R.E.M. Lyric Annotations FAQ
R.E.M.: Reckoning: Little America



Little America
The title implies small towns as microcosms of America. Perhaps also alluding to the Confederacy as a "little" America when it tried to be secede? [Ron Henry] * Anyone who's driven cross-country out west can tell you that "Little America" is a chain of very, very large (there may only be a few -- hell, maybe there's only one -- but I think there's at least 2) gas stations, with restaurants, gift shops, etc., whose primary claim to fame is the sheer NUMBER of gas pumps they have. "Little America... 140 miles... 100 PUMPS!!!", like the kids are gonna get SO excited over that. [billg3man] * Was also the name of the explorer Robert Byrd's camp in Antarctica - this is where the gas station got its name. [rbr]

"I don't buy a lacquered thirty/Caught like flies, preserved for tomorrow's jewelry"
Lacquered: "coated with lacquer to preserve". Flies are preserved in amber resin. Jewelry is often made from pieces of amber. [Ron Henry]

"a green shellback, green shellback"
[A] shellback in the sixteenth and seventeenth century was the term for a world-travelling sailor, usually one who has crossed the equator. A "green" shellback then would be a naive (or sick to his stomach? ;) world traveller, which describes the perspective of "Little America" to a tee. [Ron Henry] * Someone else e-mailed me about "shellback" suggesting that it was derived from the practice of keeping large galapagos turtles to be used for food immobilized on their backs in the holds of ships. [Ron Henry]

"in tree beer tar-black brer sap"
Brier sap, a type of resin, appears in some Uncle Remus stories (e.g. "Bre'r Rabbit and the Tar Baby"). [Ron Henry]

"The consul a horse, Jefferson I think we're lost"
The Roman emporer who designated a horse as the consul (a position a little bit similar to a prime minister) was the mad Caligula. [sarahk] * Jefferson refers to Jefferson Holt, the band's then-manager; perhaps alludes to Jefferson Davis [or Thomas Jefferson]. [Ron Henry]

"hedging near the givens"
Givens are assumptions that form basis of a logical argument. See also King of Birds. [Ron Henry]

"Diane is on the beach, do you realize the life she's led?"
Perhaps referring to Diana, the Roman goddess of hunting? [Ron Henry]

Little America: "Sky-lied, sty-tied, Nero pie-tied"
Sty-tied = "hog-tied"? Nero was a Roman emperor. [Ron Henry]

"Reason has harnessed the tame"
See also Feeling Gravitys Pull. [Ron Henry]

Little America: "Another Greenville, another Magic Mart, Jeffer, grab your fiddle"
Many southern states have a city named Greenville. Magic Mart is a discount department store chain. [Ron Henry] * Magic Market is a gas station/convenience store, not a discount store. It's a generic term in the south, like saying "Coke" to mean any soft drink. [Rob Mancini] * Nero was said to have played his fiddle while Rome burned. [Chris Piuma] * [Note that] the Roman Empire didn't "fall" until several hundred years after Nero's reign -- the city did burn down while he held the throne though (and the stories of his involvment in the fires and the famous antectode involving his playing the violin while the city burned are probably exaggerated.) [sarahk]

  Next song: Feeling Gravitys Pull
Questions? Suggestions? Send e-mail to remlafaq@flim.com.
Lyrics from Kipp Teague's Lyric Archive.