Conspiracy Theories, R.E.M. and “Man on the Moon”

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

This month’s full moon appears in our skies on the 29th May. Spring has well and truly sprung by the time May arrives, and flowers and colourful blooms should be dotting the landscape. Very appropriately then, this moon is called the Flower Moon but it’s also sometimes known as the Corn Planting Moon, or Bright Moon because it tends to be one of the brightest. Looking out at my garden right now there aren’t that many flowers in bloom at all yet, as I’ve just taken out the spring bulbs but haven’t yet potted up anything new, as a real risk of frost here in the North of Scotland until the month of June. Probably won’t be one of the brightest moons for me either, as I don’t know about where you live, but sometimes it’s still light now when I go to bed – Will make a special effort however and stay up late on Tuesday to witness it.

flower-moon2

But onto the song choice – This post’s moon-related song was always going to pop up at some point in this series, and having already discovered so much interesting stuff about the moon…..

  • The lunar cycle is 29.5 days and all full moons have a name
  • When the moon is at perigee (that point closest to the earth) it is called a Supermoon
  • A second full moon in the same calendar month is called a Blue Moon
  • A lunar eclipse is called a Blood Moon
  • When waxing, the moon is lit from the right, when waning from the left
  • The opposite of a crescent moon is a gibbous moon, one that is bigger than a half-moon but less than a full moon

….. it’s now time to find out a few more interesting snippets.

As children, we have probably all looked up at the moon and seen a face. That would be because the giant dry seas and craters kind of map out eyes, a nose and a mouth. This only works if you are in the Northern Hemisphere however as in the Southern Hemisphere the features would be upside down. And, these features only appear on the side of the moon facing us as on the other side, the dark side, the surface is merely textured, with no discernible shading at all.

But all that is about the Man In The Moon, or how we perceive him anyway. This post’s featured song is about the first Man On The Moon, or rather the idea that we might have been duped into thinking it actually happened, when in fact there are those out there who would dispute that fact. It all boils down to that pesky flag – After watching a particularly convincing documentary about the moon-landing conspiracy theory, I even started to doubt it all myself. But no, the computer power that could now fire up a pocket calculator (if they still exist) was all that was actually needed to get those first men on the moon, and as for the flag appearing to blow in the wind (?!), it’s actually a much more boring story. An upside down L-shaped frame was made for it and after being crumpled up in the lunar module for some time, it took on the appearance of a flag being wafted about by all those supposedly non-existent winds. It’s still up there, along with another five left by visiting astronauts, although one has apparently now fallen over after having been hit by the lunar module upon its departure.

moon-landing
Neil Armstrong: First Man on the Moon – Or was he?

Back in 1992, the band R.E.M. released a song called Man on the Moon, the second single from their 1992 album “Automatic for the People”. The lyrics were written by lead singer Michael Stipe as a tribute to the comedian and performer Andy Kaufman. We’re probably not that familiar with Andy Kaufman in the UK but it seems he was quite the showman, appearing on Saturday Night Live in a variety of guises. In the song numerous references are made to his career including his Elvis impersonation, wrestling, and the film My Breakfast with Blassie. Because there were always rumours that Kaufman’s death in 1984 was faked, Michael used the moon landing conspiracy theories as an oblique reference to that allusion in the chorus.

Man on the Moon by R.E.M.:

As anyone who visits here regularly knows, I’m usually quite late to the party, and it wasn’t really until “Automatic for the People” that I started to properly appreciate R.E.M. – I’ve mentioned this before, but in 1993 we went on holiday to a far flung place where we very naughtily acquired many, many cassette tapes of the not entirely legitimate nature. This album was one of them, and once back at home it got a serious amount of listening time, as it also included the singles Everybody Hurts, Nightswimming, Drive, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight and Find The River.

rem_band_pic

Having just done a little research, it seems the band are all around my age and since the album apparently dealt with themes of loss and mourning inspired by “that sense of …. turning thirty”, it obviously resonated with me at the time. We are all almost twice that age now so quite mind-boggling that a 30th birthday could have been such a big deal at the time – A lot of water under the bridge since those days, but more appropriately for this post a lot of full moons, 334 to be precise. So, remember to look out for the one on Tuesday night and cross fingers there will be many, many more, for all of us.

Until next time….

Man on the Moon Lyrics
(Song by Bill Berry/Peter Buck/Mike Mills/Michael Stipe)

Mott the Hoople and the game of Life yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Andy Kaufman in the wrestling match yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Monopoly, Twenty one, checkers, and chess yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Mister Fred Blassie in a breakfast mess yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Let’s play Twister, let’s play Risk yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
I’ll see you in heaven if you make the list yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Now, Andy did you hear about this one?
Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby
Are we losing touch?

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

Moses went walking with the staff of wood yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Newton got beaned by the apple good yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Egypt was troubled by the horrible asp yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Mister Charles Darwin had the gall to ask yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Now, Andy did you hear about this one?
Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby
Are you having fun?

