World Leader Pretend

August 6, 2007

“World Leader Pretend” is the first song in the R.E.M. catalog to be released with its lyrics printed in the liner notes. This would not be tremendously interesting and significant if the band had not cultivated at least some of its initial popularity based on the combination of Michael Stipe’s somewhat inscrutable lyrics and his occasionally impenetrable diction, or if the band didn’t come off like the sort of people who were withholding printed lyrics in the packaging as some kind of point about their art. Also, it wouldn’t be such a big deal if it was not the only song from the album to have its lyrics printed, thus giving the impression that we’re supposed to think that the words are especially important, i.e., these are lyrics that the band want you to notice and think about a bit more than, say, “Get Up” or “Stand.” Michael has said that the lyrics were printed mainly because he felt that the song was the key track on the album, and it kinda is, at least in the sense that it is the selection that most fully integrates the personal and political themes of the set.

“World Leader Pretend” is essentially about a troubled, delusional loner who has cut himself off from the world, but ironically, he interprets his internal monologue in the terms of political policy. He’s essentially a man poisoned by his acute self-awareness — he notes every minute change in his mind, depersonalizes his emotions, and attempts to reduce complex feelings into simple, rational causes and effects. The implication seems to be that though the personal may indeed be political, it’s a folly to turn our personalities into politics.

The band’s arrangement for “World Leader Pretend” is rather stark and solemn. The jangling rhythm guitar and brisk beat are vintage R.E.M., but the transitions between sections involving cello, piano, and pedal steel guitar are elegant and understated, mainly because the parts do not repeat or overlap. The composition carries us through gradual emotional shifts, but the singer’s epiphanies are presented as isolated moments in time. The backing vocals by Mike Mills are equally clever, and geared towards underlining and expanding concepts from the lyrics, most especially in the way the words “sympathize” and “empathize” overlap in such a way that complicates and confuses the sentiment, and nearly makes the line sound like “it’s amazing what devices you can synthesize,” which seems somewhat intentional in the context of a song about a man who invents his own reality.


110 Responses to “World Leader Pretend”

  1. maclure Says:

    Hee hee, the first comment. That’s all I wanted to say… and what an astonishing song this is.

    Mike said this song was brought to Michael as a sort of jangly, fun, summery tune and JMS turned it into this dark and brooding piece with his lyrics. (Imagine if he had done the same with Near Wild Heaven). Another reason lyrics are included in the liner notes, I think: JMS cites these as some of the lyrics he was most satisfied with and was happy for the world to see them.

  2. Scott Says:

    The origin of the deluded politics of exclusion is the barricaded interior. Lest anyone forget that “Green” arrived in the United States on Election Day 1988.

  3. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Juggernaut City , coming on the heels of the seemingly fluffy at first listen Stand , slaps you up side your head like instant karma , then you spend years analyzing and trying to decipher it; can be interpreted on so many levels really, the lyrics I mean..

  4. maclure Says:

    …one interesting angle on the song: it was used once during a sports quiz show in England as the soundtrack to a series of clips of numerous athletes winning events (Question of Sport, I think). I don’t know the reason for the choice, but maybe some BBC jobsworth picked up on the “World Leader” title. Anyway, it struck me at the time as sort of apt in a surreal way – the determined and strategic way athletes prepare, train and control their bodies, the acute mental strength and strategic acumen required to defeat opponents and become the best – even just for a moment – at a very specific and (in the greater scheme of things) ultimately unimportant physical skill. There’s something of the “World Leader Pretend” about all that…

  5. jim jos Says:

    I can clearly point out that I, long ago, crossed the line from “casual fan” or even “big fan” to “obsessive fan” because, to me, the lyrics in the liner notes are a big deal and I have a tough time, when I think about Green, of not thinking about WLP and the lyrics inside presented on it.

    The band acknowledges the inspiration of Leonard Cohen here, using political and military metaphors for the wars that are fought from within. But Stipes lyrics are so effective and so good on their own that its not any kind of rip off. (I don’t think Hope is either, but that’s for a later discussion). The way that Stipe clearly outlines his own personality with his own unique brand of solitude and uncertainty makes for a uniquely R.e.m. take on things.

    It’s right up there with “Letter Never Sent” “Country Feedback” and “E-Bow” as one of those great Stipe poem letter type songs. He is very gifted at those type of things, it is tough to fall outside of lyrical constraints and have it be any good. Usually it comes off really pretentious. It’s like jazz for lyricists.

    I don’t know why this was the exact moment that Stipe said “Damn, I can write very good songs” he had already proved that so often in the past. Maybe here is where he discovered that he could write very good songs that were intimately about himself.

