"The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight" as written by and Peter Buck Bill Berry....
This here is the place I will be staying
There isn't a number
You can call the pay phone
Let it ring a long, long, long, long time
If I don't pick up, hang up, call back, let it ring some more
If I don't pick up, pick up
The sidewinder sleeps, sleeps, sleeps in a coil

Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her
Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her
Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her

There are scratches all around the coin slot
Like a heartbeat, baby trying to wake up,
But this machine can only swallow money
You can't lay a patch by computer design
It's just a lot of stupid, stupid signs

Tell her,
Tell her she can kiss my ass,
Then laugh and say that you were only kidding
That way she'll know that it's
Really, really, really, really me

Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her
Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her
Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her

Baby, instant soup doesn't really grab me
Today I need something more sub-sub-sub-substantial
A can of beans or blackeyed peas, some Nescafe and ice,
A candy bar, a falling star, or a reading of Doctor Seuss;

Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her
Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her
Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her

The cat in the hat came back, wrecked a lot of havoc on the way,
Always had a smile and a reason to pretend
But their world has flat backgrounds
And little need to sleep but to dream
The sidewinder sleeps on his back

Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her
Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her
I can always sleep standing up
Call me when you try to wake her
Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her
Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her
I can always sleep standing up
Call me when you try to wake her
Call me when you try to wake her up
Call me when you try to wake her
I can always sleep standing up
Call me when you try to wake her
I can always sleep standing up
Call me when you try to wake her

We've got to moogie, moogie, move on this one


Lyrics submitted by Novartza

"The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" as written by Peter Buck Bill Berry

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

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The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentI was a medic on the REM tour a few years ago. Michael Stipe and I became good friends after he tripped backstage and i had to look at him. This is my favorite song of all time so I couldnt help myself. I asked what it was about. After I healed him up, we went to the hang out room and we sat down, did something that is not socially acceptable and he explained the song line for line to me.

    The song is about: Trying to buy Crystal Meth... here is how... Note the fact he repeats lines a lot throughout the song. This is because he was trying to get across how anxious he was to get his fix.

    "This here is the place where I will be staying
    There isnt a number you can call the pay phone
    Let it ring a long long long long time
    If I dont pick up hang up call back let it ring some more"

    At the time, he didnt have a phone. He was living with people who couldnt know what he was doing. So he told his dealer to call the payphone number when she was able to bring him his stuff. He wanted her to keep calling just incase he had to leave for a minute. If she didnt call, he wouldnt pick up the phone therefore the sidewinder, which is the metal line that links the phone to the booth is called a sidewinder, would just stay in a coil

    "Call me when you try to wake her up"

    He called his friend who knew the dealer. His friend said she was asleep after staying awake for a very long time. So his friend said he would go try to wake her up, but it didnt look like it was happening.

    "Theres scratches all around the coin slot"

    While waiting for the call, he was sitting and staring. He noticed all the scratches

    "Like a heart beat baby trying to wake up"

    He felt as if he was trying to get the feeling of a heart being asleep and then started up again

    "This machine can only swallow money"

    He kept feeding the machine quarters but nothing happened. It was just swallowing his money. She never picked up and it was a waste.

    "You cant lay a patch by computer design"

    He used to call lines of meth patches, because it patched him up and made him feel better. The computer design is the phone system. You cant get it through the phone system.

    "Its just a lot of stupid stupid signs"

    When he would call, he would reach the voicemail of his dealer which was a sign she wasnt ready yet.

    "Tell her she can kiss my ass then laugh and say you were only kidding that way she'll know that its really... me"

    He told his friend to tell her this. When he got frustrated he would flip out and tell her to kiss his ass. He didnt want her to not call him so he said to laugh about it. It was their thing so it was like a authentification.

    "Baby instant soup doesnt really grab me today I need some more substantial"

    When he was on meth, all he would eat was a cup of noodles once every couple days. Now that he isnt on it anymore, he needs something more substantial, real food, because his hunger is coming back.

    "A can of beans or black eyed peas, some nescafe and ice... candy bar, a fallen star or a reading of Dr. Suess"

    He is naming off the foods he liked to eat when he was poor. He associated those foods with being poor and not being able to afford fancy stuff. His favorite author was Dr. Suess. He loved Dr. Suess books. He could never focus and read one when he was on meth. So now that he isnt high anymore, he is able to sit down and read it.

    "Cat in the hate came back, wreck a lot of havoc along the way"

    He was able now to read Cat in the Hat, however he was going through withdrawls. So the ability to read Cat in the Hat brought havoc in the form of withdrawl symptoms.

    "Always had a smile and a reason to pretend"

    Basically how he used to treat the dealer. The reason to pretend an smile was he could potentially lose his connect if he was a dick to her.

    "There world is flat backgrounds and little need to sleep but to dream"

    If you have ever been on meth, after a couple of days on it, if you do not move your eyes, they go black. Its almost as if you are blinded for a moment. So the black backgrounds is all they see in their world, being that of a meth addict. When your on meth, you cant sleep. A few days into a binge, you start to feel like your in a dream. So you dont have a need to sleep but you have a need to dream.

    "The sidewinder sleeps on its back"

    Still no call.

    "I can always sleep standing up"

    He is determained to wait for the call

    "Weve got to moogie moogie move on this one"

    Originally he intended to say boogie, but one of his trademarks is if he screws up, its fine (hence the laugh after "a reading by Dr Suess") He finally decided to move on from this dealer and it actually led to him quitting meth. He started again, but he left that dealer.