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

Here’s a little agit for the never-believer yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Here’s a little ghost for the offering yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Here’s a truck stop instead of Saint Peter’s yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Mister Andy Kaufman’s gone wrestling yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Now, Andy did you hear about this one?
Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby
Are we losing touch?

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

Postscript:

It’s become a feature of these posts for me to tag onto the bottom a picture of the previous month’s moon, courtesy of my photographer friend (he is purely a hobbyist but I do love his pictures). This one just goes to show that some of the most impressive moon shots are sometimes those where the moon is actually obscured by cloud. And when a viaduct is involved as well, it just gets better and better….

IMG_1783
Picture courtesy of R.J.

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

26 thoughts on “Conspiracy Theories, R.E.M. and “Man on the Moon””

  1. I sort of half-remember Kaufman from Taxi, but you’re right, he’s nowhere near as well known over this side of the pond.

    If I may add that the 1997 film ‘Man on the Moon’ is a Kaufman biopic, starring Jim Carrey as Kaufman – it’s not particularly great, but Carrey is pretty amazing as Kaufman and the R.E.M. boys were involved in the making of the movie (I think they financially invested, but don’t hold me to that) – and there’s a documentary about the making of the movie on Netflix at the moment (which is supposed to be very good, better than the MOTM film, apparently,but I’m yet to get round to watching) called “Jim & Andy – The Great Beyond”.

    The Great Beyond, of course, was an R.E.M. single (it’s the one that mentions pushing an elephant up the stairs for those with only a passing interest in their songs) which featured on the movie’s soundtrack, and which ended up being their biggest hit here in the UK.

    For those whose interest is piqued, I can recommend “Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman” by Bill Zehme for further reading.

    I’ll shut up now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi – Thanks for dropping by with all this background info. First of all I do remember Andy Kaufman from Taxi and in my original draft post I mentioned that, but then decided to edit it out as I didn’t think many others would remember the character. Out of interest we did start watching the film Man on the Moon on Netflix a few weeks ago (as it was definitely there and I knew I was going to feature this song), but you know what, I know he is an amazing actor an’ all, but I really struggle with Jim Carey’s zany hyper-activity in roles – He really wears me out. After a few minutes we decided that Man on the Moon was not for us although had I not been watching with the other half I might have persevered (for research purposes). Having just checked this morning I see that the documentary is indeed there and having dipped in for a few minutes I think I will return to it later – Jim won’t wear me out as much in this one. Thanks as ever for the heads up.

      As for The Great Beyond, I really shouldn’t have doubted you (being the pop quiz supremo that you are) but I would have put money on the fact it wasn’t their biggest hit in the UK – I was wrong of course, but just shows you what happens when songs are included in films. Might not get round to the Bill Zehme book but others might, so good you mentioned it. Thanks again for all this info.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know what you mean about Carrey and his hyper antics. If it weren’t for the R.E.M. involvement – and how great he is in things like The Truman Show and – probably my favourite film ever – Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, I probably wouldn’t have bothered either. Which may explain why I’ve not got round to watching the Netflix documentary either….

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        1. I was just going to say above that the only film of his that doesn’t wind me up is The Truman Show – Its kind of all become a bit prophetic in our era of non-stop Reality TV. Not seen Eternal Sunshine…., so on the watch list as well now!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Like Jez, I remember Andy Kaufman’s role as Latka Gravas, who worked as a mechanic, fixing the taxis in “Taxi”. His character could best be described as weird and wacky. I think you’d have to see it in the context of an episode of the show to see how it worked. I loved the opening and closing credits to “Taxi” which showed a New York yellow cab driving across the Queensboro Bridge and the them tune was a mellow, jazzy number. Taxi also featured Danny DeVito (who played Kauffman’s agent in the Carrey film) and Christopher Lloyd of “Back To The Future” fame. I discovered more about Andy thanks to an article in Rolling Stone about Kaufman’s outrageous professional wrestling exploits (he only wrestled women!) and how he was taken to hospital after a fight with a top American wrestler, Jerry Lawler. It was all an act, but Kaufman got a huge kick out of taunting audiences at wrestling venues.

    I think the film “Man On The Moon” was the best thing Jim Carrey’s ever done (I’m not a fan) and I absolutely adore the REM song – there’s a live version filmed in Wiesbaden, Germany in 2003 which shows how great the song really is. It also gives you the chance to view the marvel which is Michael Stipe’s ginger unibrow!

    Thanks to your posts, I’ve learned more about the moon in the past year that I ever did in the 60 plus years previous! Keep up the good work and sorry for rambling on about .Andy Kaufman, but boy he was something else.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi – Thanks for this great clip. A very striking mono-brow as you say.

      As I said to Jez above I do remember Andy from Taxi and was going to include it in the post but then edited it out – Shouldn’t have obviously as the people who visit here all seem to remember him from that. I loved the TV show Taxi and for my American Odyssey New York post, I included the title track where the yellow cab is crossing the Queensboro Bridge – Led me onto S&G’s 59th Street Bridge Song which was about the very same bridge. (https://jukeboxtimemachine.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/an-american-odyssey-in-song-new-york-boroughs-bridges-and-feelin-groovy/)

      You’re not alone by the way – Until I started this Moon Series I just took it forgranted, appearing in the sky every night. I too have learnt more in the last 6 months than the previous ……. years!

