Moral Kiosk

Here in the Raleigh Underground video you can see R.E.M. early on playing a lot of songs that they did not play for much of their later years.

Moral Kiosk, a great tune, is one of those songs.

At 13:50  you get some hand placement ideas for the Chorus:

I think it is A/Aadd9 and D/Dadd9 – he is just shifting his pinky to the 5th string and lifting his second finger to make the transition.

At about 14:14, you get a look at the verse, which I think is a typical Peter Buck progression:

Open D then slide the first finger down one string Open D/Db

I realize that is not easy to see in that video–none o f it is. Hand placement is about all you get, and then I figure out what sounds most like it.

That is all that is available from that video.

Here is an incredible video from 1983 – that’s all it says:

The sound quality is poor, but it is amazing that this stuff exists. Do you remember what a cam-corder looked like in 1983? It wasn’t palm-sized. There were no iPhones. It was a monstrous thing–the one in Back to the Future was even more advanced and modern than the one that likely recorded this!! To me it is so unreal to have this older footage and such a joy to watch. We are lucky.


There are heads in the way, but the camera is filming Michael Stipe pointed towards Peter Buck. Intermittently, you get glimpses, and a picture begins to come into view:

Opening chord:

What is this chord? It is hard to say. Many have it as an Esus4*

I don’t think that sounds right, so I play it as an open A, which is very similar.


Open D then slide the first finger down one string

Open D/Db

E (with 4th string bend on 3rd fret, 5th string open).

Bridge to Chorus:

Open F# (PB Style)

slide up to an open Em7 (PB Style)

E (barred on 7th fret)***

B (barred on 7th fret, I’m leaving the bottom two strings open in hommage to PB–no idea what he’s doing, but it sounds right)




Bridge 1:

Open D

Open C (or CM7)

F# thing

Bridge 2:

Playing a little snippet from Wolves, Lower:

Open E,

Open F#

Then Open G? then reach pinky up and hit 6th string, 15th fret , maybe?

I don’t know, best I can do on this one. There is not much other R.E.M. footage out there showing Peter Buck playing Moral Kiosk that I could find**.  Looking at Mitch Easter playing it is instructive, although we won’t let that be dispositive–and judging by hand position, we have this close***:

So here is my attempt:




*The chord that Buck is wailing on has a pedigree closer to jazz than rock–an Esus4″. Murmur 33 1/3, by J. Niimi, Pgs 35-36 (Bloomsbury, 2005).

**Awesome version from the Work Tour – 1987 (I saw them that year)

**The Gallery 1984 (Manchester, England):

***Mitch Easter does not play the “bridge to chorus” with the E bar chord, he plays it by the neck, then slides up to the open B. The other guitarist in the video is barring the E up on 7.


Further Reading

Possible Lyrics


3 thoughts on “Moral Kiosk”

  1. One of my favorite early R.E.M. songs! All the parts look correct, though I always thought Pete played the opening chord as open A, but hammering on the B (on the A-string) to make it the Esus4. Like you said, hard to make out from the video available.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m playing the Esus4 now, and that is what I am doing with my cover band in the video above. But who knows. I lift my fingers up to play the strings kinda open, so maybe that is close to the hammering on the B like you suggest. I got the idea for that Esus4 from the book above (Murmur 33 1/3). I’m finding even info in the books about REM/Athens differ, and accounts now do not agree with accounts then. So how can I trust anything in a book?

      Seeing the videos of Peter Buck playing the songs is the only real proof I have of anything. So my blog here is born out of that idea–what can we discern from the videos and how does that sound? In many cases, we can only get as close as I have here. We know where his hands are, but not specifically which finger is on which string. That’s why I appreciate input from other people like you! (and another reason I created this blog–to stimulate some discussion among guitarists about how Peter Buck played these songs)

      I’m finding that Peter Buck was much more about the nuances than I ever imagined–it was certainly not power chords or just always strumming the chords! Each note is specifically defined and emphasized. I have a tendency to really get into the music when I am playing and keep moving my hand–strumming the strings. But the more I try to emphasize certain strings or notes, the closer I am getting to his sound (and that involves controlling my right hand so I am not just constantly strumming). I am sure I will never be totally there, but it is an evolutionary process.


  2. Yes, I stumbled (no pun intended) upon your blog looking for a clue as how to play 9-9, as there just isn’t much out there in terms of valid tabs. I usually end up trying to find a decent video of either the original band or someone who has made their own lesson video on Youtube, but as you know, early live footage can be challenging. The quality is usually poor or the cameraman only concentrates on Stipe. Ironically, as a bass player (I play rhythm guitar in my free time), I find it’s easier to pick out the hand positions or individual notes on Mill’s parts. So, your blog has been a great help and read!

    I’ve also noticed that Buck throws in additional licks or variations depending on what live version you listen to, as their early performances can be pretty raw compared to the studio tracks. At least the studio guitar tracks are pretty straight forward, as opposed to my other favorite guitarist, Johnny Marr. Nothing like trying to figure out half dozen+ intertwined rhythm parts within a single song!

    Anyways, I hope you continue to update this with new tracks discussions and the like. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

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