"Maps And Legends" as written by and Peter Buck Bill Berry....
He's not to be reached he's to be reached.
He's not to be reached he's to be reached.

Called the fool and the company
On his own where he'd rather be.
Where he ought to be he sees
What you can't see can't you see that?

Maybe he's caught in the legend
Maybe he's caught in the mood.
Maybe these maps and legends
Have been misunderstood.

Down the way the road's divided
Paint me the places you have seen.
Those who know what I don't know
Refer to the yellow, red and green

Maybe he's caught in the legend,
Maybe he's caught in the mood.
Maybe these maps and legends
Have been misunderstood.

He's not to be reached, he's to be reached.
He's not to be reached, he's to be reached.
He's not to be reached, he's to be reached.
He's not to be reached, he's to be reached.

The map that you painted didn't seem real.
He just sings whatever he's seen
Point to the legend, point to the east,
Point to the yellow, red and green

Maybe he's caught in the legend,
Maybe he's caught in the mood.
Maybe these maps and legends
Have been misunderstood, been misunderstood.
(Maps and legends)

(Maps and legends) Is he to be reached?
He's not to be reached.
(Maps and legends) Is he to be reached?
He's not to be reached.
(Maps and legends) Is he to be reached?
He's not to be reached anymore.


Lyrics submitted by Nelly

"Maps and Legends" as written by Peter Buck Bill Berry

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

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Maps And Legends song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentIn 1985, Stipe said that reading a map is used in this song as a metaphor for reading a person: "There are a lot of people like maps. You look at them, and you can lay them out on a table and read them and run your finger over them. You can find their little stories, their squares and circles...you go down the key and it tells you what the circle means. And then you look at the map and it starts to make sense."

    He also said (in 1986) that it was "kind of about" Reverend Howard Finster, a baptist minister in Summerville, Georgia (died 2001) who was known for his visionary and folk art (e.g. the cover of "Reckoning"), hence the references to painting.
    darlomundayon June 27, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commentlol...don't know wat it's about, but it's an incredible, very eerie song...i jus think it's funny that when he supposedly sings "he's not to be reached" it sounds like "life's a bitch" and "is he to be reached?" sounds like "is he a bitch?"
    ZinbobDanon February 19, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt sounds like someone who's absolutely engrossed in something, but totally unable to describe it in any useful way. It's a nice song but really seems to be more about the general statement of this album than any specific identity. that's probably the point though.
    morypcainaon June 01, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment9 duplicate posts. Must be a new record.

    As for the song, I really like Mike Mills's backing vocals on this track. My favorite from "Fables".
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    Jakeberton July 31, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this is about nothing being clear, and even the most concrete things, the maps, can be wrong sometimes and that everyone changes and that not everyone is good or bad but everyone is the shade of grey and this is a really long sentance and i'm pretty sure noone is even going to read all of this so i'm going to stop now.
    rockmanon January 26, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's about the Reverand Howard Finster. Stipe said so.
    androgybunnyon March 15, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI have a live version of this song on the B-side of a 45 single of "The One I Love"--excellently done!
    =))
    pharmageekon September 08, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Those who know what I dont know refer to the yellow red and green"

    yellow red and green are the three colours of a standard american directional traffic lamp.

    If "those who know" live where you are just passing thru, they will probably guide you to your destination by street lamps, for example their directions to you may say "go straight until you see a set of lights, take a left, you'll see another set of lights, keep straight, it'll be on your right"




    "lost in the legend"

    would be trying to decipher the legend on a map...or perhaps being fascinated with a local legend of a place you are visiting...
    laurelinwyntreon October 07, 2007   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningI feel that this song actually describes what it is that I love about R.E.M. I'm always captivated by the conviction in their songs - a sense that they're singing about vital stuff - exultant! And yet, I usually can't tell specifically *what* it is that they're singing about!

    > Where he ought to be, he sees what you
    > Can't see, can't you see that

    There's something that the subject of the song (Reverend Howard Finster, the visionary minister/artist that others have mentioned?) sees, something that we don't see, and

    > Maybe he's caught in the legend
    > Maybe he's caught in the mood
    > Maybe these maps and legends
    > Have been misunderstood

    Maybe he understands in a way that *conventional understanding* is unable to do - by disregarding convention, by following his own muse:

    > Called the fool, and the company
    > On his own, where he'd rather be
    > Where he ought to be, he sees what you
    > Can't see, can't you see that

    ... he's found, transcendence? Grace? At the least, conviction.

    I believe that this is the secret of R.E.M.'s compelling beauty. The ability to recognize and cultivate their own sense of conviction, in their songs.

    With so many other artists, we can identify the subject of their exultation, and believe that we understand what moves them, is moving us. But I think that understanding is an illusion. Love songs, rebellion, the blues, I suspect the overt sentiments are just vehicles for a sense of vitality, of being compelled, that the artists recognize and convey in their works.

    I don't know exactly what R.E.M. does to arrive so reliably at that sense of conviction, without the overt sentiments - I think it's a deeply poetic skill, shared by some other New Wave favorites like The Talking Heads, XTC - but in any case, they do it so well, and I love it. (At least, to my ears, until Document - they lost me after that.)
    myriadicityon June 27, 2014   Link

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