Wendell Gee

May 9, 2007

Peter Buck has made no secret of loathing this song, and it’s easy to understand why. “Wendell Gee” is corny and saccharine to such a degree that it’s actually somewhat surprising that it’s actually an R.E.M. original — the sappy tone is so far off from the prevailing mood of Fables of the Reconstruction that it comes off like an unusually earnest cover rather than a pastiche of a sentimental country ballad. It’s more difficult to grasp why the band felt it was necessary to tack the song on to the end of the album when “Good Advices” would have been a perfectly fine conclusion, but it’s pretty and tuneful enough to get a pass even if it is the weakest track on the record by a considerable distance.

59 Responses to “Wendell Gee”

  1. maclure Says:

    Would disagree it is the weakest track on the record by a distance. I think it provides an unusual twist to the Fables story. The overall mood of the album is of dark and brooding landscapes and journeys. I always took Wendall Gee to be the protagonist in retirement. Having been everywhere and done everything, he now slows down, goes for walks and finds contentment in the small things.


  2. I have a hard time thinking of Fables as being an album with a protagonist — so much of it is incredibly voyeuristic, Michael looking into the lives of these strange, isolated older men.

  3. Gabriel Peters Says:

    Since yesterday I didn´t listen to Fables as an entire album for 15 years. When I was a student my roommade had the vinyl and we listened to it a lot. (My roommade didn´t like the first track “felling gravity pulls”, because it was too “dark and gothic” for her, so we always start listening with “maps and legends”.) Yesterday I bought the CD. This is the album that reminds me why I love(d) the music of R.E.M. so much: When you are german like me, you can´t hardly understand a word Stipe is singing, but his murmering meant so much for me. I saw R.E.M. with the Fables-Tour in a little club in Frankfurt/Germany. They played more than three hours (really!!) and I can´t wait until the end of the concert, because I had to take my train back home. “Wendell Gee” is alternative country at its best long before Bonnie prince billy or Ryan Adams gave that genre popularity. When Fables came out, in Germany we just got Music from USA like Journey, Styx, Foreigner and stuff like that. Fables blew me away. After Fables I lost a very little bit interest in R.E.M. I think in some ways it´s the peak of their artistic statements.

  4. ozon Says:

    I disagree, this is a beautiful and unique song. Lovely harmonies as well.

  5. Bandwagon03 Says:

    I have to say, i disagree as well, Wendell Gee is a great and approriate way to end the album, its very quirky, dark, and kind of wistful, as you would expect a character like Wendell Gee to be wrapping up his life. But in my opinion, “Old Man Kensey” is the worst song on the album, it goes nowhere. But, i digress…

  6. James Says:

    I love Mills’ bass part on “Old Man Kensey,” though. But I’m a bass guitarist myself.

  7. Jerad Says:

    Wendell Gee certainly isn’t one of my favorites on the album, but it does sort of gently close out the album. I heard a good performance of this song by Mike Mills for some Georgia radio station a few years ago. It’s always cool to hear his solo take on R.E.M.’s songs. My least favorite on Fables is Kohotek; that has to be their most boring song.

  8. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Funny how opinions can be so different as “Old Man Kensey” is one of my 3 favorites from Fables. “Wendell Gee” for me sort of always played a similar role for Fables that “Find The River” does for AFTP. It is a peaceful, calm, warm moment that brings some sense of positive closure to a record that is otherwise largely dark and brooding. That said, “Find The River” is the superior song, but “Wendell Gee” always worked for me very well in the context of the album; as a stand-alone track it is somewhat weaker, but I still think it is a decent REM tune and not the weakest song on Fables by any means. It may also help to remember that Fables producer Joe Boyd is a famous folk musician and producer and it is possible that he had a strong influence on this song.

