REM: Man on the Moon Meaning
Song Released: 1992
Man on the Moon Lyrics
Andy Kaufman in the wrestling match. yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Monopoly, twenty one, checkers, and chess. yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Mister fred blassie in a breakfast mess. yeah, yeah,...
anonymous Mar 24th, 2008 3:57pm report
We must think good and hard about the middle chorus: "Moses went walking with a staff of wood, Newton got beamed by the apple good, Egypt was troubled by the horrible asp, Mr. Charles Darwin had the gall to ask." What does this list imply? I believe it speaks of men of genius, like Andy Kaufman. These are truths that defied established orthodoxy; were as the man on the moon may be a conspiracy, an illusion, much like Kaufman's belief that life is an illusion (see movie). If you believe there's nothing up their sleeve than nothing is cool! Do you believe? Are you a believer?
anonymous Sep 16th, 2007 9:24am report
The song is referring to the belief by some people that Andy Kaufman is still alive and his death was just another one of his crazy comedic stunts. This relates to the belief that the moon landing was fake which is the reason behind the title.
anonymous Oct 4th, 10:54am report
I think the most interesting line in the song is "here's a truck stop instead of St Peters" which I think is saying if you don't sometimes believe what is being sold to you you will have the mundane instead of the glorious. So perhaps sometimes it is better to believe in a man on the moon.
tali.kellman Jul 30th, 2014 7:13am report
I think this is a thought-provoking emotive eulogy for a very cool, enigmatic character who lived his life according to his own rules and his own logic, always up to something interesting, eccentric and totally awesome, like creating a pseudo career as a boxer as a joke. Brilliant! It's a tribute to an unusual thinker and a man who lived life against the tide. There's references to Newton and Darwin who also had the gall to question the status quo, and references to his well-known stunts are peppered throughout the song. A lot of the specific structure of the song is stylised so it's more helpful to understand it as a whole, rather than try to break up its parts. I think the references to heaven and Andy gone boxing reflect Andy's own questioning of the linear nature of time and that when were gone forever and even his questioning of heaven as a possible theory, with Andy all popular established truths were up for questioning and ridicule. This was his lasting gift to us, that he leaves us guessing and wondering whether it's possible that he even cheated the finality of death and is still somewhere out there goofing around.
"If you believe they put a man on the moon", then you're someone who will never understand a man like Andy Kaufman, you'll be happy to be fed whatever diet of lies and illusions abound in popular culture and you'll miss the genius and poignancy of a life lived with utter originality.
anonymous Nov 12th, 2012 11:03pm report
Considering the controversy about Kaufman and even Elivs's death, it causes one to wonder if anything is actually true.
From a Hollywood jokester to even the big wigs of science...were they all gimmicks and merely pawns in a bigger game?
What is real and what is not? Skepticism as an underlying theme rather than accepting the status quo or "what's cool." Only cranis believe landing on the moon was a hoax, but there is still a bit of skepticism demonstrated in this song...what other tricks do they have up their sleeves?
anonymous Sep 9th, 2011 9:05pm report
My thoughts are that this song relates to gullibility and the time Andy Kaufman and Jim Ross had a "unscripted" fight on the letterman show in the 80's. some people still argue whether it was scripted or not. I think michael stipe is cynical on religion and the moon landings etc, so he is saying that if you believe in them then you probably believe that Andy Kaufmans TV persona is really him. (religion=no moon landings=yes)... my thoughts...
anonymous Aug 26th, 2011 8:00am report
The literal interpretations:
Goofing on elvis refers to his great elvis impressions...
Fred Blassie and the breakfast mess refers to the wrestler fred blassie for whom andy did a movie with during his wrestling stint...
if you believed - they put a man on the moon - if you believe there's nothing up his sleeve...then nothing is cool - refers to the implied hoax that the government set up the moon landing at area 51 - did the government have something up it's sleeve? - if you just believe without questioning then you risk not discovering something cool - which leads to the darwin lyrics...he had the gall to ask - and look what he discovered..."cool"...