    So there you have it. Thats what the song is about.
    troweon October 16, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIt took me so long to figuire out what Michael was trying to say in the chorus!!!
    butterflykiss84on March 10, 2003   Link
  • +2
    General Commenti think it's pretty simple...this girl is giving him the cold soldier and he wants to call her...but whereever he is, the phone is eating his money...so, he's gotta get his friend to call him and put her on the phone...when he says he can always sleep standing up he's saying he can sleep in the phone booth and wait for the call...
    ZinbobDanon April 28, 2003   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI love the fact that you can think you know R.E.M. lyrics for 17 years and then suddenly find you were totally wrong.
    Wallamanageon June 09, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Commentits tonite not tonight
    kdanceon January 10, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentPublisher, EAT THIS


    "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite"

    This here is the place where I will be staying
    There isn't a number, you can call the pay phone
    Let it ring a long, long, long, long time
    If I don't pick up, hang up, call back, let it ring some more, oh
    If I don't pick up, pick up
    The sidewinder sleeps, sleeps, sleeps in a coil

    Call me when you try to wake her up, call me when you try to wake her
    Call me when you try to wake her up, call me when you try to wake her
    Call me when you try to wake her up, call me when you try to wake her, oh

    There are scratches all around the coin slot
    Like a heartbeat, baby trying to wake up
    But this machine can only swallow money
    You can't lay a patch by computer design
    It's just a lot of stupid, stupid signs

    Tell her
    Tell her she can kiss my ass
    Then laugh and say that you were only kidding
    That way she'll know that it's really, really, really, really me

    Call me when you try to wake her up, call me when you try to wake her
    Call me when you try to wake her up, call me when you try to wake her
    Call me when you try to wake her up, call me when you try to wake her, oh

    Baby, instant soup doesn't really grab me
    Today I need something more sub-sub-sub-substantial
    A can of beans or black-eyed peas, some Nescafe and ice
    A candy bar, a falling star, or a reading from Doctor Seuss

    Call me when you try to wake her up, call me when you try to wake her
    Call me when you try to wake her up, call me when you try to wake her
    Call me when you try to wake her up, call me when you try to wake her, oh

    The cat in the hat came back, wrecked a lot of havoc on the way
    Always had a smile and a reason to pretend
    But their world has flat backgrounds and little need to sleep but to dream
    The sidewinder sleeps on his back

    Call me when you try to wake her up, call me when you try to wake her
    Call me when you try to wake her up, call me when you try to wake her
    I can always sleep standing up. Call me when you try to wake her, oh

    Call me when you try to wake her up, call me when you try to wake her
    Call me when you try to wake her up, call me when you try to wake her
    I can always sleep standing up. Call me when you try to wake her, oh

    Call me when you try to wake her up, call me when you try to wake her
    Call me when you try to wake her up, call me when you try to wake her
    I can always sleep standing up. Call me when you try to wake her, oh

    We've got to moogie, moogie, move on this one
    nycniteon April 03, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti always thought i was a response to "the lion sleeps tonite". basiclly saying the lions got it good, but what about others? i dont know, just a thought
    MtterOFctItsAllDrkon September 25, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe song is actually a reference to a suicide. The subjecy matter is lost in the happy music, which for me adds an ironic backlash. The tune is cheery, but it is full of death. The story is of a young person is disillusioned with their life (as is the theme for all of the album [ automatic for the pople]) who leaves everything behind. They check into a backwater town motel which is barely on the map (they can't lay a patch by computer design - even a computer can't find me) there is no phone in the motel room ( call the payphone, let it ring a long long time if i don't pick up call back let it ring some more). The guy in question has been hurt by a girl ( tell her she can kiss my ass [ the laugh is an instruction to the person taking the message to dispell any attempts to come and find them]). the sindwinder is a reference to the limp body of the dead person, and the mention of sleep is death. Sleep in a car, is suicide by car fumes, Sleep standing up, is hanging. the refernces to the cat in the hat are an emphasis on reality not being like cartoons, where all works out in the end, and cartoons don't have dreams, so there are no dreams to come true. the call me when you try to wake her up is the voice of the family in the hospital after the body was found.

    Some of my descriptions are personal interpretations, but the theme is of suicide, as i have read interviews with the band who stated this, as well as mentioning how the cheery music clashes with the subject matter in a way the deliberatley leads the listener to overlook the dark matter of the album.
    Drive = America has failed the youth
    Try not to breath = Nothing left to hope for
    Sidewinder = End it
    Everybody hurts = Don't do it
    Sweetness follows = Just because your family has died doesnb't mean you are dead. etc

    The album is a journey through death to the personal salvation that belief in yourself, and acceptance of the help that friends and family can bring will do for you.
    bolloxeon November 02, 2007   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI see this as a story about a man who has been recently divorced. He is staying in a crappy motel and has called his ex-wife to let her know where he is. He wants to talk to his daughter, but she is asleep (Call me when you try to wake her up). He is trying to keep her on the line because he is lonely and hopes that his daughter will wake up, so he rambles about the phone, what he is eating, the stories he used to read his daughter, etc.
    cowenson February 20, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentDefinitely about a broken payphone..sidewinger is the phone cord (handset to box)...coin slot broken...call me back let it ring. Maybe bigger picture is this is drug-related. A person lives a poor life in a beat-up apartment with a phone booth down the end of the hall.
    sportcarderon April 04, 2002   Link

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