Quirky song to play on guitar to say the least.  But (like all these songs) a whole lot of fun to play. I’ve been playing this since high school, although not anywhere close to correctly. From Murmur.

Here I will start with Mitch Easter–not that he is the last word on how Peter Buck plays these songs, but he is certainly an insider who has played with R.E.M. many, many times in addition to producing their first albums.

It gives you a good glimpse into how to play a song that is otherwise difficult to discern.

Here is Raleigh Underground:

At about 16:55 you can see Peter Buck’s hand position on the verse. It is not near the head where Mitch Easter’s is.

At 18:40 we get confirmation of what is universally accepted in my estimation for the chorus.

D then slide up to the 9th fret

I could not find any other videos. We are left with a lot of conjecture, but we have good evidence of hand position from these points in the Raleigh Underground video.

So let’s listen to some bootlegs (I usually do not listen to anything from the album–there is often a bit of layering of parts–and we want to be able to play this stuff live):

And this one which is bad to listen to, because it is so slow–slower than normal speed (I think the tape was slowed down in recording the copy played here)–but the notes are really broken down so you can hear them really well.

So the song has five distinctive parts. The chorus, we’ve covered. There are two parts to the verses, a bridge to the chorus, and a bridge.


There is a Verse 1 and Verse 2. The song starts with a bass intro, and Peter Buck comes in with what I will call Verse 2. It’s the most complex part of the song, so we have to spend the most time on it. I probably do not have it completely right. You can see Peter Buck’s hand position on it at about 16:55 in the Raleigh Underground video. In that part, his hand does not move on the neck.

Verse 2 is in D, and it looks to me like it is these two chords at first:

Dadd9 and Em7 to D6

[I’m just giving them names from the chord finder–they are really probably not chords at all].

Then there is a riff starting on the a string, 7th fret with the high e string open. That all ends in the arpeggio played on this position.

Verse 1 mirrors the bass line. He’s just picking and moving down Em7, E?, and D with a little string bend on the 4th fret 4th string there.

Bridge to chorus:

I think the bridge to the chorus is a Dm, F [sometimes it seems like the first time through, he just plays the F on the chorus without the pinky playing the Dm]. And after listening, the Dm is played as a hammer-on with your 4th finger–so play the F, hammer on the 4th finger, then the notes, then the open D below.

Then there is a quick:

Catapult - Bridge to Chorus

Then D with open E

Finally, before the chorus, there is a standard A.


We’ve covered: D then slide up to the 9th fret


I think Peter Buck is just picking on the Em7 from verse 1, although you can’t see it.

You catch a glimpse of the hand position on the second chord of the bridge the last time he plays it on the Raleigh Underground video at about 18:37 and so it is probably a D, lifting the 2nd finger on the 6th or high e string.

So we put conjecture together with what we know and end up with something I think we can say is fairly close.


This has to be included here:

In December 1982, at the request of their label, IRS Records, REM recorded a demo with Stephen Hague – with the intention of testing how they work together for the possibility of him producing their debut album, which would become Murmur – of Catapult. Hague, known for his work with electronic based bands like New Order and The Pet Shop boys, was clearly a stylistic mismatch. REM laid down the song and Stephen Hague later added his own embellishments (synths, reverb, echo) to the production, presumably to make REM sound more ‘with the times’. REM were reportedly horrified with the results and never wanted anyone to hear the recording.

Also notable because the session shook Bill Berry’s drumming confidence with not being able to play well to a click track (metronome), being forced to record numerous takes to get it perfectly in time.


Further Reading

1. CATAPULT: On Catapult, is the catapult a metaphor for growing up too fast? (on the fan lyric pages, I was responsible for changing “hear the howl of the road” to “rope” – but they refused my suggestion to change “Opie mouth” to “open your mouth” – was I right on both counts?)

it is ‘open your mouth’.


Possible Lyrics


One thought on “Catapult”

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