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Music As Children’s Lit: REM

REM holds a soft spot in my heart. Certain albums of theirs remind me of my childhood, not necessarily in some sappy picturesque way, oozing nostalgia, but more like an “oh yeah, I was born in the 80’s” way. Some of their songs and albums played therapist for me during other stretches of life. And meeting guitarist Peter Buck a couple years ago was a highlight.

There are multiple songs in the REM catalog that could be written about in regard to children’s literature, but for today’s installment, we’re discussing “Stand” from the album Green.

“Stand” is like the Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood of Music As Children’s Lit. What I mean is that just like Mr. Rogers might teach a child to tie their shoes or not talk to strangers, this song teaches a child how not to get lost! The first two lines of the chorus read:

If you are confused check with the sun
Carry a compass to help you along

You can’t get any more practical. Frankly, I’m still waiting on the sequel that will tell us all how to navigate following the North Star.

And can’t you just envision the beautiful, mildly surrealistic illustration that would accompany the line,

If wishes were trees the trees would be falling

Ultimately, “Stand” is a practical guide for children venturing out into the world:

Stand in the place where you live
Now face north
Think about direction
Wonder why you havent before

Kids, when you leave the house, remember your address, survey your surroundings, take stock of your directions. This is how you return home, safe and sound.

Here’s the video:

  • Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing but the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.

6 thoughts on “Music As Children’s Lit: REM

  1. I think REM has stopped getting their due. Maybe I’m biased, but they’ve been a hell of a band, for a lot of years. And they managed to do things a lot of other bands in the era couldn’t.

  2. Countless bands owe their existence to Buck’s jingly-jangly chords (just as he owes his own style to The Birds’ Roger McGuinn) and to Stipe’s elliptical lyrics. Not sure how relevant they are now, but I can thank them, along with Neil Young, for one of my favorite bands Built to Spill.

  3. i agree, they’re no longer relevant but i think they’ve made better music in recent years than they’ve been given credit for.

    but really there aren’t many artists who manage to stay relevant beyond their “day”

    and, yes, Built to Spill are awesome. i haven’t gotten the new album yet, but I got to see them open for the Flaming Lips so that was pretty stellar.

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