Me In Honey

October 29, 2007

Let’s just let Michael Stipe explain his motivation for this one himself, okay? This is taken from Marcus Gray’s It Crawled From The South:

Of “Me In Honey,” Michael admits, “Specifically, that song to me is an answer song to 10,000 Maniacs’ “Eat For Two.” It’s a male perspective on pregnancy, which I don’t think has been dealt with. There’s a real push-me-pull-me issue, saying, “I had nothing to do with it,” yet on the other hand saying, “Wait, I have feelings about this.”

Exactly one line in “Me In Honey” gives away the pregnancy angle — “baby’s got a baby with me” — and it’s kinda tossed off in the final verse, so it’s pretty easy to ignore that bit if you’d rather just hear it as song about a guy trying to save face with an angry lover. However, this song works far better just the way Stipe intended, with his protagonist expressing a mix of emotions that has him unsure whether he’s more freaked out by the onset of overwhelming responsibility, or the part of him that wants to escape from the situation.

There’s no doubt that the guy is going to do the right thing. The song overflows with love and goodwill, and despite its confusion, “Me In Honey” is among the most jubilant pieces of music R.E.M. have ever written, with Peter Buck’s circular rhythms driving the song towards percussive fills that push the tune towards its most ecstatic moments. Appropriately enough, the studio recording features backing vocals by the B-52’s Kate Pierson, who not only supplies the track with a wordless female counterpoint, but significantly boosts the tune’s dosage of soulful bliss.


44 Responses to “Me In Honey”

  1. Kirsten Says:

    Wow Matthew, that was a really good write up. You make this song sound a lot better than it is. Makes me feel increadably guilty about this song being one of only 2 or 3 that I don’t like. Never have and I have such an ill feeling towards it that I have no intention of ever liking it. A bit harsh? Definately. Maybe it’s just because it’s a song I’ll never be able to relate to.

  2. Really? This has pretty much always been my favorite song from Out Of Time.

  3. Kirsten Says:

    Really?? Country Feedback, Low and Belong are on that album – much better songs. I’m not even sure what it is about this song I don’t like, but I seem to have a real issue with it.
    However, I am prepared to admit there must be something wrong with me, ’cause it’s REM so it must be good…

  4. protimoi86 Says:

    My favorite song on my least favorite R.E.M. album (and that stands up against stunners like LMR and Low), and they waited until the very end to surprise me with it.

    I had a feeling it was about having a baby with someone but wasn’t sure. I wonder what the “honey” is that he’s referring to. Regardless, this song always makes me want to sing out loud : )

  5. Mr Cup Says:

    IF you only listen to one song about pregnancy from a males POV..make it this one.

    Love the riff. This is a similar song to Near Wild Heaven in as much as the prevailing feeling is summery bliss despite whatever the lyrical intent is. Love Kate’s contribution.

    It’s not my fave to be sure (Country Feedback), but it’s good song, well sung…played…etc

  6. milesy Says:

    I like Me in Honey- not my favourite on OOT but good nonetheless. I seem to remember ages ago reading Mike Mills comment that it shows what a clever songwriter Michael is- presented with one riff and no ‘tune’, he comes up with this- brilliant! Mills commented that whereas he would find it much easier to write lyrics to a progression of chords that gave a more obvious melody, Michael preferred to have something simple which left him the freedom to take the song in other directions- maybe a similar thing happened with Everybody Hurts, leading to Bill’s self-effecing ‘Michael polished a turd’ comment.

    I guess we should all be grateful that REM quickly discovered this route to fantastic songwriting- Bill, Mike and Peter taking care of stage one, then giving their work to Michael, and leaving him to do what he does best…

    Me in Honey really doesn’t have many chords does it? Two?

  7. Mr Cup Says:

    Makes you wonder how many musically completed songs they present to Stipe

  8. Paul Alferink Says:

    This song grew on me, to the point where I often listen to it LMR, and counry feedback more than anything else on this album.
    It’s amazing that the chord (It’s really one chord with one note change for most of the song, with the chorus changing to another chord before returning) can carry a whole song. It’s the driving force of the song, which would be dull by itself, but Stipe carries it off with a great melody and emotional resonance, accompanied by Pierson’s harmonies.
    The lyrics also are pretty good. Not poetically, like E-bow, but they do a nice job sort of moving the protagoist through the anger and shock of finding out his baby’s got a baby, to a sort of, “well this is really all about you,” to, “well, I can help, don’t take it all on yourself” to the sort of realization that the child in her is a part of himself, and that he needs to be a part of this even if he’s not carrying the child. He has feeling about it. He has emotional needs.

