Tuesday, 13 May 2014

R.E.M. - "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?"

Driving to work this morning, the last song that was played on the stereo was a fairly well known song by REM - "What's The Frequency, Kenneth", from their rather unusual album "Monster" in 1994.

The song is fairly familiar to most. However, what may not be so well known is the rather fascinating inspiration for the song.

In 1986, a journalist and newsreader by the name of Dan Rather, was walking along a New York City street, when he was accosted by two men. One asked the question "Kenneth what is the frequency?" Assuming it was a case of mistaken identity, Rather kept on going and ignored it. However he was pushed to the ground and beaten up; the assailants pausing only to re-ask the question "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" The fight was eventually broken up by two doormen from a nearby apartment block.

The main attacker was arrested in 1997 after shooting a stage hand at NBC television studios. He claimed that television stations were taking control of his brain and monitoring him by eaming signals directly into his head. He felt he could stop them by finding the correct frequency to block them out. The attacker served 10 years of his 25 year sentence...

The song itself, by R.E.M., also tackles looking at youth culture from an older person's perspective, and not understanding it. It also attacks the media's fascination with sensationalizing non-issue stories and glorifying celebrities.

"I can't understand!"

With all that in mind, take a listen again to R.E.M. - "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?"




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