    In unrelated news, I went and saw the Morrissey concert last night in Salt Lake City and it was really good. He played a good mix of new and old Moz favorites and even threw in about 5 Smiths songs which were done quite well. It was a little surreal though as he opened the show with The Smiths “The Queen Is Dead” and most of the fans acted like they had never heard the song, and then he played “First Of The Gang To Die” off of last year’s “You Are The Quarry” and the place exploded. I like Morrissey’s new stuff but how can you be a fan of Moz and not know “The Queen Is Dead”? As I said, surreal (maybe I am just old!)🙂

  9. Danny Doom Says:

    I’ve always liked Wendell Gee, but now that you mention it, Bandwagon would have been a nice addition to Fables instead of it. Not as the last song, but somewhere in there. It took me a long time to like Kohoutek on that album, but now I love it, along with most of the rest. The one I could do without? Can’t Get There From Here.

  10. gabriel peters Says:

    “Crazy” would have been an nice addition to fables, better than “Bandwagon” IMHO


  11. Great songs and/or cheezy songs are totally relative. Just like beauty, it’s in the ears of the beholder. R.E.M is an awesome band and whoever tries to cover their songs are on shaky grounds.

  12. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    My two least favorites on Fables are definately “Kohoutek” and “Can’t Get There From Here”. Although Kohoutek fits the tone and feel of the album well. “Can’t Get There From Here” has always seemed to fit the tone and feel lyrically, but be way out of place on Fables musically.

  13. mouserobot Says:

    I love this song. Fables (to me anyway) is about long arduous journies. I always bring this record with me on long bus trips. Anyway, Wendell Gee says to me that the journey may have sucked, but you got there alive and in one piece and now you’re tired and you just want to have a drink and crawl into bed. I never paid attention to the lyrics though so it might be about something else entirely.


  14. […] Wendell Gee Peter Buck has made no secret of loathing this song, and it’s easy to understand why. “Wendell Gee” […] […]

  15. Tony in NYC Says:

    Wendell Gee is an automotive repair shop which is along the country road outside of Athens, heading toward Rabbitown, which is where Reverand R.A. Miller, the folk artist who Michael has always admired, lives.

    I’m really enjoying your blog.

  16. Kirsten Says:

    I love this song. I think it’s a beautiful story and the music is great. “Whistle as the wind blows” may be corney, but it still sounds beautiful to me, and I love the harmonies under it as well – they really set the mood for the song. I think this song could stand up on it’s own easily without the rest of the album, but it’s certainly not out of place there.
    “Kohoutek” is the worst song on Fables without a doubt. “Old Man Kensey” is one of my favourites.

  17. 2fs Says:

    I liked the song a lot better when I thought Mills’ countermelody lyrics were “come as you are” (this is years before Nirvana, btw) rather than “gonna miss you boy.”

    Anyway: how can anyone not love “Kohoutek”? Kids these days, I tell ya…

  18. Csnow1 Says:

    I have an entirely different Wendell Gee experience to share. Somehow, and I can’t explain it, Wendell Gee ended up as the song I listened to over and over again one very long drunken night in 1987, I believe, as I whined and cried over my girlfriend breaking up with me. My best friend from the time still remembers me walking in circles around our coffee table and singing every word that I knew from Wendell Gee while weeping and swilling beers. I was still playing vinyl, and I repeatedly picked up the needle and continued my ritual. I think the simple beauty in the song probably soothed me somehow. It is one of my all-time faves. Can’t wait for the new album!