    Best Lyric:

    Knocked silly
    Knock flat
    Sideways down
    These things they pick you up
    and they Turn you around

    Close second
    There’s a fly in the honey,
    and Baby’s got a baby with me
    That’s a part, that’s a part
    of me.

  9. maclure Says:

    Oooo – tune! Funny, right from when I heard this back in the early 90s I knew straight away what it was about – lyrically, it seems a more straight forward REM creation to me. Like a fly into honey – something sweet that the protagonist lazily buzzed his way towards has left him in a sticky situation. (“Honey” of course, also being a term of indearment between loved ones). I also love the “that’s a part, that’s a part of me…”. Any decisions about the life of this baby implicate him – it’s his child, a part of him. Out of Time is great – the songs circle themes of love, devotion, intimacy but show (as usual for REM) a subtler and sometimes darker reading. As an album closer MiH is simultaneously uplifting (as Matthew pointed out in his cool post) and contains an unusual taste – perhaps of sickly sweet honey – because of the lyrical content…

    Like Belong, this song is musically extremely simple. It has 2 chords. Two! Mills came up with the bass hook that drives the song – it was almost an accident, I once read. Everything else got layered on top. I’m pleased that some of the new Dublin songs seem to have one or two chord verses (reminds me of Finest Worksong!) that leave Mr.Stipe to do the rest. I think when REM try to write more complex arrangements it can sometimes go awry (She Just Wants to Be).

  10. Beethoven Was Deaf Says:

    Kristen, I think maybe you don’t like “Me In Honey” because its about Michael knocking up a girl other than you! Jealousy has ruined the song for you! 🙂

    As for the song, I have always thought Me In Honey was great (far better than “Eat For Two”). So propulsive, simple, and warm with ties to REM’s past without being the same as it. I’ve always loved Michael’s singing of “What about ME!”

  11. mouserobot Says:

    The fun thing about thing about this blog is that it quite often gives me a whole new perspective on REM songs that I’ve known for years. I never would have guessed that Me in Honey was written from the viewpoint of a prospective father.

  12. Dark Bob Says:

    I thought this song might be about a man’s right to be included in the decision to have an abortion. Claiming “That’s a part of me”. An O.K. song. But OOT has never been a favorite of mine. (With the exception of Country Feedback of course)

  13. David T. Says:

    Always one of my faves!

    One of my favorite memories regarding this song was hearing the band play it during the Monster tour, with Mike Mills singing Kate’s backing part. He completely nailed it, of course…the dude has some range.

    (Interestingly, the band played Departure later in the show, which, because of the similar chord “progression” and Mills backing vox, really echoed Me in Honey…probably the only time I made a connection between those two songs.)

  14. drew. Says:

    does anyone remember a press release video about the making of Out Of Time which aired around the time of the release of the record? it was a series of interviews of the band in and around Athens ( most notably at Mr. Buck’s mansion) they played some songs acoustically on the porch and showed them in the studio. there was one segment where they were mixing Me In Honey, Mr. Stipe was at the control board (wearing a hat and sunglasses) and the producer told him to push some levers up, which he did, and that’s when the drum fill kicks in towards the end of the song. Stipe nodded his head and said “cool”.

  15. xman Says:

    no doubt the best song from out of time (sorry country feedback and lmr, but this one just soars). it’s just so irrestibly sing alongy and happy. cool title.

    fun song to play, very easy as it’s just a lot of hammering on, but very painful on the thumb to hold those barre shapes for 3 minutes on the low end of the fret board..such a good song makes run on sentences unnavoidable!

    incidentally (?), mills’ son was born around the time of this song.

  16. Rich Says:

    Agree it’s the best from OOT. If anyone can ever adequately explain to me what’s so great about Country Feedback, I’d really love to know what I’ve been missing for so many years, because I never got anything out of it, studio or live.

  17. xman Says:

    hey i never noticed it david t, but yr right-
    departure is d and g,
    me in honey is c# and g#, half step down, half step up, hammer-on rhythms, kissin cousins..

    never enough are good things said about bill’s drumming on this song. it really keeps the repetitiveness of the chords fresh and lively.

  18. davegassner Says:

    …that’s what this song is talking about? That makes my ‘weird story’ about this song even weirder!

    When my girlfriend’s sister was pregnant several years ago they used to do that stupid thing pregnant couples do where they put headphones on the belly and let the baby listen to tunes. Anyway, this was one of the albums they always put on at that time.

