Me & ‘Me in Honey’

by Tom Swift

You know how sometimes you get a song stuck in your head? That actually never happens to me. What does happen to me is that sometimes I voluntarily choose to listen to the same song over and over. I don’t mean necessarily that I sit in a dark room and put the song on autoloop, though wouldn’t that be fun. No. What I mean is that a song I like will pair with an action I enjoy — lifting weights, for one, or driving in my car on my way to lift weights, for two — and for days in a row I listen to this one song many, many times.

Why I do this at all I’m not sure and that is not the important question right now. The important question right now is why “Me in Honey” by R.E.M. has been that song for me more than once. More than twice, if you must know the truth. Why, especially, it’s been that song for me of late.

There is a lot of honey in the world.
Baby, this honey’s for me
.

The song is the 11th in the order of the album of R.E.M.’s 1991 hit Out of Time. I know this because I don’t really listen to the other 10 on the CD that plays in my car.[1] “Me and Honey” was written by R.E.M. lead man Michael Stipe. It is what he has described as a response song. In this case he was responding to Natalie Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs fame, with whom he shared a friendship, and apparently, for a time, a bed. The Merchant song Stipe is responding to is “Eat for Two,” which, not surprisingly with a name like that, is about a pregnant woman, a young pregnant woman to be precise, who may not have necessarily planned to be with child at this time.

“It’s a male perspective on pregnancy, which I don’t think has been dealt with,” Stipe is quoted as saying in It Crawled from the South, a book about the band by Marcus Gray. “There’s a real push-me-pull-me issue, saying, ‘I had nothing to do with it,’ yet on the other hand saying, ‘Wait I have feelings about this.’”

Kate Pierson, perhaps best known as a founding member of The B-52s, receives duet credit for her vocals. She mostly moans in the background. And I love it. I don’t know where this song would be without her but very likely not playing in my car three times a day.

The single sweetest moments of the song come between verses when Pierson has the floor.

Ahhhh-uhhhhh-Ahhh. Ahhhh-uhhhhh-Ahhh.

I suppose one could read into the combination of woman and man — the song begins with a short groan from Stipe, then then Pierson does her thing — which could be taken as a baby crying, or maybe the ecstasy of sex, I don’t know. I will say in my first four hundred listens, give or take, I didn’t gather that pregnancy was the subject here. I am not sure I even picked up that there was a subject. I’m drawn to song’s energy, which begins with that open, and some clever lyrics that easily rattle off the tongue, even for someone who can’t sign a note.[2]

Knocked silly
Knocked flat
Sideways down
These things they pick you up
And they turn you around
Say your piece
Say you’re sweet for me

The year 1991 is significant to me, the year I graduated high school. It’s also a number that works backward and forwards. What else? I’m not sure I have much else. It is a pop song after all.

Pregnancy in the usual use of the term is not applicable in my life. Perhaps there is something metaphorically pregnant in me. It has felt that way. A change in the way I express in the world, you might say. A subtle yet useful shift. Perhaps. Maybe that is why my subconscious has been so drawn to “Me in Honey,” I don’t know. In the end, maybe I just like how the song has made me feel.

In any event, the loop will end.[3] I will move into more usual patterns of musical consumption. For now, let Pierson stretch her chords and the lyrics rattle around my car once more …

Left me to love
What it’s doing to me

 

*          *          *

[1] Yes, I still have a CD player. You want to make something of it?

[2] Except in the shower.

[3] Likely very soon. Likely by the time you read this, in fact. I have a breaking point. I mean, my shirts do have arms.