Is Man on the Moon One of REM's Funniest Songs?

Was thinking about this recently…is Man on the Moon one of the band’s funniest songs?

  • The hook was allegedly accidentally written when Bill (on guitar) was reaching for a beer.
  • Part of the subject matter is comedy.
  • Verses end with an Elvis impersonation.
  • The copious number of ‘yas’ was allegedly a humorous challenge with Kurt Cobain.
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Not sure about funniest, but if you’ve ever really stripped that song down to its parts, or tried to perform it (which I have), its an impeccably well written song. Melodically, lyrically, instrumentally and production wise. Most bands would sell their soul to write a song so good.

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It didn’t strike me how complex it was until a few years ago. The amount of different guitar parts mixed together is amazing. It’s a shame that the Song Exploder/What Makes This Song Great/etc. series focus on Losing My Religion, when Man on the Moon is so interesting (and not quite as overplayed).

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It’s a funny song, and I think “Christmas Griping” is pretty hilarious too. Of course, the line about “a high powered rifle” aged reallllllly badly.

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“Funny” wouldn’t be my word for it. “Whimsical” is more like it, for those reasons you mention.

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Pop Song 89 is, to me, the most cutting and enduring example of the band’s humor.

But yes, Man on the Moon has a certain attitude about it that is very similar to what we see in Warren Zevon. Silly pop culture references are thrown out as though their frivolousness is a key to a higher meaning. A feeling of bemused resignation—of a fundamentally comic view of life—pervades the entire song. The video captured this spirit very well in the closing scene at the bar.