R.E.M. are not exactly famous for their blunt and straightforward, straight-to-the-point lyrical transparency. Whilst it’s true that over the years there was a definite evolution from the sometimes indecipherable vocals of the wonderful debut album “Murmur“, the songs are often cryptic and impressionistic, open to multiple interpretations.
So whilst this song is one that at first sight appears to be a tribute to comedian and entertainer Andy Kaufman, it’s clearly not that straightforward. As can be seen from this page, the song elicits all sorts of interpretations – some obvious, others somewhat contrived. The “man on the moon” is apparently “an oblique allusion to rumors that Kaufman’s 1984 premature death was faked”.
Andy Kaufman is not somebody whose work I am particularly familiar with. But what I did know was the US sitcom “Taxi“. It’s one of those shows that elicits a proustian rush in me that takes me right back to my early teens. I loved that show, and looking back over a few clips recently it seems to have retained its charm, something that can’t be said for everything from that era. Here’s a clip with Andy and Danny DeVito – priceless!
But back to the song. Taken from the bands commercial peak album “Automatic for the People“, “Man in the Moon” is a simple, gentle song filled with cultural references to Andy Kaufman’s career.
So here’s the ukulele chord sheet for the song (largely derived from these guitar chords). Nothing complicated here, I think. Sing loud, and enjoy!
Oh, and if you want to hear what this sounds like on a uke, you could do worse than listen to this.