table and wage war on myself
It seems like it’s all, it’s all for nothing
I know the barricades
And I know the mortar in the wall breaks
I recognize the weapons, I’ve used them well

This is my mistake
Let me make it good
I raised the wall
And I will be the one to knock it down”

Walls. Waging war. Will Trump understand that the world does not follow him because he is himself?

  1. Finest Worksong” – from the album Document

“Take your instinct by the reins
You’d better best to rearrange
What we want and what we need
Has been confused, been confused”

Actually, now is the time to get to work.

  1. It’s The End of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” – from the album Document

Please. You need an explanation?

8 thoughts on “Automatic For The People -An R.E.M. Mixtape For The Next Administration

  1. Love it. I’ve been listening to lots of REM since the election. The lyrics and feelings have seemed so appropriate. Thanks for putting into words.

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  2. Very good list and write up. I was thinking the same thing after the election. It would be nice to hear new R.E.M. tunes. It is nice to hear Michael state he is ready to start making music again which may lead to something. I live in FL and loved traveling to Athens to visit over the years. You must have been able to witness a few amazing events being so close to Athens. All the best to you.

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  3. Other candidates:

    “Fall on Me”
    “Exhuming McCarthy”
    “Drive”
    “Ignoreland”
    “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”
    “Walk Unafraid”
    “Bad Day”
    “Final Straw”
    “Hollow Man”

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  4. Perfectly put and a welcome read. Can’t fault Dr Orpheus’ additional suggestions (above) either. Fall On Me, Exhuming McCarthy, Walk Unafraid and Final Straw certainly have to be on there.

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  5. Pingback: The Top Ten Posts Of 2016 – Read Again For the First Time Or Ignore Once More | caffeinated rage

  6. Nice List. Thanks for writing this. I, too, am an R.E.M. diehard who first became initiated when Document came out on cassette. I ran across an article about how “Document” may be the most appropriate album for these times – and I listened to it straight through (rather than skipping to “Disturbance at the Heron House” or “King of Birds” as I would in the past). Document is so visceral and bittersweet – somehow ringing so true nearly 30 years later. These days, “Fireplace” plays on and on in the soundtrack in my mind…

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