Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 208
Wed. Sept. 4, 2013
“The Boy in the Well”
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Around the Sun, more so than Up, is one of the most discombobulated albums in the R.E.M. canon. Definitely over-produced, Around suffered for the fact that R.E.M. took a hiatus in the middle of recording to release their first official greatest hits collection for Warner Bros. entitled, In Time: The Best of R.E.M: 1988-2003. I still believe that lyrically, despite Michael Stipe’s grammatical singing of “Leaving was never my proud,” songs like “The Boy on the Well” are one of the singer’s most underrated. In fact, author of the band’s best biography, R.E.M.: Perfect Circle, Tony Fletcher surmises that “Boy” would have fit by “carry[ing] it’s weight” on Automatic for the People.
Stipe described “The Boy in the Well” Craig Rosen, author of R.E.M.: In Time: The Stories Behind Every Song, as being a song about departing when Michael explained “It’s partly about velocity, and being in motion and moving and travelling, the whole thing. It’s about an emotional state in most of these songs and whoever the protagonist is, like in ‘Sad Professor’ pulling themselves from a place where they’ve been maybe for a long time, where they find themselves, to another place. Typically, it’s emotional.”
It’s significant that Stipe mentions that Up track because emotionally and lyrically, “Boy” sounds like a song sequel to “Sad Professor.” Also mirroring, the obvious theme of New Adventure in Hi-Fi’s “Leave,” Stipe told Rosen that like the depressed “Professor” from Up “the Well”is also about, “[…] someone who is really trapped in a place where they don’t belong and even though it’s everything they know, they know they have to leave. That’s what the song’s about.” Instead of being the “Sad” grumbler, “The Boy” in Stipe’s song is coming to the realization that he has to get out of his emotional hole and say farewell from the job, love or circumstances that the song protagonist has found himself in.
After finishing, Fletcher’s magnificent historical tome on my favorite band from Athens, GA, Tony’s book has inspired me to look back on how R.E.M. has been the lyrical and literal soundtrack to my life. “The Boy in the Well” echoes a time when I had to, like the song’s character, to leave for the betterment of my own life and emotional happiness. Looking back, every move that I have made and still making has not only been worth it but is also another chapter in my journey still in progress. That boy from that “well” is still learning, yearning and reaching for his lyrical dreams.
Speaking of learning, looking back at the experience making Around the Sun, I believe Michael Stipe said it best, when he was quoted in Fletcher’s Perfect Circle, “We are each of us moving through this world and figuring it out as we go. We are all sometimes great and sometimes really dumb. We all fall down and we all get up. We all listen sometimes to our instinct over our insecurities, and that makes us wiser and better people.” Stipe is so right. Reflecting through my past with this unheralded Around the Sun nugget, R.E.M. songs like “The Boy in the Well” has always led me to the palace of wisdom I need to be— the place I now call home. My advice, give Sun another chance, you might just love that glowing sound you missed the first time around.