  6. Scott Says:

    “Green” is R.E.M.’s children’s record. Even “World Leader Pretend,” though more serious and musically detailed than the songs that come before it, is a child’s song–a song about pretending. The songs before the fault line of “Pretend” are the most innocent-sounding (or ironically naive, as you like) of the band’s career: simple meters and rhymes, playful shouts and harmonies, lines sung in greeting or meant to rouse, words of reassurance (“you’re in the backseat, laying down”). To quote the title of a great Ray Bradbury story, it’s the sound of summer running. What follows it are songs of childhood’s end (“The Wrong Child,” a prayer over a stunted body) and the consequences of adult pretense–war, control (political as well as sexual–“Turn You Inside Out” is the germ that will sprout “Monster”), shame, geographic and cultural devastation. The untitled final song snaps the music open again with a stuttering, childish beat, ready to make the second half of “Green” a bad dream of being away from youth and family; it’s a nursery song, sung almost in round, of returning home. “World Leader Pretend” might be the album’s intended center, but the ideas of “Green” seem to float out from it rather than move toward it.

  7. Ignis Sol Says:

    In my opinion, George W. Bush is a β€œWorld Leader Pretend”. Michael wrote this using the political language from the Reagan/Bush era and it still pertains today. This fact is very sad. Reach out for me.

    The song plays both political and personal. I like that. R.E.M. earnestly examines these with this song. The music is integral in this song because it helps to dramatize the intense lyrics, which we get to read (at last) like a litany in a hymnbook, an entry in a diary or dictum in political speech. Matthew, you describe well the sweet swelling of the filler instruments. I love those parts because it heightens my senses. In all, this song marks that era. Hold me tight.

    I, too, remember buying Green on Election Day 88 when the first George Bush won the presidency. Despite what was for me a disappointing political event, R.E.M. puts out a masterwork to put my mind at ease and my activism on pause at least for one glorious hour. Hold that memory.

  8. gabriel peters Says:

    one of my r.e.m. all time favourites, I especially liked the live version that was on a bonus single of the out of time vinyl

  9. abc Says:

    Matthew is a pretentious twit. Inscrutable?

    I wish someone else was reviewing all of REM’s songs.

    The comments are much moore natural and interesting and sweet than any of Matthew’s original postings.

    I read recently that Matthew lives in NYC…that says alot..having lived there myself.

  10. Justin Says:

    First off: Scott, you should have your own R.E.M. blog. No offense at all to Matthew (he is the man among semi-regular song-focused R.E.M. blogs!), but Scott’s observations are amazingly thought-out and written.


    Second: raise your hand if you beat a stick against a chair when this song comes on!

  11. Paul Alferink Says:

    I don’t beat a chair, but I love the percussiony sound of the chair being hit. Sounding like a pick axe hitting the wall, since he will be the one to knock it down.

    Wierd how REM lyrics seem to allude to events that post-date them. For instance, this song predates the fall of the Wall by about a year. “Hope” predates Matthew Shepard by a couple months, I think. There is another great example, but it is eluding me now. Consider J.M. Stipe to be the Nostrodmus of the new Millenium.

  12. ScottMalobisky Says:

    I wrote a poem one time , “Perpetual dilemna always brewing a smoldering turmoil, Overwhelmed by torrential questions breaking the mental process..”..yada yada yada…..I don’t recall if I was sitting at my table but I know that I was waging war on myself; my point being that I can certainly relate to Matthew P.’s “man poisoned by his acute self-awareness”..Oh, to be a simpleton, I coulda been somebody , perhaps the president of these United States, I reckon I might get laid even.

  13. Scott Says:

    Thank you, Justin. I’m flattered.

    Yeah, I think of the chair and the Joseph Conrad quote, by way of Gang of Four. The live version of “World Leader Pretend” is among the band’s best-realized interpretations. And if R.E.M. had done nothing but turn a few people on to Gang of Four, Robyn Hitchcock, Mission of Burma and Pylon (among others, including the Velvets), its effect on ’80s music fans would remain something to be grateful for.

    Think how much more challenging it was for a pre-Internet high school kid to figure out that “We Live as We Dream Alone” was a whole other song by a whole other band. Sometimes I think I’d trade the Web for a couple of good old-fashioned record stores with clerks in Butthole Surfers T-shirts and a big bin of cellophane-sealed vinyl fresh out of the street-date box.

  14. Kirsten Says:

    Justin, good to see I’m not the only one. Tap your foot if there is no chair handy….
    I always thought the words were printed so we would see the “raised the wall” and “razed the wall” lines that you probably wouldn’t have picked up on if you were just hearing it. And that is a very significant switch in words, sums up the whole song.
    I always associated this song a bit with Sad Professor. The self-confussion seems to be the fore-front of both songs.
    The pounding drums make this song powerful. The creepy cello makes this song moody. The words manage to do both.
    I remember listening to this on my parents stereo with headphones so I could turn it way up to 11 and turning down the music ‘just to hear your voice’. Michael’s voice is just so beautiful. It’s amazing I’m not deaf…

  15. Kirsten Says:

    I thought I was the only one who liked Butthole Surfers….

  16. ScottMalobisky Says:

    so , who did We Live As We Dream Alone ? The Solipsistics?….no , seriously Mate , who is that by?