    About six years later, they decided to put on ‘Out of Time’ which I presume they hadn’t listened to in a while in the background, and Dylan, their girl, claimed to recognize the melody? They shut if off half way through and she was able to hum the remainder of the vocal melodies with basic accuracy! I’m guessing she must have heard it in toddlerhood or something but if not, I hope the lyrics at the time she was floating in fluid didn’t traumatize her.

  19. lightaugust Says:

    I like what you’ve pointed out here, analytically. That I’ve been listening to this song for 16 years, and never had any doubt whatsoever what it was about- the boy’s view of pregancy. It took until now realized that he does only mention it once, and even that’s at the end. Maybe it’s ‘new rules’ or the overall sexual imagery of being stuck in the honey, or ‘that’s a part of me.’ I’m sure there’s a literary term for talking about something without talking about it, but nice entry for pointing it out.

  20. xman Says:

    i think a lot of the appeal of country feedback is that it’s one of those mini-epics, and stipe’s cat-vomit delivery lifts the song out of standard breakup mode.
    it’s a song that doesn’t feel contrived at all (btw, i think of “ill take the rain” as a very concious, contrived retread of country feedback, and boy, did it suffer…).

    there really weren’t a lot of break-up or relationship songs in r.e.m.’s professional catalog prior to Out of Time, and i think it’s kinda a wish fullfillment thing to have one of yr favorite bands go into a subject common enough in the music world, but alien to that band.

    i’ve played “country feedback” for friends, and they all much seem to prefer the neil young bridge school version, or the 01 unplugged version…to tell you the truth, i’m with them.

    before reveal and ats came out, oot was my least favorite r.e.m. record..not because of the songs on it, but because they left off “it’s a free world, baby”- now THAT is the best oot-era song.

  21. clare Says:

    Sorry, but Mike Mills has a son?! If I haven’t learned anything else today…!

  22. ScottMalobisky Says:

    exceptionally great posting and exceptionally great comments, thank you all for making my morning most enjoyable
    Rich: “psychics fuck off”
    Drew: I really wanna see that clip !
    xman : thanx for the technical info

    ain’t never gonna do it without the fez on , oh no…… on second thought I hate the fez (and the prez) , Honey , tie those tubes and no you ain’t touching me vas deferens …….(she was only fourteen )

  23. xman Says:

    yup, dude has a kid. he’s brought him out on stage from time to time…definitely during the up tour.

  24. ScottMalobisky Says:

    surprised by how often Neil Young is referred to in this blog, very pleasantly surprised

  25. xman Says:

    i dunno nyoung too much, but i would like to after hearing a song called “the way”.

  26. Rich Says:

    Not “fuck off”… “fuck ALL”

  27. adam Says:

    certainly fast paced – but ‘bliss’ful? never saw this as happy at all… angry, determined.. well meaning.. but naive and troubled.

  28. David T. Says:

    > does anyone remember a press release video about the making of Out Of Time

    Oh yeah! And I remember the part in the mixing room…Michael rides the faders right when we hear the kick drum make its re-entrance during the last verse. I always wondered if what we saw there was the moment when that decision was actually made, or if the decision-making moment was recreated for the video.(Michael’s “Cool” comment always made me think that we saw the mixing decision made before our eyes…I like thinking that’s the case, anyway.)

    If I’m not mistaken, that’s the same video that showed the band suggesting “Trolling for Olives” (Bill) and “Cat Butt” (Michael) as possible titles for what became “Out of Time”…

    A fun time, early and middle ’91.

  29. dumbek Says:

    I always considered this one a bit of a throwaway until I heard them play it on the Monster tour. Gotta agree with David T above – Mills just made this song soar (and i LOVE Kate). Ever since then it’s been one of my faves. It’s hard to listen to it and not want to bounce around the room a little.

  30. Ignis Sol Says:

    David T, – yeah, I too have seen that promo piece (years ago) and have wondered the same thing, but it does not matter to me because it is still a brilliant piece of production (Bless you, Mr. Litt).

