Registration with

register

lost password recovery

recover my password

sign in

  • If you registered before August, 2014, you will need to register again. Sorry for the inconvenience.
  • remember me
sign in

Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact

Sign up for our newsletter

Get the Newsletter

Man On the Moon by R.E.M.

Album: Automatic For the PeopleReleased: 1992Charted:
30
18
  • This was inspired by the late comedian Andy Kaufman. When he was a teenager, R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe saw Kaufman on Saturday Night Live, and has cited him as a huge influence ever since. See a photo and learn more about Andy Kaufman in Song Images.
  • Things mentioned in this song: Mott the Hoople, Life, Monopoly, Twister, Risk, checkers, chess, twenty-one, wrestler Fred Blassie, Elvis Presley, Moses, Sir Isaac Newton, and Charles Darwin.
  • Kaufman was known for his Elvis-impersonations, which he once performed on Saturday Night Live. Stipe tries one of his own on the line, "Hey, baby are we losing touch?"
  • This was used as the title for a 1999 movie about Andy Kaufman, starring Jim Carrey. R.E.M. did the soundtrack, which included this.
  • Andy Kaufman was never married. He met his long time girlfriend Lynn at a restaurant while shooting a short independent film. The movie told a different story of how they met. (thanks, Jessy - Pittsfield, MA)
  • The lyric "Mr. Fred Blassie and the breakfast mess" refers to Kaufman's movie My Breakfast With Blassie. This was the movie that Kaufman was filming when he met his girlfriend. (thanks, Patrick - Tallapoosa, GA)
  • On an edition of the British TV show Top Of The Pops 2, Michael Stipe claimed that when writing this song, it was a tribute to Kurt Cobain's lyrics and writing, and that the repeated "yeah yeah yeah yeah" at the end of most lines is actually his attempt at putting more "yeahs" in a song than Cobain did. Stipe claimed Cobain was the master at making them fit, and he wanted to out-do him. (thanks, Liam - London, England)
  • R.E.M. performed this with Eddie Vedder when they were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2007.
  • After R.E.M. called it quits in 2011, Michael Stipe said that this would be the song he would most miss performing, particularly "watching the effect of that opening bass line on a sea of people at the end of a show," he told Rolling Stone. "That is an easy song to sing. It's hard to sing a bad note in it," he added.
or Register to post comments

Comments: 42

This is so obvious.
"Man on the Moon" reminds me of my grandmother and my belief that if I can believe in all the things I see on earth, then I have to believe in heaven and life after death.
Believing in Andy Kaufman's comedy begs the ultimate question in life: In the ultimate game of life, do we believe in heaven? Where do we go after we die? Michael starts out saying this song is about the Game of Life. He talks about growing up playing those simple childhood games and watching Kaufman's comedy as a child and then he says, in the real game of life, we die like Kaufman. He is asking "Andy, where are you?" "Where did you go after you died?" "See you in heaven if you make the list? Then he says, "Did you hear about this one?" He's asking, "Are you already in heaven?" Are you still living on after death?" Here's a word "for the never-believer," who doesn't believe in heaven. He says, "the gall of Darwin" to believe in evolution and to say God (and heaven) doesn't exist and you believe that, just as you believe Kaufman's stunts. If they can put a man on the moon and you can believe that and that Moses parted the Red Sea and if you can watch Kaufman's stunts and believe that, then you have to believe in heaven and that Kaufman is in heaven "goofing on Elvis" living on, just like Elvis, whom so many people believe is living on and spotted every day. He's saying that some believe Elvis is spotted everywhere like at truck stops, but can't believe he's in heaven with St. Peter. Michael says actually he's in heaven living on and so is Kaufman, doing the same thing he always did with us, goofing on someone.
Wendy - Bethesda , Md
I've read that Cobain actually played this song before or during his "suicide."Patrick - Atlanta, Ga
Michael Stipe certainly confuses and makes mystery of the song as much as much is he intrigues, although my perspective is I feel it is really quite simple. For example the lyrics, 'Mr. Charles Darwin had the gall to ask... yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah'. These 'yeahs' after historical mentions of figures mainly in Western Culture are not just Stipes' urge to outdo Cobain. The 'yeahs' with their lower dynamic (volume) and speech-like non-commitment indicate 'irony', of people looking at Newton, Darwin, and Cleopatra with no research and going oh whatever I don't believe that even though there is sufficient evidence to prove otherwise. It is I suspect possibly about people's willing to go by popular media and non-credible internet sites instead of the painstaking novel, the scientific theory paper, the most credible historian, and out of this the ridiculous time-wasting debates that ensue. This culture has some of the most dishonest, lying, ungenerous, sensationalist media around, and why?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah...... the song is about the blurring of fact and fiction but in the context of people, as well as me, for who can believe almost anything on their TV screens or papers (or bible) it's ridiculing us, for our tenacity to be easily persuaded, especially so by emotional force. And that's the other clever notion of this song, it is serious but it is also jokey with the Andy Kaufman talk demonstrating for a figure such as Kaufman to ridicule people's willing to immediately lose their brains to watch Elvis (yes great performer but in another light) and be emotionally controlled, to watch a wrestler, etc then even believing Kaufman faked his death, an obvious rumour which, well, doesn't seem be true. The songs American campfire feel around the beautiful pine trees is possibly ridiculing the whole of Western Culture.

