Song of the Day #4,523: ‘9-9’ – R.E.M.

‘9-9’ (pronounced “nine to nine,” according to bassist Mike Mills) is a deep cut on R.E.M.’s debut album, 1983’s Murmur.

Murmur is a fascinating album because it not only introduced the jangly pop and soulful folk rock that R.E.M. would perfect, but also weird, discordant, soft-punk songs like this one that pointed to some of the odd detours the band would take throughout their career.

The lyrics below are the best guess of some dedicated R.E.M. fans who have worked hard to decipher Michael Stipe’s early mumblings. He has admitted that on early albums his lyrics were often stream of consciousness, and this song seems like a prime example.

[Intro]
Steady repetition is a compulsion mutually reinforced
Now what does that mean?
Is there a just contradiction? Nothing much
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord to hesitate

[Verse 1]
Got to punch
Right on target
Twisting tongues
Got a stripe
Down his back
All nine yards
Down her back

[Chorus]
Give me a couple
Don’t give me a couple of pointers
Turn to lies and conversation fear

[Verse 2]
Got to punch
Right on target
Twisting tongues
Got a stripe
Down his back
All nine yards
Down her back

[Chorus]
Give me a couple
Don’t give me a couple of pointers
Turn to lies and conversation
What is in my mind?
What is in my mind?
What is in my mind?

[Repeat Intro]
Steady repetition is a compulsion mutually reinforced
Now what does that mean?
Is there a just contradiction? Nothing much
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord to hesitate
Hesitate

[Verse 3]
Got to punch
Right on target
Twist his tongue
He’s got a stripe
Down her back
All nine yards
Down his back

[Chorus]
Give me a couple
Don’t give me a couple of pointers
Turn to lies and conversation fear

[Outro]
Conversation fear
Conversation fear
Conversation fear

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,523: ‘9-9’ – R.E.M.

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    When my college band, the Generics, covered “Can’t Get There From Here,” we all spent about an hour trying to decipher the lyrics. There were a few we clearly got wrong, at least if those now published on the Internet are correct.

  2. Uncle Franklyn says:

    Interesting cover photo.

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