  19. Bunnia Says:

    ~~~If I write a book it would be called…~~~

    This is my favorite R.E.M. album!! I first heard R.E.M. when I was 16/17 and I got LRP and Document, and then I backtracked and got FOTR (and CT,M,& R). IT CHANGED MY LIFE!! Or maybe I should say it helped me APPRECIATE my life and where I live. If I were to explain just how then I’d be writing all night long. But I will say that the VIBE of it reminds me of living in the South and some of the interesting people, places, similar stories and old sayings here. I appreciate R.E.M. for always expressing this and acknowledging it in their earlier music. I am black and living in the South has not always been exactly easy living for me, but R.E.M. was (and is) a breath of fresh air because they helped me forget about all the negativity and opened my eyes to more positive thinking and seeing things in a different light. OK, so I’m stuck on this album…..my, my, my,…. it just reminds me of traveling from North Carolina to Georgia every summer when I was a kid. The music and the songwriting is brilliant. I’m on my third copy! “Wendell Gee” is a flowing song and to me it makes FOTR complete, like a book’s final chapter. I adore the live acoustic version on the “When the Light Is Mine” DVD. AMAZING!! (I have a thing for live acoustic R.E.M.). I do wish that they would have squeezed “Bandwagon” on there because it’s a great song! I absolutely LOVE it.

    To: Beethoven Was Deaf– I am not a huge Smiths fan but I remember “The Queen Is Dead”, so your not the only “old” one up here. Ahha! HaHaha!

  20. Dan23 Says:

    Matt,

    It would be interesting to hear what songs each band member loathes the most, maybe they should post their top 10 least favorite REM songs. I wonder how many of the songs are on the last 3 albums…

    I’ve always liked this song, Fables is my favorite album. And like the first post here, I feel it closes the travels of the album, but there isn’t a protagonist of the album either as Matt mentions.

    Matt I would ask that you go deeper with your dissections of these songs, like you started with, this last one is more a comment rather than an explanation I felt.

    I’m enjoying the comments!
    Thanks again,
    Daniel

  21. Gerard Says:

    “Corny and saccharine”? I disagree strongly. “Built a trunk of chickenwire…the wire turned to lizard skin and when he climbed inside there wasn’t even time to say….” Sounds creepy and gothic – fits perfectly with the rest of the album. “Gonna miss you boy” might be a little sappy if it weren’t for the darkness of the rest of the song. Probably my favorite album when push comes to shove. Not one song I’d leave off. Kahoutek might be my favorite REM song of all.


  22. Keep in mind that I wasn’t exactly referring to the lyrics of “Wendell Gee” as much as the sound of it.


  23. I got a banjo for Xmas this year and this was the first song I learned on it. Lyrically, it reminds me of something off the American Anthology of Folk Music. I’ve always thought of it as a perfect end to one of my favorite albums.

  24. Ignis Sol Says:

    I have learned to love Kahoutek and just adore Wendell Gee. It’s melody is devastatingly haunting. I always thought of Wendell as somewhat of a simple-minded person living a decidedly solitary life in the American south.
    I read that the “real” Wendell Gee (of Wendell Gee’s Used Cars) died in 1994…

  25. Michael Black, Ph.D. Says:

    I think Peter is wrong. Wendell Gee is a fine song, carried primarily by the doleful banjo. I assume Peter is playing it, not Mike. In any event, it is not out of place on Fables. Rather, it is very thematically consistent with the rest of the record; an idiosyncratically delivered story about an idiosyncratic character (It amazes me how Stipe seemed to “be” everyone on that record). It’s a vegetable myth, stemming (pun intended) from the loam of a distant, but not so distant agrarian society.

  26. Andy T Says:

    Interesting views on this song. I’ve always really liked Wendall Gee, the arrangement and the lyrics, ever since I first heard it playing in the background in a record store in the late 80s. Never thought of it as blatantly corny or anything like that. But maybe part of it is the banjo, which is an instrument I like. Good closer for the album.


  27. I’ve got to say, I’m kinda surprised that so many people are way into this song.

  28. Adam Seddon Says:

    It’s definitely Peter playing the banjo. His only (reluctant) contribution to a song he hates. I think it’s kinda pretty…

  29. Eclipse Says:

    I have to admit, when listening to Fables when I was younger, I never liked this song. Although the meaning of it wasn’t any clearer than any other song, something about the vagueness of it just put me off. I also didn’t like the title, for whatever reason! It’s grown on me some nowadays, but it isn’t anywhere near my favorite songs from this album. It is a pretty banjo bit, kind of sad and wistful. I like the harmonies at the end; that part always sucked me reluctantly into a song I might otherwise have skipped. It does make a good album closer.