The Chorus 'If you believe, there is nothing up my sleeve, then nothing is cool' is quite evident of Stipe playing with the listener in irony to show that some listeners may try to see if there is something up his sleeve but when their isn't it is boring to them, so they reinvent 9/11, moon landings, people's deaths (Hendrix) because their lives are that plagued by boring daytime routines, TV controlled imagination and no spirituality that they have to resort to this so then they can feel good or have something interesting.
The campfire is the ultimate irony (of which it could also be a bar, room, whatever, a meeting, whatever) as the acoustic guitar might display, the impassioned performer trying to persuade and win the hearts of the few there, by being egotistically tender, hypercritical, overconfident, and yet people believe! They take it seriously! This song according to Ann Powers is also joking about human endeavours by placing them alongside boardgames, 'Twister... Risk.' Powers may be intending to show that what is the point of these life long endeavours when people don't care or more accurately don't care to believe it. It also may demonstrate humans sense of "self-importance", who will find us, are we the greatest, in clear complete ignorance of their brother species. In essence they should really just have one, not try t 'classify' everything and be joyous, work hard and do it for the meaning of itself: fulfillment. In other words, look at many perspectives, explore.

The Chorus line 'If you believe, They put a man on the moon, Man on the Moon' seems to indicate with the passionate, emotional tone of delivery that they (band) know it is so because the evidence is irrefutable, I mean I won't go mad but this is billions of dollars to NASA with countless research for the moon landing (in short what is the point of faking that?), if people only went to their website for climate change... AS well. Stipe's tone is urgent, 'you know this? They put a man on the moon, isn't that amazing?!' Julia Gillard was Australia's first female prime minister, and she had the courage and warrior-like strength to take all the scared (because they are scared they will lose tradition, lose their strength because they are actually very weak, etc), misogynistic bulls--t dished out to her. Including to have some incredible policy decisions in three years (which shows how pointless and destructive politics are when you focus solely on appearance, gender and personality instead of ethos and policies), isn't that amazing?
The lyrics are satirising people's gullibility to believe anything, any of the adverts that proclaim you need them when you don't that don't give you anything, cults, religion, you name it. Of course here you can criticise me but I hope you do because it is the only way I and you will learn not to be gullible and 'face the music', face the facts and learn with humility and self-ridicule.
Paul - Melbourne, Australia
My thoughts are that this song relates to gullibility and the time Andy Kaufman and Jim Ross had a "unscripted" fight on the letterman show in the 80's. some people still argue whether it was scripted or not. I think michael stipe is cynical on religion and the moon landings etc, so he is saying that if you believe in them then you probably believe that Andy Kaufmans TV persona is really him.Reidy - Liverpool, United Kingdom
The overall theme is summarized by, "If you believe there's nothing up my sleeve, then nothing is cool". Basically, fun in life is often imagination and imagination is often stimulated by disbelief.

The other lyrics are supporting details, of which Andy K. is the poster child. For example, the first verse and the "yeah-yeah"s represent tedium. The Game of Life, Andy really wrestling, Fred Blassie, Twister, making a list and going to heaven, yawn (or yeah-yeah-yeah). Groovin on Elvis, locked in the punch, Man on the Moon? Everyone knows that!

Moses should be boring, too - unless you don't believe he just walked with the staff of the wood. Newton getting beaned is boring - unless you consider the fact he developed the theory of gravity from this event. Perhaps an asp is responsible for Cleo's demise - unless we use a little imagination (nice suicide ref earlier). Darwin has the gall to ask, disbelieves and look what happens.

If you believe there's nothing up my sleeve, then Moses walked with a staff, Newton got beaned and Darwin was a s***-stirrer. But ... if you think there's more to the story, cool stuff happens.