  17. Mr Cup Says:

    I love Stipes vocal.
    I love Mills pining ‘freeeeeedom’.
    I love the little percussive flourish
    I love the pedal steel, piano, cello

    Razed walls. Eviscerating memories. More songs about erasure wrapped in some mighty fine tunes.
    Beating a chair with a stick…I have to confess I’m a bit of an ‘air’ beat the chair with a stick kind of guy.

  18. Ignis Sol Says:

    ScottM – Gang of Four song, Joseph Conrad quote.

  19. Kirsten Says:

    I’ve got a question:
    Do we live the same way that we dream – alone.
    Or do we live whilst we dream alone.
    Was never really sure.

  20. Scott Says:

    The way that we dream is the way that we live: alone.

  21. Kirsten Says:

    Thanks Scott πŸ™‚

  22. Ignis Sol Says:

    I am going home to drink alone.

  23. Kirsten Says:

    I’m surprised to hear that Ignis. I thought you were a party boy living it up in Seatle. πŸ™‚

  24. Ignis Sol Says:

    I party a bit too much sometimes…….

  25. Kirsten Says:

    If you feel like you’re alone
    No, no, no you’re not alone

    We have REM and we have the internet. And when all else fails, we have porn.

  26. Scott Says:

    Ignis, the George Thorogood blog is that way.

  27. maclure Says:

    Kirsten, are you sure you’re not a 14 yr old boy!?

    Just thought I’d underline that this entry has produced a) an excellent write up from Scott and b) darn fine comments from everybody else. Echo Justin’s sentiments re: Scott above… you’ve added to my enjoyment of this song.

    Am off to bed. Sadly, I have a slight fever. Life in Brazil throws you these from time to time.

  28. Kirsten Says:

    Great comments come from excellent songs…

    This is my mistake
    Let me make it good.

  29. ScottMalobisky Says:

    and “I decree a stalemate” (my favorite line) makes it sound like a chess match….”Let my machine talk to me” seems a bit out of place, as if it was added later because it sounded cool or something…and also takes one’s interpretation of the lyric in a whole new possible direction……

  30. ScottMalobisky Says:

    like the one Seinfeld where Jerry is struggling with the fact that he has super sex with this woman but she is blank upstairs ; his gonads are talking to him in one ear and his brain is talking in the other , definitely waging war with himself , a serious dilemna as to what to do

  31. ScottMalobisky Says:

    just listened to “We Live As We Dream, Alone” on Rhasody , thanx Ignis, “stuttering guitars, martial rhythms, funk-inspired bass , and intellectual lyrics ” is how they are described there…”unwilling to settle for punk’s easy sloganeering , their lyrics analyzed the intersection of art , commerce , and politics..”
    Recognize ‘I Love A Man In A Uniform’.

  32. Kirsten Says:

    I like to think that he is battling with slightly more complex issues….

  33. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Interestingly, I have always thought of this song as an internal monologue of a vastly powerful politician who realizes that he is in way over his head. (In my mind the person is the 1st President Bush). He is battling self doubt, personal inadequacies, etc. as he tries to do something that is in reality impossible for any one man to sanely do – run the United States (and in many ways the world). While I do believe the band meant for this song to point out the limitiations of Pres. Bush 1 (they released it when they did for a reason) I have always thought that being the American president (or any very powerful politician) has to be a scary propostion that would cause self-dount for any person, regardless how qualified they are. Can you truly be qualified for that kind of power, for making those types of decisions, for handling that level of pressure? I think you would haunted by your own shortcomings once in the position. Another way to look at it (hypothetically, not dogging on Catholics) but it would be like being chosen Pope, having this huge church to run, and then realizing that maybe God isn’t going to help me do this, maybe I have to do it all on my own. Scary and daunting! Wotrld leaders – World Leader Pretends indeed!

  34. Kirsten Says:

    The USA only think they run the world. That’s why the rest of the world think you’re all so arrogant. Maybe if they stopped trying to run the world they would actually manage to run the country…

  35. Mr Cup Says:

    I feel it’s more a personal battle, as the protagonist aknowledges he is responsible for himself. Master of his domain (no, no, not the Seinfeld thing!) as it were.

    Being a leader of a country and all it’s concerns would be an horrific circumstance if you were not completely at one with yourself. It’s for that reason I don’t think it’s about someone like Bush (either one) as they don’t appear to have doubts. They just have one singular way of doing anything. If they had a doubt about something, they would probably learn about something….and why would you want that?

    Does that make sense, or am I dribbling?

  36. Kirsten Says:

    I thought that maybe the person in question didn’t have doubts so much, as maybe just toying with us and his power. Raising the walls, then razing the walls, just showing you what he wants you to see and know, perhaps like Mr Stipe himself (ala I could turn you inside-out, but I choose not to do). Let’s face it, to a point Michael is my leader, albeit a pretend one.

  37. Mr Cup Says:

    To me it’s a reworking of “I am a rock” by Paul Simon. He just sounds so alone, but understands that it’s his own creation, his own doing. At the end of the song he’s stating how the ‘other’ is essential.
    You fill in the harmony.
    You complete me.

