Can't Get There From Here

Album: Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • 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.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 5

  • Juan from Sacramento, CaIn this youtube video from October 2, 1985 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYOxK5TEwJ4&feature=related 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.
see more comments

Chris Frantz - "Genius of Love"They're Playing My Song

Chris and his wife Tina were the rhythm section for Talking Heads when they formed The Tom Tom Club. "Genius of Love" was their blockbuster, but David Byrne only mentioned it once.

Susanna Hoffs - "Eternal Flame"They're Playing My Song

The Prince-penned "Manic Monday" was the first song The Bangles heard coming from a car radio, but "Eternal Flame" is closest to Susanna's heart, perhaps because she sang it in "various states of undress."

Terry Jacks ("Seasons in the Sun")Songwriter Interviews

Inspired by his dear friend, "Seasons in the Sun" paid for Terry's boat, which led him away from music and into a battle with Canadian paper mills.

Chrissie Hynde of The PretendersSongwriter Interviews

The rock revolutionist on songwriting, quitting smoking, and what she thinks of Rush Limbaugh using her song.

Waiting For The Break of Day: Three Classic Songs About All-NightersSong Writing

These Three famous songs actually describe how they were written - late into the evening.

Evolution Of The Prince SymbolSong Writing

The evolution of the symbol that was Prince's name from 1993-2000.