  30. corduroy13 Says:

    30th comment! Also, I too enjoy “Wendell Gee”. Never bothered me in the least. I love the bizarre lyrics about the trunk made out of chicken wire. A sweet, straightforward Americana folk tune about a real eccentric, written by another eccentric. Wonderful.

  31. dumbek Says:

    Wow. I couldn’t disagree more. WG is easily one of my top 10 R.E.M. songs. It fits perfectly into Fables and is a great closer. It’s like a big hug at the end of the dark record. I can’t imagine Fables without it.

  32. Ben Says:

    Wendell Gee may very well be in my top 10 REM songs of all time, and I’d venture to say it’s the prettiest songs from a band known for writing lovely songs.

    Frankly, I have no explanation for my love of this song, nor do I understand anything that Micheal is talking about. But it chills me, nevertheless.

  33. Eivind Says:

    As a fan who’s introduction to R.E.M. came with Automatic I have to say that this is the song on Fables that I could immediately relate to.

    I’ve grown to really love the IRS-years of R.E.M.’s catalog with time, but for me Automatic is still the record that I connect with teenage heartache and dreams and I’ll readily admit that I have a weak spot for R.E.M.’s more tender and beautiful melodies, those songs that I guess some people might call “saccharine”.

    For me Wendell Gee is just a really beautiful melody although I never really got what it was about. Unfortunately R.E.M. don’t play this song live anymore.


  34. Actually, if you look back on the R.E.M. Timeline site, you’ll see that they never played it back in the old days either, mainly because Peter never cared for it.

  35. dumbek Says:

    They played it a handful of times – but it was very rare.

  36. Sam Says:

    Wendell Gee contains all the elements that I love about R.E.M.: uplifting lyrics, lovely harmonies and Michael’s wonderful vocal performance.
    You may dismiss such tracks as saccharine but I consider them beautiful from Perfect Circle all the way through to I Wanted To Be Wrong. Tracks such as these including Find The River and Be Mine resonate at an emotional level. I have not been able to find other artists who can write such simple but gorgeous songs that can move me time and time again.


  37. Sam, you just mentioned a bunch of songs that I love! Believe me, I don’t really have a problem with the pretty, romantic songs. I just don’t really care for “Wendell Gee.” I mean, it’s alright, I don’t hate it or anything.

  38. Shel Says:

    I can honestly say it’s my favorite REM song from my favorite REM album. I named my dear departed pug after this song.

  39. The Ledge Says:

    This is a great blog but I was shocked to see Wendell Gee dismissed in such a way. The first time I heard it was back in 1984 on BBC Radio One’s In Concert programme which was a broadcast of their Nottingham Rock City gig, one of the few times they played the song live. I, too, suspected it might be a cover, simply because I thought it impossible for such a young band to write something of such timeless beauty. Needless to say it’s probably in my REM top 10.

    I also love Old Man Kensey, the first REM song I ever heard (Whistle Test, BBC, 1984) and a completely life-changing experience.

  40. gedos Says:

    I’ve taken to listening to my REM collection on shuffle for the juxtapositions it throws up and Wendell Gee is one of the tracks that always makes me stop and listen, along with Life and how to live it (live version) off singles collected. There is something about this track that just begs attention.

  41. untruth Says:

    “Wendell Gee” is one of my Top Five REM songs and always will be – it still gives me shivers when I hear it, 22 years on.

    Actually, what Peter said was that he couldn’t stand it until they(he) worked out the banjo part, after which it made sense, and he now tolerates the song.