    (my reference points really need some work)

  38. Kirsten Says:

    I hate to admit it, that’s my reference point, but there it is.

    I don’t think he needs the other, just another one to have power over, even if it is himself.
    You fill in the mortor, you fill in the harmony, I raised the wall, but I’M THE ONLY ONE, I WILL BE THE ONE TO KNOCK IT DOWN.

  39. blursongs Says:

    I’m raising my hand. The stick against the chair thing is forever in my mind any time I hear the song. Such a powerful image!

  40. Mr Cup Says:

    He has the power. To let someone in or keep them out.

  41. Clive Says:

    Was happy to find this song reviewed today – have been very much looking forward to it! This may well be one of R.E.M.s best songs in their whole career.
    I love the album version and I also adore it played live. The whole ‘beating the chair with a stick’ image is so powerful and adds to the strong feeling that this song carries an important message.
    I don’t think the song is a particularly fun song for Michael to sing live because his vocal melody is very low and monotone and fails to find volume in a huge arena, but I’ve noticed in recent years when they play this song he adjusts the melody in the verse to help ‘find his voice’.
    Great song though – classic R.E.M. intelligent rock song.

  42. ADB Says:

    Did anyone see the recent REM Songs Knock Out competition on one of the REM websites (can’t remember which one, but it wasn’t Murmurs)? Word Leader Pretend made the final and was just pipped to the title by Find The River. I guess that shows what a significant song it is, to fans and band alike.

    This is one of those songs where everything comes together – the instrumentation, a fantastic lyric and vocal, that soaring middle part (‘Reach out for me…’) which then breaks down into ‘This is my world…’ and a satisfying ending. It’s a really dramatic song actually and, as someone else pointed out, much more grown up than the other songs on side 1 of Green. (New Adventures was the first REM album that I bought on CD, so I still think of all the earlier albums in terms of sides 1 and 2.)

    And, yes, I’m an ‘air chair’ beater…

  43. ADB Says:

    Doh! It was, of course, Country Feedback that beat WLP to the REM Song Cup – Find The River was in the ‘semi finals’.

  44. huub Says:

    You can imagine it was kind of a disappointment to me when I heard this song in teh local supermarket. Like ‘they’shouldn’t play it there, because teh song is too good to be played as shopping music. (or the manager just has a great taste in music ;-))

  45. ScottMalobisky Says:

    the piano that comes in after that “soaring middle part” is very well crafted and dynamically placed..Mr. Cup , funny that you should mention ‘I Am A Rock’, was just thinking about that this morning , the line..”I got my books and my poetry to protect me..” Lord Stanley Lord Stanley bring me the brandy

    Kirsten , does Australia have nuclear weapons ? (or as Dubya would say, “nucular”.)..All speculation aside, I think this song was intended ultimately as a comment on one’s personal battle with one’s own self despite all the political and world leader type connotations that can be inferred (BWD, Bush 1 wasn’t even prez yet , how could the song be about him ?) .Cheers

  46. ScottMalobisky Says:

    ..???….and , Mr. Cup , just as the idea of Satan is essential to completing the idea of God, ..perhaps ..??

  47. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Um, do you remember the ’88 election? Bush was a sure fire winner – nobody thought Dukakis had a snowball’s chance in hell. He won only a few states and DC. Everybody knew Bush would be President when Green was released that day. However, you do have a point still, because I believe this actually was one of the first songs written for Green. Interesting I never thought that through. I guess its political message could actually be about Reagan – after all, Reagan was an actor, could you have more of a “World Leader Pretend” than that?

    However, (and I am about to become public enemy #1 here on this blog) I liked and still do like Reagan. Some of his policies were incredibly poor (like all Presidents) and REM was justified in attacking those (especially his policies toward Latin America and the environment) however, I did think of him as a real leader whose ideas made a difference. And I can’t say that about any President since, Republican or Democrat.

  48. ScottMalobisky Says:

    I like Reagan too for reasons that I’m not going to get into here, BWD,(definitely resposible for ending the Cold War and he appeals to the true American Spirit..positive positive positive positive , have a good attitude –work hard –obey the law and ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE on the wide open frontier..and keep the daggone government out of everything, you know??)..Had charisma too, just like Clinton did. That said , he was also quite inept in other more specific ways..I remember ’88 , how Dukakis was totally SLAMMED by that ad –I forget the details –how Dukakis let some hard criminal off easy or something like that and the criminal guy committed another series of brutal murders or something like that..the Republicans kept running that ad, or am I thinking of something else ?

  49. Ignis Sol Says:

    You are right ScottM, the ad was race-baiting and it still goes on today. Willie Horton.

    IMO, any one with the power to make policies that can undermine human dignity (race, gender, etc) should be held accountable for their actions. Reagan’s stance….. (I will continue this on my myspace page or my RPM blog) πŸ™‚

  50. Kirsten Says:

    Why would we? We’re a peaceful, sophisticated nation that solves their problems with discussions and votes – not war. Searching for nuclear weapons in Iraq that don’t exist just to prove how big and powerful you are?? Saving face ’cause Bin Laden got one up on you?? Sorry to say we followed you (the will of the parliment more than the people), but we’re having an election in a couple of months and pleased to say Howard will be gone!
    Plus everyone else is bigger than us, so it would just be stupid to wage war on them πŸ™‚

  51. Kirsten Says:

    Oh, and thank President Bush for me for pushing the price of petrol up to $1.50 per litre….

