The Great Beyond

Album: Man On The Moon Soundtrack (1999)
Charted: 3 57
  • This was used in the 1999 movie Man On The Moon. The movie is about Andy Kaufman, a very strange actor/comedian who generated lots of media attention with his outrageous stunts. He played Latka on the TV show Taxi.
  • Lead singer Michael Stipe said this song is "About attempting the impossible, which I think is what Andy Kaufman did with his entire career."

    He added in Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: "My stab at an 'Ashes To Ashes,' which I consider to be one of the greatest songs ever written. Revisit a character that you've written a classic song about, and try to one-up yourself. That is no easy task. Bowie pulled it off for real. I think live recordings of this song are more exciting than the studio version, but it is a stunner. All the imagery in the chorus is from real life, and references my version of Kaufman's favorite joke by Laurel and Hardy."

    Laurel and Hardy were a classic-comedy team who starred in shorts and feature films from the Silent era through the early-'50s. One of their most famous gags was in The Music Box (1932), when they pushed a piano up an enormous set of stairs, with disastrous results.
  • This was nominated for a Grammy for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television of Other Visual Media. It lost to Randy Newman's "When She Loved Me" (performed by Sarah McLachlan) for Toy Story 2.
  • The movie Man On The Moon took it's title from an earlier R.E.M. song about Andy Kaufman.
  • This was R.E.M.'s highest-charting single in the UK.
  • Peter Buck recalled in Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: "Michael was trying to figure out what to say about someone like Andy Kaufman without writing an autobiographical or diary-filled song, and he came up with all of the different metaphors about pushing the elephant up the stairs and bending spoons in an effort to explain what Andy's career was like."
  • The music video, directed by Liz Friedlander, shows the band performing the song in front of TV cameras and intercuts footage from the 1999 movie, starring Jim Carrey. One scene shows the guys throwing darts at Carrey on a projector screen. An alternate version of the video swaps the film scenes for actual footage of Andy Kaufman.
  • This was an audition song for session drummer Joey Waronker. "We gave him a list of five songs to learn, and then threw a new one at him to see how quickly he thought on his feet. Very quickly as it turns out," Buck noted in the compilation In Time.

Comments: 8

  • David from Maplewood, Nj"I'm bending spoons" refers to mentalist Uri Geller. His signature trick, which he did at numerous performances and TV appearances starting in the 70s, was claiming to bend spoons through telekinetic powers gained in an alien encounter. He is perhaps the most successful illusionist ever.
  • Jack from Manchester, EnglandThe line "keeping flowers in full bloom" is a reference to E.T.
  • Gordon from Edinburgh, United StatesThis is also a song about the Other Side, just as the title states: up the fondly imagined stairway to heaven. But why push an Eli Eli phantasy up these spiral stairs in never-there bended Spoonerisms ... humming birds? a play of wonder, breaking through shadows of an overshy molder. DPRS Laing Edinbugh, SC.
  • Chad from Andover, MnUhh, Jeri, Jacksonville, Fl, Kaufman was never a cast member on SNL. He just appeared very often on SNL.
  • Deshawn from Philadelphia, Pa""I'm pushing an elephant up the stairs, I'm tossing out punchlines that where never there" - great lyrics
    - Jack Lee, Nottingham, England "

    Those lyrics were actually taken word for word from some of Andy's stand up. I like this song much better than the "Man on the moon". My Girlfriend used to like it less but really giving it a listen changed her mind. I think she used to liked MOTM better because it's a much more fun song to listen to. But in the end "Great Beyond" provides a deeper feeling after it'a done and while it's playing. and you're right. Those are great lyrics!
  • Jack Lee from Nottingham, England"I'm pushing an elephant up the stairs, I'm tossing out punchlines that where never there" - great lyrics
  • Jeri from Jacksonville, FlWhen R.E.M. was the musical guest on "Saturday Night Live" in Dec. 1999, they played this song. Appropriately enough, as Kaufman was a fantastic former cast member of SNL.
  • Epp from Pittsburgh, PaA follow up to their song Man on the Moon. However, this song focuses on the ideas of Kaufman, while MOTM focused on his life story
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