Thursday, April 26, 2012

Life in Song: Man on the Moon

Life in Song is a series which will likely never finish. It is not, as originally conceived, a span of my hundred favorite songs; rather, each post covers one song randomly selected from a list of those which immediately evoke a memory or other emotional response. Entries will likely be uncomfortably candid and melancholic, as they attempt to recount a song's personal significance and also its context in my psychotically detailed fantasy life.

Song: R.E.M. - Man on the Moon

Thoughts: It's not a song that immediately gets me excited to write an entry, but neither is it so dull that I immediately regretted attempting one tonight. I love its melody and hook and can still get really into it occasionally. Michael Stipe's adenoidal voice has always sounded very expressive to me.

Defining Era: 2000.

Vital Lyric: "Andy, are you goofing on Elvis? (Hey baby.) Are we losing touch?"

First Exposure: I first came across Andy Kaufman at a pretty young age, maybe eleven or thirteen, when two specials about him were in rotation on Comedy Central. I was taken with the idea of eccentric, provocatively inscrutable comedy. I took the idea that I was his reincarnation. I don't know if I heard the song before the film of the same name came out. Being also a massive, unabashed (if fading) fan of Jim Carrey as a child, it was a dream project. After reading about it in TV Guide, I told my father about it, who told me about the song. As the movie was 1999, "Man on the Moon" is likely among the first crop of songs I had on Napster.

Prominent Memory: Seeing Man on the Moon with my father in the Forest Hills theater. I'm not sure why we saw it there. It was where we also saw Beyond the Mat, so maybe it didn't come to our regular spots, although that seems unlikely. We walked along that street afterward, not the main strip but the one to the side, past the theater. I don't remember how I began the sentence but I was probably responding to the mediocre review it received in the newspaper we had at the diner earlier that day, which said that the film was simply Jim Carrey being Andy Kaufman through different scenes, never really displaying any insight. I told my father how truly touched I was (I may have said it was hard not to cry) at the final scene when "they blare 'Man on the Moon.'" I may have also said "when they show 'Dedicated to Andy Kaufman,'" but I can't find footage of the closing credits to confirm that that's actually true.

Alternate Memories: In boarding school, Bobby comparing himself to Andy Kaufman. It was the last time I said in earnest that I was Kaufman reincarnated. We were standing outside of the computer building. One of us on the steps. I meant it as a big, defiant punctuation mark on the conversation. It certainly was. I don't know which of us was less respectable, him trying to justify his malcontent abnormality with the Kaufman allusion or me contending that I had a spiritual kinship with him.

It was me, actually. I was less respectable.

Bobby isn't on Facebook, I've just found. It's difficult to imagine someone that idiosyncratic, possibly more so than anyone I've known, not eventually achieving fame or an early death. His alias is apt, I'd almost be disappointed to have located him.

Fantasy: Interestingly, this song was most relevant to me in the Cliché Teenager days that predate H Street. Which means that I was picturing a different club when I fantasized about us coming on stage after being informed of Andy Kaufman's re-timed death and performing this in his honor, as it wasn't at the standard summer camp stage. Or perhaps it was, and it's morphed, as I got into R.E.M. in full with the formation of H Street. Either way, this is a mainstay, even with Artist on Artist. It needs recontextualizing.

Out of Ten: 7.2

Audiosurf Score: 295,862 (Global: 4, Nearby: 2)

Some Levity: Possibly just after coming home from seeing the movie or earlier than that, looking up the song's lyrics and finding an interpretation. It explained a lot of the lines but did say that the song itself was calling the moon landing a hoax. I doubt now that R.E.M. actually believes so, but I told my father about seeing that, proudly.

This isn't that funny, especially because on the same night I found some Andy Kaufman message board with a lot of people being very hostile to Bob Zmuda and other names. One of my earliest exposures to vindictive cursing. I'm not sure what they were arguing about.

No comments:

Post a Comment