  52. Kirsten Says:

    Just been at REM HQ. Bill’s been voted number 20 in Stylus Magazines “50 Greatest Rock Drummers”, just edging Larry Mullen Jnr of U2 out of the top 20. Good to see him getting the recognition that he deserves!

  53. maclure Says:

    Yeah, I saw that top 50 list. Honestly, I’m a bit baffled by it – no sign of the Dave Matthews Band drummer Carter Beauford who is astonishing – but perhaps he’s jazz not rock. And, also Jimmy Chamberlain of Smashing Pumpkins should be higher as his contribution to the sound of SP was immense… but I like what they say about Bill, and you are right Kirsten: he rarely gets the recognition he deserves.

  54. Mr Cup Says:

    For me the power that is spoken of ends up reversing its intention.
    The walls built to keep people out now keep him from others.
    Not necessarily a yin-yang style of complemantary opposites.

    Lord Stanley…fill me in…I’m confused.

    And while Aust. doesn’t have nuclear weapons there is huge debate about returning to nuclear energy as a viable alternative energy source.

  55. Kirsten Says:

    Hopefully Peter Garrett will do what he was put there to do and stop that from happening. With today’s society and technology, there’s got to be a safer way. Been a bit disappointed with him – so many opinions before, now he has the power to do something, nothing but back-pedalling….


  56. Mr Cup Says:

    Unfortunately for him, he has to toe the party line and he’s not preaching to an arena of screaming fans anymore.

    Al Gore said he can be more influential outside of politics as politics is too restrictive. I get the feeling it’s gonna be the same for PG.
    It is however, quite hard to express with passion in this country. Not that you will be prevented so much as ridiculed for doing so.

    Cue the next one….”ohh ohh the power and the passion…”

  57. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Peter exploding in a Melody Maker interview just prior to the ’88 election: “We’re pigs! Americans are pigs! I think I’m gonna be a pig that owns a gun. I’m so fucking furious I feel like shooting people-George Bush and the people who vote for him….if Alolf Hitler came back and said, ‘I won’t raise taxes’, he’d win in a landslide.”…Mike the diplomat balanced the rant by telling people not to shoot Bush on the grounds that Dan (sad tomatoe):) Quayle would then become president.

    Michael on WLP at around the same time adamantly defusing the misconception that the “I” character was him: “That song is the voice of Everyman or Everywoman desperately trying to better their finest enemy which is , of course , yourself. I feel that my voice and the direction of thought in the band is very much presenting the confusion that is inherent in our society this century..we’re just questioning…” Song about “personal liberation..people are just incredibly cynical and it’s not inherent. It’s completely manufactured and I wanted to offset some of that….I consider this to be a deeply galvinizing record.” He resorted to saying , “This is a song about you.” in concert in a vain attempt to deflect allegations that he was setting himself up as some sort of youth leader.

    Mr.Cup: That’s what Mike Lang , the very colorful announcer of the Pittsburgh Penguins , said when they won the Stanley Cup two years in a row there back in the early 90’s…”Lord Stanley Lord Stanley bring me the brandy..” , “Ah, scratch my back with a hacksaw !..He tickled the twine..”……………..yeah , and that’s the whole point of I Am A Rock , a person is going nowhere and hurting themselves by isolating themselves more an more due to fear of getting hurt because they’ve been hurt one too many times. That can be a tough situation, certainly, but I guess you try to get back in the game, somehow try to give and connect…You never know….And then you get SLAMMED AGAIN !!..and then what do you do ????????? Go on a shooting rampage I guess (in this country the guns will be available; that said I would NEVER EVER propose taking the guns away from law abiding folks, a lot of truth to the slogan “If guns were outlawed only outlaws would have guns”..BUT I absolutely agree that something MUST BE DONE about controlling guns, but what exactly???)

  58. Paul Alferink Says:

    I remember an acquaintance of mine said that “I am a Rock” was the song that summed him up the best. He seemed pleased with this and at first I thought he didn’t get the song. But then I realized he did, and I just felt bad for him.

    I also went to school with a future Wall Street broker materialistic guy who loved “Big Time” by Peter Gabriel. I told him the song was meant to be ironic, and he said he knew, but liked it on it’s face value. Ironically, he stood up with me at my wedding. I was so pleased when I got him to finally say, four years after arguing that Iraq was a horrible idea, that I got him to agree with me last March.

  59. Kirsten Says:

    Not many shootings down here. It’s the people/society, not the guns. Sort out the problems and people wont be so compelled to kill each other.

  60. Mr Cup Says:

    Yeah, a gun by itself is pretty harmless. It’s the idiot using it.
    Much like lawnmower!