This song is a tribute to Andy Kaufman's career - he always had something up his sleeve....the master of hoaxes - he wanted you to question him and couldn't believe if you didnt - that was hilarious and entertainment for him...He was an innovative artist that always kept you wondering - what was true or not true...
anonymous Aug 26th, 2011 8:46am report
dont just believe they put a man on the moon - dont believe andy doesnt have anything up his sleeve - question it...like darwin did in his day...perhaps you'll discover something "cool"...
it's a tribute to andy kaufman - his career as an entertainer and what he perceived as funny and entertaining - which was so different then - he was brilliant - andy loved games, wrestling with Lauler, movie with fred blassie,he loved a great hoax - was andy tony clifton and tony clifton andy? sometimes yes sometimes no - just when you think you've figured out and have the truth - andy dupes you again...did we land on the moon - maybe we did...maybe we didn't - dont just accept the truth as it's told to you - question it...perhaps it's a hoax - what are thge possibilities???
anonymous Aug 26th, 2011 8:37am report
This song, the lyrics, and the title - all reflect Andy Kaufman's career and his life of deceiving others (in a comic way) just to get a reaction because he though THAT was comedy or entertainment. It's a tribute to Andy by saying- don't take what you're told, what you're shown for absolute truth or for granted - question it - just like Darwin did - if you just believe - then nothing is cool - if darwin just believed and didnt question...then all the "cool" things he discovered would never have happened...Andy was the master of deception and hoaxes - he couldn't believe people believed him - he always had something up his sleeve!
Neuropacker Feb 23rd, 2011 2:26am report
The song starts out with the games of childhood and one of the comedy stars of his childhood, Andy. We're raised to play the game. It also says that he was raised in a relatively fundamentalist religious family (see you in heaven if you make the list).
Then, we get a cool juxtaposing of the religious icons and the science icons--pretty clear who wins this one in Michael's eyes (Mr. Charles Darwin had the balls to ask). And, yes. A lot of rigidly religious people don't believe we put a man on the moon. And if you believe there is NOTHING up the sleeve of those people--who put a man on the moon--that is cool (it's all good without a lot of religious mojo).
And, as for Andy, he loved to parody those who narcissitically danced around with some type of false power. Had to have been one of Michael's kind of guys. But, those creativity problems of his had him sometimes lost in the punch---he was losing touch like we all do sometimes when we're wrapped up in the game.
anonymous Dec 20th, 2010 12:45pm report
The song is about the possibility of Andy Kaufman's staged death. It is slightly ambiguous, however the listener can draw implications from certain lines. ultimately though, like the film 'Man on the Moon' it leaves the audience to decide whether or not they believe Kaufman is dead.
The defining couplet is
"If you believed they put a man on the moon, man on the moon
If you believe there's nothing up my sleeve, then nothing is cool..." The speaker, who appears at this point to be Kaufman, questions the audience by implying that believing that the notorious trickster Kaufman would go out without one last bang is as ridiculous as believing in the moon landings, which for the purposes of the song appear to be assumed to be ridiculous.
I've been thinking a lot about this song lately. I agree with most of what's been written here, but I also think it's an elegy, a kind of letter to the deceased. Whether or not Andy's dead, he's definitely gone. "Here's a truck stop instead of Saint Peter's".
Very moving song, more so as I get older.
I believe the overall meaning of this song is summarized in the lyric, "If you believe there's nothing up his sleeve, then nothing is cool." Mr. Stipe reminds me that child-like wonder, hope, and belief (regardless of validity) bring much more joy than cold hard facts.
anonymous Aug 18th, 2009 8:00am report
I think that part of the text "If you believe there's nothing up my sleeve, then nothing is cool" implies the newer- belivers... And the calamitously reality in the world in which no one belives no one... Come on people: Mister Andy Kaufman's gone wrestling! Belive what you want, but belive in people...
Is there a Man on the moon? Who cares, if there is for you... I belive this song is dedicated to ingenius people, and Andy Kaufman among them, who knew thar sometimes life has no understanding for rationality, and life is an ilusion.
Thats what I think, sorry for my bad english...
REMareback Sep 6th, 2008 9:55pm report
Before I read it was about Andy Kaufman, I just believed this song was about being gullible, believing they put a man on the moon was the ultimate sign of being so.
In the verses other than the chorus, he is sort of checking things out, ie saying them, to try and see whether or not they are true.
Moses went walking with a staff of wood, ie do you believe the Bible?
I also always thought it was telling people not to believe everything they are told, eg don't believe there was a man on the moon, ie don't take people's words for things.
If you believe, there's nothing up my sleeve, then nothing it cool.
I thought he was playing a trick, and someone fell for it, and that's no cool.
Just my opinions, please rate my interpretation.
anonymous Jul 17th, 2007 7:41am report
The Warner Brothers press release for "Automatic for the People," the album off of which this song comes, said that this song was Michael Stipe's answer to the Divine Comedy. In other words, Andy Kaufman is Virgil to Stipe's Dante, and is leading him around the afterlife, showing him what (and who) is to be found there.
I think that Warner Brothers' PR hacks were oversimplifying for the sake of making it easier for press flunkies like me to understand what is (I think) a very complex (and somewhat indecipherable) meditation on spirituality and the afterlife, but it's given me something to think about for 15 years. :)
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