I’ve been playing this song a long time–I first learned it from a band that played at my hog school. A few guys a year older than me. I immediately went home and played it over and over. I did not play it exactly right, as I learned when discovering all this video, but it was fairly close.
Again I turn to one of the wonderful full concert videos on YouTube–Germany 1985. They opened with Feeling Gravitys Pull* on the Fables Tour for many of the shows. So when I saw them a few months later in Richmond, VA at the Mosque, they opened with this.
Well, you get a lot here. There are a couple of other videos I found, but all the parts are here. The biggest change for me in how I had played it before was the intro/verse part–the little “lick” he plays:
The harmonics are on the 7th and 5th frets, but he gets some open strings in there.
The chord in the verse is a Bm on the 7th fret.
Bridge to Chorus (or is it the chorus?): Em, then move it up the neck playing the 1st, 2nd, 5th & 4th strings
“Chorus” (or is it a bridge?):
After the final chorus/bridge, there is another Bridge or the Outro:
Open D, Open C/Cm7, then he goes up the neck, and I think anything you play is fine–I’m repeating those chords above the 12th fret with harmonics on the 17th and 19th frets. He also does a little lick I just figured out but left out of the video. As you can tell, “solos” are not my thing.
This is on my 1968 Fender Twin Reverb with overdrive, compressor & stereo chorus on the Ibanez UE400. During this tour, Peter Buck was playing out of a Mesa Boogie amp, which I think was giving him some really rich sounds that are hard to get on the twin. But he had this amp and these effects at the time, too.
*Question: As a HS English teacher I always wondered about your intentional bending of grammar rules and parts of speech (such as “Feeling Gravitys Pull” without the possessive apostrophe), but you answered some of my long-time questions in a previous post. But could you comment further? Or, since I am also an art collector (I own one of your Tokyo photographs, one of Chris Bilheimer’s carousel photos, an an early Sandra Lee Phipps print of you), can you comment upon any other artists or painters who you have worked into any lyrics? I know an obvious one is Man Ray in “Feeling Gravitys Pull,” but I’ve always equated the writing style of many of the lyrics with the painting style of Jean-Michel Basquiat and how Basquiat used signification and continual symbols such as the crown throughout his works. Any other artists inherent in the lyrics?
Michael Stipe: I liked Basquiat fine but his work did not affect my own, certainly not directly. Warhol most certainly did, and to a degree Francis Bacon. Most of the grammer fuckups were either unintentional or I just didn’t like the way they looked on the page or album sleeve. So its a graphics thing. I am btw the best speller in the R.E.M. Office[surprise!], and Mike is the walking dictionary. Big surprise
Question: You’ve spoken of how the film Blade Runner resembles your post-apocalyptic dreams, and how you often tap into that world in your songs (Electron Blue, Feeling Gravitys Pull, Sing for the Submarine). My question is, did you dream of this world prior to seeing these sorts of films? Do you feel like the films in any way inform your dreams, or are the similarities coincidental? (I’m reminded of a conversation I read you had with David Lynch, where the two of you disagreed as to whether the nature of camera zooms and movements were based upon our dreams, or our dreams were informed by them.) And, I picked up on “Tyrell and his mechanical owl” as a, perhaps allegorical, blade runner reference, but what does “a moth disguised as a leaf” refer to?
Michael Stipe: My dreams have been like that as long as I can remember, and frankly the films are kind of a relief, an affirmation. The Tyrell line is a direct reference, and it really threw Peter which we later had a good laugh over. The moth was just something that was there on the wall in the studio the day I wrote the lyric. Above the coffee maker, and I think Scott McCaughey pointed it out or was there when I saw it. Very Bladerunner.