IMO, of course.
Tony - Cary, Nc
The "if you believe they..." was what draws me here. Two things about the Moon landing have always puzzled me. First, (and this may be explainable), but how were we able to bring back perfect photos of the ship leaving the Moon? Also, in 1969 it is my understanding that it took a large room to hold 1mg of memory. The technology to compress the storage needed for memory was many years off. And, the pc had not been invented, as well as the hand held calculator. Now, does this trip add up?Paul - Nelsonville, Oh
For me, I don't believe this song has anything to do with the moon landings, Kaufman was the master of "is this real?" so i think REM are pretty much just relating the antics and life of Kaufman to the moon landings also something that many people weren't and still aren't sure if what they saw was real, but i don't believe this song really is a comment on the landing, also Kaufman was seen by some as crazy (from another planet).Andy - New Jersey, Nj
This is such a great song, with so many different ways you could try to understand/analyze it. That's what makes it such a great song.Cindy - Evansville, In
For Michael in Indy.If you think the moon landings were faked, then I believe you probably still believe in Santa Claus.Sheldon - Indianapolis, In
Being that Andy Kaufman was always making people question reality, The line "if you believed they put a man on the moon",Was not only a challenge to the populace ,But a tongue in cheek mocking of the gullibility of a nation and the world.Dasher - Brisbane, Australia
I met Michael after a show in Buenos Aires last year and had the opportunity to ask him about it, he smile and said: "I already had the music, and the words came up from somewhere so I put them in the same random way that they came to me. Not big deal, you know!" ...Anyway, who cares about the meaning, the song itself is wonderful!!!!!!! Thanks REM!!!... AND DON´T STOP "LOOKING FOR ANSWERS FROM THE GREAT BEYOND" !!!Jess - Buenos Aires, Argentina
p.s. Mark from Austin. 'the asp bit' is most likely the skepticism surrounding Cleopatra's death. Once again we are faced with believing a myth. Did a snake kill her by the river, or did she kill herself as the Roman's had captured her city?Nelson - P-goula, Ms
The main lyric is 'if you believed they put a man on the moon."

So, what does this mean?

If you don't believe they put a man on the moon, it means you believe Hollywood produced the hoax.

I assume then, that 'if you believed they put a man on the moon' implies the believer is fooled by Hollywood.

How does this connect to Andy Kaufman/the film? At one point his girlfriend and him joke about the real Andy Kaufman.

Well, "if you believed they put a man on the moon...If you believe there's nothing up their sleeve, then nothing is cool."

I think the song is based around a skepticism of truth, extraordinary truths. The ultimate question being is the comedian the actual Andy Kaufman. Other ones included in the song, debate the existence of heaven, evolution, moses, and newton's apple.

The central skepticism is one against production, man on the moon/andy haufman. Both of which might just be acting/hollywood lies?
Nelson - P-goula, Ms
Mark from Chicago, I doubt you would get a, pardon the pun, straight answer from Michael. He lives for abiguity.Coffeegod - Brandon, Ms
Why don't we just ask Stipe what he meant?Mark - Chicago, Il
R.E.M.'s album [b] Automatic For the People [b] is one of the top artistic achievements of the 1990's in popular music. "Man On the Moon" is one of the most memorable and beautiful songs from the album. It is a moving tribute to comedian Andy Kaufman, and it is much more than that. The song is also a meditation on a wide range of elements of popular culture and memory.Bertrand - Paris, France
I believe that most of the song is talking about how Andy's entire life was based on practical jokes... His fightings with the King/his tv special's static problems, Tony Clifton. If you believe they put a man on the moon refering to the speculation surrounding the moon landings. If you think theres nothing up my sleeve then nothing is cool. Refering to how Andy was only having fun if there was a joke involved.John - Btown, Wi
Unbelievable song by an unbelievable, highly under-rated band.Ed - Incognito, Il
Man, I thought that it was saying "Now, Annie did you hear about this one?" Serves me right for thinking this to be a love song...Matthew - Milford, Ma
I think the "here's a truck stop instead of St. Peter's" bit is about rumors that Kaufman had faked his own death, a stunt he had talked about for a while; instead of meeting St. Peter in Heaven, Kaufman might be hanging around at a truck stop. R.E.M. rocks.Mike - Hillsboro, Nj
Dan, Ashburn, VA has the exact same idea of this song as I do. I see it as a message about Life and how the Divine and the inspirational and BEAUTY are to be found everywhere. The first verse is about what appear to be very silly and superficial (but fun!) persuits of games and comedy entertainment. The various games mentioned reflect the aspect of "luck" and "chance" in Life. The second verse tells about much more serious and "important" studied sciences and the great contributions to society by Charles Darwin, Moses, Newton and I'm not sure about the Asp reference. Stipe sums it up with "Here's a little agit for the never-believer. Here's a little ghost for the offering. (here's a little inspiration for YOU) "Here's a truck stop instead of St. Peters"Mark - Austin, Tx
This is for Mason. The setting is the present (late 1970s), and the first manned mission to Mars is on the pad, ready to go. When NASA authorities realize that a major subcontractor's faulty life support system design has doomed any chance of a successful flight, they decide to fake the landing rather than scrub the mission.
Minutes before launch, the bewildered crew are removed from the ship and flown to an old U.S. Army base deep in a desert. They are then informed that whether they like it or not, they will fake the TV footage from Mars. Initially they refuse, but the authorities imply that their families will be murdered if they do not cooperate.
Michael Gould - Indianapolis, In
The song is about death. its about michaels vision of the journey. 'heres a truck stop instead of saint peters' is the reference to the fact people were claiming to see ELVIS at really random places long after his death.. like at a truck stop , hence could the truck stop be instead of st peters ?Mark - Lincoln, England
He could be talking about the Basketball game 21.Jon - Oakridge, Or
I'm not an R.E.M. fan, but 'Man on the Moon' is a song I like very much.Benjamin - Amsterdam, Netherlands
Good lord! what's wrong with all of you? 21 is a card game! it's the English name for Black Jack; to us, blackjack is a totally different game, so we call it 21.Dorian - Pontefract, England
The line "Heres a truck stop instead of St. Peter" is in reference to St. Peter guarding the pearly gates. Rest or Die.James - Sydney, Australia
I still remember when I discovered this tune and what it was about. As a long time fan of Kaufman (and REM) it remains among my favorite songs. I'm lucky enough to have a copy of most Friday's episodes including the one with Kaufman. They did a fine job recreating it for the Carrey film.James - Vidalia, Ga
I actually think the line "Here's a truck stop instead of St. Peter" refers to a choice of stopping for a break, or losing it all.

