What's the Frequency, Kenneth?
The title of the song itself, it
needs to be explained, refers indirectly to the incident in Oct.
1986 in which Dan Rather, anchor for C.B.S.'s network news broadcast,
was attacked by two unknown men in the street in New York City
wearing suits and sunglasses. The men kept asking Rather "What
is the frequency?" and called him "Kenneth" while
they shoved and accosted him; to date the incident has never
been explained completely (though some have theorized that "Kenneth"
might be Ken Schafer, an electronics expert with whom Rather
had worked in connection with Soviet TV broadcasts). Since the
incident, "What's the frequency?" and calling a clueless
person a "kenneth" have become a trendy youth culture
catch-phrases (which is probably, why Stipe wanted to use it,
rather than an interest in Rather). [Ron
"is your Benzedrine"
Benzedrine is an amphetamine, a
derivative of ephedrine, used as an inhalant to relieve nasal
congestion and as a stimulant of the central nervous system.
"an idiot's dream"
Compare Macbeth, "life is
like a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying
nothing". [Ron Henry]
"Richard said, 'Withdrawal in disgust...'"
A quote from Richard Linklater,
director of the film Slacker [Ron
Henry] * It's also an actual line IN
the film. [billg3man]
"tooth for a tooth"
This is from a Biblical saying
that wrongs must be retaliated with like reaction ("an eye
for an eye, tooth for a tooth"). [Ron Henry]
"You wore a shirt of violent green"
The "shirt of violent green"
mentioned in the lyric may by a reference to a Spider Robinson
short story entitled "Lady
Slings the Booze," which also makes use of the phrase
"What's the frequency, Kenneth?" [Ron Henry]