  42. St. Juttemis Says:

    Okay, so this is YOUR opinion and therefore valid. Can’t say I agree with it for more tna 0%, though. ‘Wendell Gee’ is not a bad song and I can’t remember PLB saying anything like you claim he said. As far as I know they don’t play it live because it just doesn’t work like on the album. As for PLB he doesn’t like playing banjo live at all… I doubt he dislikes the song at all.

  43. Dark Bob Says:

    This is a great song from my favorite REM record. One thing I liked about REM in the early days was that country feel that many of their songs had. I would love to see them do this one live.

  44. Dave-O Says:

    Until you’ve seeen Mike Mills perform this live as a solo act in a half filled room about 20 feet away from your face you can’t really begin to understand and appreciate it. It is now quite possibly one of my favorite cuts. No… pause… pause… pause… very possibly. I mean who climbs into a tree trunk and after trying to patch it with chicken write? This guy Wendell Gee is nothing if not commited. Go Gee Go.

  45. transformerdog Says:

    God , I’m loving this record tonight !!—something has suddenly clicked with me with this record ! It’s like I am appreciating more and more the views of folks who were into REM back in the early days when they still were the early days, ruefully I realize that I blew it ,was alive but not aware of the magic at that time ..This stuff is just exquisite, and I think this song is wrongfully dismissed by both Peter and Matthew (no ,not the apostles) ..Mr.Michael Black, PhD. wherever you be , you’re right on with the word “idiosyncratic”, these songs are beautifully unique ,off the scale oddball idiosyncratic, lushly I can almost smell Savannah, the characters there ..It’s like the band is sitting here with me and telling me stories of a richly textured time and place that no longer exists, and the eye for detail in the storyteller is remarkable . Feel like I am being given a pricless gift in the treasure of these songs..In wet early morning shades sometimes rain seeps into the slumber tree saplings, tendering the isolation , yearning the dream from it’s gnarled and weary cylinder. Downside of the dreamy south though: Upscale was created by hapless Antibellum Africans ensnared inside the drudgery zero of no option insurance before they practticed the liquid thuggery of no education is. I’d be pissed ,too.

  46. transformerdog Says:

    God Bless You Bunnia

  47. Bruno Says:

    When I first played this song, lots, back then, I was sure they had overdubbed children in the last chorus. It was one of my favorite REM touches. Something you could barely pick out almost lost in the mix (something they did a lot). But I went back and listened carefully with headphones just now and decided it was only a resonance/dissonance caused by the banjo, strings and acoustics and I had imagined it to be voices. Sad a bit. I thought it was wonderful and I was amazed at the effect – turns out I made it up. To me, back then, it had sounded like children’s voices drifting in the wind. But it was just the vibration and overtones of the instruments that I had picked up on and had nothing to do with what the band had actually recorded. I guess it was my own little slice of magic dreamed up by listening to that wonderful timeless sound.

  48. transformerdog Says:

    Peter, comically , has said that , “The bango comes in like a chicken from hell.” Why would he say that ? I think it sounds great , very appropos.

  49. pk Says:

    Murmur and Reckoning came out while I was in high school and oblivious. (I liked classic rock, but I also liked Huey Lewis. Sue me.) When I got to college (a small school in Indiana), I put them on sides A and B of a 90-minute Maxell UDS-II, bought the Replacements’ Let It Be, and was ready when Fables came out the next summer. OK, I was kind of “eh” on it, except for a couple tracks, until I saw them perform it that fall at IU and again at Butler University. (In those days, children, R.E.M. toured *every* fall!)

    Those shows “changed my life” the way the previous generation described Who shows. Opening with the jagged shadow-play of “Feeling Gravitys Pull”; Michael Stipe’s improvised storytelling intro to “Old Man Kinsey”; the kinetic chaos that led into “Auctioneer” (I don’t think you can appreciate that song if you didn’t see that tour); the debut of “Michael and Peter do a really intense ‘So. Central Rain’ by themselves”; the cover of “Radar Love” (fuckin’ A!).