St. Peter being the guardian of the Pearly Gates
James - Sydney, Australia
I think the line,

"If you believe they put a man on the moon, man on the moon.
If you believe there's nothing up their sleeve, then nothing is cool"

refers to the fact that some people believe the Moon landings were faked by the US government so that it would look like we were ahead in the space race. There was even a book written about it (I forgot the title). Does anybody know if Andy Kaufman ever did any routines about this theory? I have a friend who thinks the Moon landings were faked, and what do you know? His name is Andy.
Mason - Prior Lake, Mn
The Movie Man On The Moon was a very toutching movie i have probally seen it over 20 times and it never gets old the song is excellent i really like REM and the songs they released for the movie where ALL good im only 17 but i wish i could have been there to see some of andy kaufmans stunts especially the one he pulled on the show "Fridays" The Show similar to SNL in 1980 to 82Dodge - Lexington, Ky
their are 56 uses of the word 'yeah' In this song!James - London, England
R.E.M. writes lyrics that speak to many different levels. "Here's a truck stop instead of St. Peter's" should make you ask yourself 'what's the difference between a truck stop and St. Peter's cathedral in Rome?' If God (or the supreme being, whatever) is everywhere, can't we find Him in a truck stop as well as St. Peter's? Is Michaelangelo's Pieta of the grieving Mary (in St. Peter's) any more representative of the Divine than an old man drinking his coffee. You don't have to go to St. Peter's to have a spiritual experience, you can have it anywhere--that's what reality is. Kaufmann was the king of challenging people's perception of "reality" in the 70s.Dan - Ashburn, Va
does anyone know the purpose of this verse? "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 [wrestling bears]. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah."
Bryttany - Charlotte, Nc
I think it parodies "My Dinner with Andre"Alex - New Orleans, La
He mentions "Fred Blassie in a breakfast mess." This is a reference to the Andy Kaufman movie "My breakfast with Blassie," in which Andy and Fred have a talk over a breakfast meal...it parodies another movie but i can't think of the title right nowChad - Orlando, Fl
The life story of comedean Andy Kaufman. Stipe is a big fan of 'outlaw humor' since he has also metions fellow groundbreaking comedian Lenny Bruce in End Of The WorldEpp - Pittsburgh, Pa
Minor correction: the movie about the game show "Twenty-One" was called "Quiz Show", not "Game Show".Adam - Portland, Or
Patrick, although the phrase "twenty-one" may refer to the 1950s game show, I thing it's probably more likely referring to blackjack.Jason Lee - New York, Ny
"Mister Andy Kaufman's gone wrestling": Andy used to hold the title of InterGender Wrestling Champion and it is doing that where he met his wife.Dennis - Aberdeen, Scotland
The phrase "twenty-one" is mentioned along with names of board games ("Monopoly, Twenty-One, Checkers and Chess..."). "Twenty-One" was a famous TV game show during the 1950s, which was later cited for being "rigged", causing one person to constantly win every game (Charles Van Doren). The entire episode was the subject of the movie "Game Show."Patrick - Conyers, Ga
I love REM. This album is of real quality. i like the vidoe for every body hurts. the music on here is very clinical and crisp.Chris - Hamilton, New Zealand