    “Me in Honey” hooked me from the start: the sharp & snappy “cirular rhythms,” the bouncy drum beat, Kate’s harmonies, the aforementioned last verse production-polish and especially the part that goes “….what it’s doing to me-E-E-e-e-e-e…”

  31. Justin Says:

    milesy –

    You’re right, “Me In Honey” only has two chords. Peter Buck relates the genesis of the song:

    “That was literally a riff Mike played once. I put this guitar line over it and Bill added a drum beat. It was maybe 30 seconds long and it was on the end of a cassette tape of five songs and Michael fixated on that. Just 30 seconds, one chord. He went, ‘That beat, that key, D flat. I’ve got a song for it.’ So I said, ‘What about another chord for the chorus?’ He said, ‘Perfect.’ We broke up the riff in sections so that each verse was a different length. Then he worked it out on paper, scribbling out lines. And I thought, ‘Weird. How did he get all this out of one chord?'”

    From Inside Out by Craig Rosen, quite an informative little book.

  32. ScottMalobisky Says:

    thanx Rich , that works too !!!!!!!

  33. Kirsten Says:

    I prefer Fuck Off to Fuck All in Country Feedback. I know it’s wrong, but I just prefer a break from sadness to anger.

    I have a copy of that OOT promotional video at home. Haven’t watched it in a while, but it is great. Didn’t know Mike had a son. How did I not know that??

  34. Donut Says:

    this is a song that ive always enjoyed listening to over and over again.
    especially the DTS 5.1 remix from the Out of Time DVDA, which sounds really different from the CD version.

  35. Ignis Sol Says:

    Kirsten, you say you are not fond of “Me and Honey” and BWD hints that this is because maybe you wish Michael got stuck in your honey. “Honey” is an response to “Eat for Two,” so does that mean you are really hate Natalie Merchant? Who knows – – maybe Michael and her have a secret lovechild somewhere and she fabalized it in her song which led to “Me in Honey.”
    Just putting it out there, folks.

  36. gluefoot Says:

    the vocal melodies on ‘me in honey’ are just irresistable.. especially over such a simple musical arrangement, it just works so well.. kate pierson is terrific..

  37. ScottMalobisky Says:

    Kirsten, show me the nectarine

  38. Kirsten Says:

    I assure you, I am jealous of no one! I always thought they made a nice couple, but then I’ve never met either of them, so I’m sure they did what was best for them at the time….

    Milsey, YOU’RE not Mike’s son, are you?? If so, I’m sorry about the whole Watertower conversation – probably made you feel a little sick.

  39. jim jos Says:

    I love Kate’s vocals over this, it is a shame that there isn’t more of her on other artists songs. I think this is her best R.E.M. collaboration and I think it is second only to Candy by Iggy Pop as far as my favorite supporting moment for her.

    “I had a whole in my heart for so long” beautiful.

  40. Figgy Says:

    Hmmm… I’ve mixed feelings about this song. I don’t think it’s a bad song but I always felt it paled in comparison to other two songs that deal with unwanted pregnancy: the already mentioned ‘Eat for Two’ and ‘This Night Has Opened My Eyes’ by The Smiths.

    Way back in the early 90s when I was young and the prospect of being a father would have “ruined” my life, my then girlfriend broke the news that she might be pregnant. The Maniacs’ and The Smiths’ songs were the ones that best summed up our feelings at the time! ‘Me In Honey’ definitely struck a chord but not as powerfully as Morrissey’s line “the dream has gone but the baby is real”.

    I know that ‘This Night Has Opened My Eyes’ is probably about more that just pregnancy. Abortion seems to be considered. In fact, the song could be set in a time after the birth and the parents are considering abandoning the child. There are a lot of words in the song and it’s possible to focus on meanings to suit a particular scenario. But it’s the feel and emotion of the song that really makes it for me. Much more powerful that ‘Me In Honey’.

  41. ADB Says:

    Misheard lyrics corner: I’ve always thought it was ‘Left me and look what it’s doing to me’ and ‘Baby’s got a baby to feed’. I love the simplicity of this one – basically just guitar, bass and drums – it really works as an album closer after all the baroque instrumentation – strings, flugel horns etc – that have gone before over the course of Out Of Time. The lyric’s pretty direct too – and all the better for it. Would love to see this performed live, but it looks like it’s only had a couple of spells as part of the setlist, with about 10 years inbetween. Maybe on the next tour…

  42. Kirsten Says:

    I was watching a DVD of this song played live in Germany in June 2005 yesterday. Mike nailed Kate’s part. It’s a much better song live…

  43. Figgy Says:

    What DVD is that, Kirsten?

  44. Kirsten Says:

    Umm, it was called “It’s Raining Cats & Dogs” but I got it off Ebay and I think it might be something someone taped off German TV. It was on Rockpalast. I have another one from Rockpalast from ’85 or ’86. Great stuff.

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