Where Do You Get Your Inspiration?

Perhaps from a beating?

On October 4, 1986, CBS anchorman and journalist Dan Rather was attacked on the streets of New York while walking to his apartment. According to Rather, the assailant kept saying, “Kenneth, what’s the frequency?” The attacker was not captured at the time and indeed there were rumors as to whether the mugging occurred at all. Some thought Rather was trolling for a gay lover.

It was not until 1997 that a TV critic laid the story to rest. Rather had been attacked by William Tager, a man who had been convicted of killing an NBC stagehand in 1994. Tager thought radio waves were being beamed into his head by police and that television network personnel could stop the transmissions.

Perhaps presciently, R.E.M. released a song in 1994 called “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” It seemed to detail someone who had lost their moorings. But perhaps not.  MentalFloss.com (external link) offered an explanation of the song and quoted frontman Michael Stipe:

It makes sense that R.E.M., a band whose lyrics were often cryptic and indecipherable, would find inspiration for a song in the mysterious circumstances surrounding a physical attack on newsman Dan Rather. “It was the premier unsolved American surrealist act of the 20th century,” said singer Michael Stipe. “It’s a misunderstanding that was scarily random, media-hyped and just plain bizarre.”

The song, although crazily written and delivered, had a more direct meaning. Stipe later said that “I wrote that protagonist as a guy who’s desperately trying to understand what motivates the younger generation, who has gone to great lengths to try and figure them out, and at the end of the song it’s completely fucking bogus. He got nowhere. ”

Where do you get your inspiration?

What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? (1994)

“What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” is your Benzedrine, uh-huh
I was brain-dead, locked out, numb, not up to speed
I thought I’d pegged you an idiot’s dream

Tunnel vision from the outsider’s screen
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh
You wore our expectations like an armored suit, uh-huh

I’d studied your cartoons, radio, music, TV, movies, magazines
Richard said, “Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy”
A smile like the cartoon, tooth for a tooth

You said that irony was the shackles of youth
You wore a shirt of violent green, uh-huh
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh

“What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” is your Benzedrine, uh-huh
Butterfly decal, rearview mirror, dogging the scene
You smile like the cartoon, tooth for a tooth
You said that irony was the shackles of youth

You wore a shirt of violent green, uh-huh
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh
You wore our expectations like an armored suit, uh-huh
I couldn’t understand

You said that irony was the shackles of youth, uh-huh
I couldn’t understand
You wore a shirt of violent green, uh-huh
I couldn’t understand
I never understood, don’t fuck with me, uh-huh

 

About thomasfarley01

Freelance writer who specializes in history, technology, and human interest stories.
This entry was posted in music, Poetry, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s