  61. Kirsten Says:


    What state you from Mr Cup??

  62. Paul Alferink Says:

    Anyone else thing the previews for “Across the Universe” look wicked cool? I mean, really, they picqued my interest with that desperate little “Is there anybody going to listen to my story
    All about the girl who came to stay?” And they really clinch it with the little ironic “Nothing’s gonna change my world” at the end. I’m not ever really that big of a Beatles person. It just looks and sounds cool.

  63. Mr Cup Says:

    I’m from the State of Excitement, Kirsten.
    The State of Excitement. (Delayed Telecast of course).


  64. maclure Says:

    Re: Guns. As Eddie Izzard says, “Guns don’t kill people, bullets do”. Just ban bullets or put up a 500% tax per bullet bought…

    I’m not really for guns. It is the society, true, that determines the use of guns but having guns about gives those who wish to recourse to violence a very quick and easy way to escalate matters before any attempt at peaceful conflict resolution. Many of us from the UK just don’t get the gun thing – unless you live in inner city Nottingham, we don’t have them and don’t need them.

    My favourite line so far from the new REM songs comes in the third verse of Until the Day is Done: “So hold tight your babies and your guns”… ooo, Stipean magic all over.

  65. Kirsten Says:

    State of excitement?? I always thought WA was very laid back (as are most Aussies). I’d love to visit Perth, mostly because I think of it as a laid-back, quiet, easy-living place. I’m in VIC, so a few hours ahead of you, but a few hours behind Figgy in NZ.

    Completely agree with you, Maclure. So many shootings in the US where guns are so common. Family homes with guns, kids playing with them and shooting people by mistake. I don’t know anyone who owns a gun and shootings are just so very rare here. English Police still don’t even carry them, do they?

    Makes me glad I live in my nice, sleepy little town.

  66. Kirsten Says:

    Not to mention that Perth, Australia was where Peter Buck got married in January ’95…

  67. jim jos Says:

    happiness is a warm gun, (bang, bang, shoot, shoot).
    There, tied in the recent gun statements with the recent Beatle statements.

  68. Kirsten Says:

    You pick your island in the sun
    Take your island off he’s got a gun

  69. Mr Cup Says:

    Yes, when touring rock stars decide to get married on the road, they always choose Perth!
    A friend of mine lived just around the corner from the outdoor wedding marquee (overlooking the Indian Ocean….aggghh summer) and heard the band who sounded remarkably like Grant Lee Buffalo. Which is exactly who it was. I think they played a bunch of Weddings, Parties, Anything covers that night for the bridal party. That would’ve been a great night. My invitation must’ve slid behind the refridgerater!

    WA is laid back Kirsten. It’s just written on our number plates as “the state of excitement”. It’s a hangover from the Americas Cup victory I think. Oh that’s right, the number plates used to read “home of the Americas Cup’. But then suddenly we weren’t.

  70. Kirsten Says:

    Maybe they should read “the home of Peter Buck’s wedding”

  71. Mr Cup Says:

    There was a campaign at the time…

  72. Kirsten Says:

    Question for the guys who don’t live in Oz:

    Do you have slogans advertising your state on your car number plates/registration plates?
    (I think in the UK they’re called Index Numbers)

    Just curious.

  73. Paul Alferink Says:

    Most do. Here in Illinois, they say “Land of Lincoln.”

  74. Kirsten Says:

    Thanks, Paul. Not quite sure what I’m going to do with the information, but it’s interesting to see what people do and how they live on the other side of the world. You never know, it may come up in conversation one day, and I’ll look like a real smarty-pants!

    Just been caught out sitting at my dest singing World Leader Pretend. Luckily I was up to the piano part (which I was playing on my desk) “This is my world..” so at least I wasn’t hitting my desk (in lieu of a chair & stick) as I had been moments earlier.
    Love embarrassing myself….

  75. Mr Cup Says:

    Kirsten, it is your duty to stand at your desk and beat your chair now.

    Project Mayhem has commenced!

  76. Figgy Says:

    Hi Kirsten and Mr Cup. Greetings from a few hours ahead. It’s after 5pm for me so almost time to finish work. Just wanted to say that coincidentally I used to live in Perth. That was back in ’98. I never knew Peter Buck had got married in Perth just a few years earlier, but I do seem to remember that the Monster world tour started there. Am I right?

    Anyway, Perth’s a great place. I’ve heard from my friends and rellies there that the population has just exploded in recent years. I wonder is it as laid back as it used to be?

    As for slogans about where we live, the province of Taranaki is simply “like no other”.

    Bye for now. Whatever you do, Mr Cup, “do it with a cold Emu”. I think you’ll know what I mean. And Kirsten, please behave yourself at your desk. Some decorum please. πŸ™‚

  77. Kirsten Says:

    The tour certainly did start there – on Friday 13th January. Apparently, that wasn’t planned even though it was the Monster tour. Might be why there was so much bad luck on that tour.