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  3. A – Loving your Moons and Junes and Taxis!

    Probably already told you, but you must read Moondust – if you haven’t already. And Taxi is really ‘Angela’ by Bob James. I’m a huge James fan (I feel a blog coming from on) and his theme from Taxi is just timeless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi – Yes everyone is mentioning Taxi and yet as you’ll see from the comments above I edited out that little snippet about Andy Kaufman – How ironic.

      I’ve just added a link above to Lynchie re my American Odyssey New York post where the theme to Taxi was included as an iconic NY piece of music – I included the title track where the yellow cab is crossing the Queensboro Bridge: (https://jukeboxtimemachine.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/an-american-odyssey-in-song-new-york-boroughs-bridges-and-feelin-groovy/)

      The words attached went as follows:
      “Another iconic bridge is the one that featured in the opening sequence to one of my favourite TV shows from the early ’80s – Taxi starring Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch. Whenever I hear this theme song I am right back in my student room, my little white portable telly perched precariously on the edge of my desk, just in the right place for the aerial (coat hanger?) to pick up a signal. It would have been mid-week and I was probably having a break from all those laborious hours spent writing everything out in longhand (no computers in those days). A flatmate might have popped in for a coffee whilst we watched the show. Sometimes those memories are the best, ones where nothing in particular was happening, just normal everyday life but hearing that theme reminds me of the scene. A beautiful piece of music called Angela by Bob James.”

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      1. Ah yes, I remember: I see I left a comment too! One of the reasons I blog is the leaving of a permanent record behind – it may not be the Turin Shroud, but these words we write mean something to us.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I know they do – We will look back at our blogs in 10 years time and remind ourselves of what we were thinking about/doing at the time. I hope anyway.

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    1. I love having Americans like yourself drop by as you can casually throw in these kind of remarks, “I saw him in a small club once”. Doubt if anyone else visiting this post will be able to say that. Yes, until next time….

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  4. Me and my crowd were all huge ‘Taxi’ fans in the late 70s and early 80s, so, much like your previous correspondents, that’s where I first knew Kaufman from. It was only years later that I learned his full background and that of the Latka character. The Reverend Jim Ignatowski, played by Christopher Lloyd, was our favourite character in the series. Coincidentally, Jim’s very first appearance in Taxi was when he presided over a paper marriage between Latka and a prostitute,enabling Latka to remain in America.
    Sadly Alan Bean, the 4th man to walk on the moon, died yesterday, leaving only 5 of the 12 still alive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it seems everyone was a big Taxi fan which surprised me as don’t think many mentioned it when I wrote about it for my NY post. The opening titles drew me in and still takes me back to that era when I hear “Angela” play. Most of the actors in it went on to great things.

      I posted this one last night, quite late on, and was just closing down the computer when I noticed that news story about Alan Bean – A strange bit of synchronicity. Not many of the original actors, …. I mean astronauts, left now.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve been quite tempted by all the conspiracy theories surrounding the moon landing over recent years – really makes you think.
    That viaduct photo is just breathtaking – your friend is so talented. Last night I enjoyed the ‘waxing gibbous’ moon that lit up the hedgehog as she/he came down the path. It was already so bright so tomorrow’s full moon should be glorious (as ever, thanks for moon education!) And at the same time last night, Republica were headlining a little local festival that takes place a few hundred yards from my house and I could hear ‘Ready To Go’ as it wafted across the gardens – quite loudly – great song. It was quite a surreal moment…. (might inspire a post!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does make you think doesn’t it but I am now convinced that the flag just looks as if it’s blowing in the wind because it was crumpled. And, I don’t think Elvis works down the chip shop!

      It was bright last night wasn’t it and will be close to full tonight so look out for it again – Love the idea that we’re all looking at this same moon I’ve pointed out. If it doesn’t sound a bit weird, it’s really all quite romantic. A night time hedgehog and Republica playing in the background – No it doesn’t get much better than that.

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  6. “An upside down L-shaped frame was made for it and after being crumpled up in the lunar module for some time, it took on the appearance of a flag being wafted about by all those supposedly non-existent winds.”

    Sounds like just the kind of explanation THEY’D make up to convince us of THEIR lies… too dull to be disputed.

    I vaguely remember Kaufman from Taxi, but I was a little bit too young when it aired. More of a Cheers lad myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no – Now you’ve got me wondering again as I had finally come round to being convinced, what with all the flags I’ve taken out of lunar modules only to realise they’ve become horribly creased, and I didn’t have at iron at hand to sort them out!

      I totally remembered Andy Kaufman from Taxi but I left out that little snippet as I didn’t think many others would – It seems I was wrong and he made a big impact. Wonder where he is now? At Burbank Studios making moon landing films or working down the chip shop.

      Like

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