Can't Get There From Here

Album: Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)
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  • Lyrics
  • This was the first single off the album. It didn't chart, but the album was the first by R.E.M. to chart in the UK.
  • This was influenced by Soul records R.E.M. listened to. The band approached the song as a "tongue-in-cheek tribute" because they were a bunch of white guys trying, but failing, to emulate their black Soul idols. Instead, they wound up with their own unique sound.
  • Lead singer Michael Stipe refers in the lyrics to "Brother Ray." This is most likely pianist Ray Charles.
  • This was never intended to be included on a record. When they played it at some surprise gigs in their hometown of Athens, Georgia, the crowds loved it, so they recorded it.
  • Philomath is a town referred to in the lyrics as a place gone to for inspiration. It is a real town in Georgia, east of Atlanta, but Stipe claims he's never been there. He picked it because it was "fictional-sounding."
  • Again with the Soul motif, Stipe screams at several points, "Gentlemen testify!" This is a phrase often heard in black churches.
  • The line, "Lawyer Jeff he knows the lowdown" refers to former R.E.M. manager Jefferson Holt, who was fired following allegations of sexual harassment.
  • The band no longer plays this song in any of their concerts. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Sam - Lincoln, NE, for above 2
  • Regarding the lyrics, "Philomath they know the lowdown," Philomath was a stop on the Georgia Railway near Athens. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Tristan - Pennsburg, PA
  • The music video, directed by Michael Stipe and Rick Aguar, shows the guys at a drive-in theater, juxtaposed with images of them running and tumbling through a country field and performing in silhouette. "We used the new-to-us 'blue screen' process," Peter Buck told MTV UK in 2001. "So we have dinosaurs and monsters in the background. It's probably the most humorous video we've ever done. For a band that's kind of noted for not having a sense of humor, I kind of enjoy that aspect of it."
  • This song title occasionally appears without an apostrophe, a punctuation mark the band often eschews.
  • This was the first R.E.M. song to employ a horn section.
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Comments: 5

  • Juan from Sacramento, CaIn this youtube video from October 2, 1985 it is indeed Michael Stipe singing the song "Can't Get There From Here".
  • Andrei from Chicago, IlAccording to book "R.E.M. Inside Out" the falcetto IS from Michael Stipe. And that's what he said: "I figured out that I had all these different voices in me, and maybe one of the first songs I tried using more than one oÃ? two of those voices at a time was on 'Can't Get There From Here'."
  • Holly from Nottingham, EnglandI remember reading they wrote it as a joke about the fact that someone they knew (Bertis Downs maybe), when asked for directions anywhere, would say "You can't get there from here."
  • Terry from Ocean Springs, Ms"Lawyer Jeff" is REM friend, Jefferson Holt, who is also mentioned in the Reckoning album's song "Little America" when Stipe sings "Jefferson, I think we're lost." Anyways, I think that's right.
  • Bob from Apple Valley, MnThe falsetto is from Mike Mills, not Michael Stipe.
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