    Is an “Emu” the choice of beer in WA? Or is it like Figgy in NZ with his sheep… 😐

    I’m nearly 30 years old and still do the “stand” dance and scream jumping up & down like a teenager when I see or hear REM. My pride has already gone out the door mate.

  78. Mr Cup Says:

    Figgy – I just had a month in NZ and worship the place. Plotting my move there.

    Perth is still great, in that laid back ‘west coast’ kind of way. Property prices are laughably outrageous. Luckily the beach is free.

    The Monster world tour did start here. I wish I could speak positively about it but…man, were the band nervous. The Green tour was life changing for me so expectation was high. The ATS tour was offered with an olive branch from the band “We’re glad you came. Last time we kinda sucked!” (All is forigiven guys…come anytime.)

    Kirsten – I don’t hear tapping!

  79. Mr Cup Says:


    I never want to do anything with a ‘cold emu’ again as long as I live.
    Life is way too short.
    We have “Little Creatures” now. It has something an emu doesn’t.

  80. Figgy Says:

    Emu’s a choice of beer in WA but probably not the beer of choice. Much prefer a Redback on a hot sunny day.
    Hey, what’s that loudmouth sheep been telling you?

  81. Kirsten Says:

    Give me a VB any day. Little Creatures is a strange name – reminds me of Talking Heads.

    REM also celebrated their 25th anniversary in Adelaide. Always thought that was badly planned, I mean, what the hell is there to do in Adelaide??

  82. Paul Alferink Says:

    I used to teach people the stand dance. . .

  83. Kirsten Says:

    What’s there to learn?? Even I can do it!

    I’m also a sucker for the Pop Song ’89 Dance. I was doing it last night whilst vaccuuming. Had to keep stopping to slap my knees!

    I’m so very, very sad….

  84. Mr Cup Says:

    I think they were right when they pronounced you a 14 year old boy Kirsten. You don’t have to drink that ‘beer’ anymore. You have choices.

  85. Kirsten Says:

    I wish I was a 14 yo boy. Might not be sounding quite so pathetic right now…

    Besides, I have to – state pride etc.

  86. Mr Cup Says:

    …mmmm…unconvinced. However, “It’s a free world baby!”.

  87. Paul Alferink Says:

    I she were really a 14 YO boy, she would be drinking Boone’s

  88. Figgy Says:

    With all that dancing, methinks Kirsten has worked up “a hard earned thirst”.
    Yes, I’m sad coz I remember all sorts of beer advert jingles.

  89. Aerothorn Says:

    This was the first R.E.M. song that I memorized the lyrics to, the first I really got into when I re-discovered R.E.M. in high school, and was the song I sang constantly during my sophomore year. I once played it for a friend. “That’s depressing,” they noted. I replied “Really? I find it comforting.”

  90. Kirsten Says:

    I supose there is some comfort in raising a wall around you, being your own “world leader” (even if it is just over yourself). The comfort, safety and protection from hurt that comes from being alone. The thought that you are in control of your own life and you make all the decisions. But at the same time, it is a bit depressing. To much control kind of takes the fun out of life.

    One thing’s for sure – It is an amazing song.

  91. protimoi86 Says:

    My friend and I performed an acoustic three song set at an open mic last night. Sandwiched between Bright Eyes’ “The Calendar Hung Itself” and a radically re-interpreted version of This Is Why I’m Hot, we gave World Leader A Go. My friend beat a chair with a straw before and after I did the “we live as we dream alone” intro. It was the best song of the set, and I was satisfied even if he missed some timing on the lyrics.

    That said, even the best cover of this song couldn’t possibly compare. I love the way Stipe sings it, in the low register as if to suggest he’s losing the battle against himself.

  92. protimoi86 Says:

    i meant to say, “We gave World Leader Pretend a go.” after a long work day i guess i need to catch up on sleep now!

  93. ScottMalobisky Says:

    in San Francisco, at an Internet Cafe, OH MY GOD what an incredible , beautiful, MAGICAL, BEAUTIFUL place…________ !!!!!!!!

  94. Kirsten Says:

    Hey Scott, hows it going?
    Shame you’ve gone to all that trouble and there’s nothing left to talk about. Where’s Matthew when you need him? His lab rats are getting restless..

  95. Kirsten Says:

    My dog Sam eats purple flowers
    Aint got much, but what we’ve got’s ours
    We dig rain and snow and bright sunshine
    Draggin’ the line…..

  96. jim jos Says:

    This is completely off topic and maybe should be asked on Murmurs website, but I like the REM fans I have gotten to “know” here. Plus, the turnaround time is much quicker.

    Does anyone know why Peter Buck left Athens for Seattle?

    I read Behind the Mask recently, and he seems very happy to be living in Athens as all of them do, even if they have other homes elsewhere and Bill lives outside of town.

    Completely off topic, but I was wondering if anyone knew when and why he left.

  97. Paul Alferink Says:

    Didn’t he get divorced around that time? That might have had something to do with it. I’m not sure if he started seeing Zoe and Zelda’s Mom before or after the move either, but that might have had something to do with it. Also, he’s a music guy, and while Athens does well for it’s size, Seattle, especially in the early 90’s, when he moved, wasn’t doing to shabby itself.