    And the world-rattling closing with “Life and How to Live It.” I remember Michael Stipe in suspenders and a t-shirt in Bloomington (he’d started the show in a newspaper fez that he shed to reveal, yes, the mustard hair) and in a vintage heavy velvet woman’s housecoat in Indianapolis (which he’d surely shed by the fucking *encore*, but that’s what I remember–and Bill Berry wearing a sleeveless Union Jack, or what some will always unforgivably call a “Def Leppard t-shirt”–but I digress). Anyway, Michael Stipe (not “Michael,” not “Stipe”: “Michael Stipe”) at this point was not a “celebrity,” but rather some amalgam of artist-rock star-shaman, and yet still ONE OF US. He attacked the choruses the way someone who’s not yet a mortal professional will, bending to put his back into it, punching the air with each cymbal crash, racing back and forth across the stage with joy and rage and youthful power–drawing something out of the crowd, pouring something back into it, demanding something of it. All I know is we left feeling like we were supposed to go and do some damn thing or other, and that’s a feeling I’ve never been able to shake.

    R.E.M. doing “Life and How to Live It” in 1985. Of course they’d been at it a few years, and no doubt I missed a classic club era, but this was the band getting their first grab at big auditoriums nationwide, doing it completely their way, *our* way, not like fucking Bon Jovi or whoever the fuck. (The Minutemen opened for them in Indianapolis, the only time I ever saw them, because D. Boon died about a month later.) R.E.M. were almost as young and naive as we were, and I really think we all, them and us, still thought it was possible to trigger some kind of reaction that would shockwave into the world outside and just…you know…CHANGE IT!

    Anyway, that’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to write about R.E.M. Now, “Wendell Gee,” as the closer of Fables of the Reconstruction, whose curiously under-recorded songs I went back and listened to repeatedly after those two shows (they got a lot closer to their live sound with Lifes Rich Pageant), is certainly close enough to perfect. Starting on the off-beat, those two drum kicks easing us into the gravity of the first chords, and then Michael Stipe, in mid-story, bidding that we catch up with his story of this mad, humble…redneck? peasant? hillbilly? gentleperson? I like gentleperson, precious though it seems. Wendell wishes only to control, prop up, or at least coax some respite from his world–failing that, he surrenders, and we are left to consider the space he left. The song is a pastorale, I think; a call to recognize–and intervene in, with chickenwire, if necessary–the natural spaces behind the house you live in.

    “Gonna miss you, boy”?! I always thought it was “Go as you are” (listen to it–it sounds like that), which seems much deeper and more existential, but I’ll be damned, it is “Gonna miss you, boy.”

    Post-script: I’ve got two boys, and a third child on the way. My oldest is 5, and when I used to put him to bed, scraping for melodic songs I knew the words to, this was a regular. He asked for it a lot, and I sang it a lot, but, as a parent, even though you cherish those moments, you also weasel out of them as often as you can, because you’re still a selfish human with your own stuff to do. Gonna miss you, boy.

  50. Gary C. Huested Says:

    “Keep in mind that I wasn’t exactly referring to the lyrics of ‘Wendell Gee’ as much as the sound of it.”

    Which is my complaint with you analysis/review.

    The beauty of “Wendell Gee,” the sensitive vocals of Michael guiding us through the song, the harmony of Mike’s and Bill’s singing, the delicate acoustic guitar playing of Peter jangling through the first half of the song before blending with the banjo in support of the song’s second half, and the metronomic beat of Bill’s drumminghave always struck a chord deep inside me.

    Seems to me this is the perfect ender for an album that deals with new fables of the south, and Wendell Gee is certainly a fable. The story R.E.M. tells to me of Wendell Gee is mythic and archetypal: Wendell Gee, who whistled while the wind blew, who had the dream to hold together the tree that had lost its middle. There is irony in the conditional clauses of the song’s last lines, for the wind does have colors and the air can speak to those who dare to look and listen. Wendell is, indeed, heroic. Amid the timeless beauty of the band’s song, and the sadness of not having time to say good-bye to someone who so heroically dares “to whistle as the wind blows,” we can all take solace.

