R.E.M. — What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

“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, rear-view 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

This song is one of the great examples of effect that media hype can have on people

Its based on following incident….by a maniac ;)

The title refers to the question one of two unknown assailants (one later identified as William Tager) asked CBS anchorman Dan Rather while assaulting him on Park Avenue in Manhattan in October 1986. The phrase Rather reported actually hearing was “Kenneth, what is the frequency?”

R.E.M. vocalist Michael Stipe said of the incident: “It remains the premier unsolved American surrealist act of the 20th century. It’s a misunderstanding that was scarily random, media hyped and just plain bizarre.” On June 22, 1995, at Madison Square Garden, Rather accompanied the band during soundcheck to perform the song. The clip was shown prior to R.E.M.’s performance of “Crush with Eyeliner” on Late Show with David Letterman the following night.

Tager later claimed that he had come from a parallel universe some 200 years in the future. He also claimed that because everyone in the future had a double in the past, he had mistaken Rather for his future double, Vice President Kenneth Burroughs, and that he attacked Rather in an attempt to recover the information needed to stop the television signals being sent to his brain and return to his own time. [1]

In 1997, the New York Daily News identified Tager as Rather’s assailant based on a tip from a psychiatrist. Tager apparently was convinced that the news media was beaming signals into his head, and demanded that Rather tell him the frequency of the signals. He is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for killing NBC stagehand Campbell Montgomery outside the Today show studio in 1994. New York never indicted Mr. Tager for the assault on Rather, and many skeptics remain unconvinced, although Rather accepts the Tager theory. [2]

The incident also inspired a lesser-known song called “Kenneth, What’s The Frequency?” by the band Game Theory in 1987, as well as appearing in the title track for the 1995 album Junior Citizen by Poster Children.

This phrase was also used by cartoonist Daniel Clowes in his graphic novel Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, which was originally serialized in his comic book Eightball. In Eightball #4 (October 1990) the character Billings says this to Clay Loudermilk, after Clay shows him the “Mister Jones” symbol that two corrupt cops carved into his heel after beating him.

The song is great though :D

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