  98. ScottMalobisky Says:

    he left Athens ‘cuz he was getting tired of the fame thing, everybody knew who he was and everybody knew the gossip .Monster was the first album recorded with him not living in Athens which changed the band’s work habits.

  99. Mr Cup Says:

    That Tom Hanks film drew a lot of people to Seattle. Heaps!

  100. dan Says:

    finally! number 100!

  101. jim jos Says:

    thanks paul and scott, makes sense. I don’t know how much I’d like it if there was a tour bus that kept stopping in front of my house! This fame thing, I don’t get it.


  102. ScottMalobisky Says:

    fame really is such an incredible concept , like when YOU REALLY THINK ABOUT IT, what it is , what it entails , the implications of it …..One of those things —I reckon– that you really couldn’t explain to someone who has never experienced it (I mean if you had ..)…Unfortunately in a lot of misguided depraved souls minds there is no difference between fame and notriety and even more unfortunate is the fact that the Drive-By Media rewards some of these clowns. And why do they reward them ? Because other misguided depraved clowns in droves and gaggles eat it up, pay for it even. Happy Sunday.

  103. Ignis Sol Says:

    Wow, I can’t believe this is still going….

    I read back to a couple days ago.

    I live in Seattle and have seen Mr. Buck a couple times. Nice fellows. He would stop in the book/music store I worked at and buy music and music magazines.

    His wife/ex-wife (I am not sure) owns/owned (again I am not sure) a great bar/music venue called the Crocodile Cafe in downtown Seattle. He came out here for her, I guess. There is still a burgeoning music scene here (Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, etc) and Peter often plays locally with his other band (the?) Minus Five. His friend Robin Hitchcock lived here, but moved recentley (as did John Wesley Harding). And Dave Matthews lives here in the lofty Queen Ann neighborhood.

    It is not as “huge” as it was back in the 90’s, but still produced many promising talented and entertaining musical artists. On any given night, one can venture out to the various neighborhoods (the seven hills) and see everything from jazz and hip hop to rock and punk. Visit us before the winter rains fall down!

  104. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Ignis , I was BLOWN AWAY by SF …!!..I guess Seattle is next. The key to my stay there (for just two full days plus) was that I was able to , without really knowing what I was doing, stumble across a hotel room for a really decent price –just happened to be in the right place at the right time–in the Pacific Heights/Nob Hill area…….Was just driving thru devising a plan on the run , winging it ,and got VERY lucky……To think that as I drove up there I was pretty much accepting the fact that I would have to stay probably outside of the best areas due to lack of cash flow and room availability…What a place though , it truly left me breathless !!!…(funny aside , not to long ago I came across an article and photo series on the net where-in the author ranked as the top three most beautiful cities in the world: St. Petersburg , Russia (now Leningrad), Paris , and (drum roll , please Mr. Berry)..Pittsburgh, PA. !!! I think a lot of people would be very surprised to see just how intricate and cool Pittsburgh really is.

  105. Paul Alferink Says:

    PNC park in Pittsburgh is the most underrated ballpark in Baseball. Definitely a top five.

  106. chinese brother Says:

    australia is not sophisticated or peaceful. look at how you treated and continue to treat your first nation, your indigenous people. look at your recent ‘solutions’ to immigration. you are nothing more (politically speaking)than a little america.
    wish we could beat you in cricket though πŸ™‚

  107. Kirsten Says:

    Fair call CB. We certainly have our issues. They are trying to come up with some solutions to the problems, but I see how it’s hard to make everyone happy. We were as bad as the US with their treatment of the Native Americans, but I still think this is a much more peaceful, safer nation, and I hope it stays that way. With the land issue, it’s hard. The land WAS theirs and we stole it. But I can’t see it as fair to just hand it back when someone else has paid for it, paid taxes on it for the past 20 years, and most importantly, built their own house on it(hopes, dreams and memories included). It’d be like doing the exact same thing to someone else. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Tricky situation too hard for me to comprehend.

    Did you hear about the Doctor in Queensland linked to the bombings in the UK? Found not guilty, but we deported him anyway…..

    Good luck with that cricket thing. Not sure where you’re from, but it doesn’t matter ’cause we’ll probably beat you anyway!

  108. chinese brother Says:

    Cheers Kirstin,

    great reply and nobody (or no country) is perfect.

    I am from New Zealand and we have plenty of our own issues too (not just losing to you in cricket).

    I jumped in late to an interesting thread and I appreciate you replying, considering what I said probably came off quite pompous.

  109. Kirsten Says:

    Not pompous. If people don’t speak the truth and be brutally honest, these problems will never be sorted, just buried further. Just wish I had the answers…

    And don’t worry, you got us in rugby!

  110. […] Leader Pretend” is also the first song to have its lyrics published. Like the post on Pop Songs suggests, it seems like Stipe, notoriously evasive about his abstract lyrics, wanted listeners to hear the […]

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