    Over-simplified but to the heart of the matter.

    Fables is in my estimation REM’s best album, their most coherent, their most musical, their magnum opus.

  51. Michael Black Ph.D. Says:

    pk, that was a beautiful post. I read it twice, verbatim.

    “All I know is we left feeling like we were supposed to go and do some damn thing or other, and that’s a feeling I’ve never been able to shake.”

    Damn right. I’ve felt the same.

    One of the many things I love about REM is that from the very beginning they sought an intimate connection to their audience. As someone who joined the “bandwagon” at the point of Reckoning, I think that willingness to connect has been the aegis of their long success.

    I think REM exemplify Matt Groening’s observation that “Audience’s expand the mythologies of a creator’s world” and that creators “succeed when we give them something worthy of their devotion.” Simply put, REM esteems their audience.

    Therefore, I think that it’s not about what any given REM song means. It’s about what it means to “me.” As a result, the posts I enjoy more than any others are the really personal one’s in which people tell stories of what the songs and the band mean to them. Yours does that. Thanks.

  52. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Welcome Back Mr. Michael Black, Ph.D
    I missed you , Man………….

  53. ScottMalobisky Says:

    YES, pk, that was a PRODIIGIOUSLY AWESOME AND MOVING post !!!!! arguably the best I’ve seen on this blog so far, (I stress arguably ), really touched me deep, especially liked the part about how “all I know is that we left feeling like we were supposed to go and do some damn thing or other ,and that’s a feeling I’ve never been able to shake.”…I wish I would have experienced that right smack in the middle of my formative years, things would be so different now for me…….

  54. Paul Alferink Says:

    Wendell Gee was a single, wasn’t it?

  55. scottyhp Says:

    It’s an incredible song and an unforgettable way to close the album. Makes sense I’m not much of a fan anymore, I guess. I happen to love a song the bandmembers (at least one of them) don’t like, and a devoted member thinks of as the weakest song on the album “by a distance.” Sappy and corny? Please.

  56. scotchgannon Says:

    I have to say for the 50 somthingth time, I too, adore this song. I think enough has been said about the content of the lyrics to satisfy me, but I have to mention its languid, swinging rhythm. It uses a very simple chord progression, but the effect is memorable and bitter-sweet. I would agree that the song is sentimental, but IMO, tastefully so. One of my top 5 REM favorites.

  57. mark harris Says:

    Among all REM songs, this is the one I wonder about most. First, I love the song. When the band wants to remind us about Southern roots, they can, in powerfully understated ways like Wendell Gee. Rather than retirement,or the end of a life’s journey, I’ve always tended toward the suggestion of a man losing his grasp on reality, sliding toward at least deep depression if not outright insanity. I read an obituary on Wendell Gee a few years ago. The most interesting notation — he was preceded in death by a son. Perhaps that event, the loss of his boy, started a downward spiral he was unable to stop. In any event, a quiet, poingnant, haunting piece.

  58. Adrian Penketh Says:

    I think this is the kind of REM song that can be loved or derided in equal measure depending on the mood the listener is in. That’s what people forget about music, it’s art, it doesn’t mean the same thing day to day.

  59. Ray Says:

    Yeah, perhaps the best or second best REM song of all time (for me anyway). For a northerner, Boston born and bred, REM (and Fables, in particular) made me love and appreciate the south in a way I never imagined. Even took the wife to Athens – we rented a car and drove around getting stoned listening to Fables and Murmur. Ate at Automatic and that veggie Stipe place – visited Finster (just before he passed away). Oh yeah, it was May and our Motel was across the street from the “Athens Inside Out” Chapel!

    Can’t listen to their music after Bill left.


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