R.E.M. Lyric Annotations FAQ
R.E.M.: Lifes Rich Pageant: Swan Swan H


 [Lifes Rich Pageant]

Swan Swan H
I have a live version where Michael Stipe says "This next song is about a part of our American history that was very, very ugly." [cb2749] * According to Stipe the song was inspired by a book of post-Civil war correspondence of former slaves. [Ron Henry] * Stipe suggests this should be pronounced "Swan Swan Huh", starting to say "hummingbird", but getting cut off before reaching the "ummingbird" part. [Chris Piuma]

"Johnny Reb, what's the price of fans"
Johnny Reb was the name that Northern Troops used to refer to the Rebels in the South. [erankin] * It's the southern answer to Yankee Doodle. [Ron Henry]

"Some bone chains and toothpicks?"
"Bone chains and toothpicks" are rather gruesome souvenirs made from casualties' bones. [bellaire]

"Here's your wooden greenback"
A greenback is US (Union) currency. [See also Green Grow the Rushes.] "Wooden" suggests fake. [Ron Henry]

"Wooden beams and dovetail sweep"
A "dovetail" is a joint between two wooden beams with interlocking tongue and grooves (tenon and mortises). [Ron Henry] * It may not be relevant, but guitars have dovetail joints. [Chris Piuma]

"The whiskey is water, the water is wine"
See "Water from wine" under How the West Was Won...

"Six in one, half dozen the other"
"Six of one, half dozen of the other" is colloquial for "it's all the same". [Ron Henry]

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Lyrics from Kipp Teague's Lyric Archive.