"Falls To Climb" as written by and Michael Mills Peter Buck....
I'll take the position
Assume the missionary part
You work by committee
You had me pegged from the start.
I'll be pounce pony
Phony maroney
Pony before the cart.
I'll be pounce pony.
This ceremony
Only fills my heart.

Who cast the final stone?
Who threw the crushing blow?
Someone has to take the fall
Why not me?

A punch toy volunteer
A weakling on its knee.
Is all you want to hear
And all you want to see.
Romantically, you'd martyr me
And miss this story's point
It is my strength, my destiny
This is the role that I have chosen.

Who cast the final stone?
Who threw the crushing blow?
Someone has to take the fall
Why not me?

Gentlemen mark your opponents
Fire into your own ranks.
Pick the weakest as strategic
Move, square off, to
Meet your enemy.
For each and every gathering
A scapegoat falls to climb.
As I step forward, silently.
Deliberately mine

Who cast the final stone?
Who threw the crushing blow?
Someone has to take the fall
Why not me? why not me.
Had consequence chose differently
Had fate its ugly head
My actions make me beautiful
And dignify the flesh

Me, I am free, free.


Lyrics submitted by Nelly

"Falls to Climb" as written by Michael Mills Peter Buck

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

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Falls To Climb song meanings
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8 Comments

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  • 0
    General Commentgreat sound
    CParideson December 06, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAwesome track. It's clearly about a martyr of some sort, due to rise in honour for his/her death. Who it's about, if anybody in particular, could only be guessed.
    GotMeNowon January 14, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm with you , GotMeNow. But was strikes me specially about this song is the person it's addressed to. The scapegoat is defending his decision. He wants someone to know that he's not dying because he's weak, he's dying because he's strong enough to give his life for something he cares about.
    inhumandecencyon February 26, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI believe this song is narrated by Federico Garcia Lorca and directed towards his current crop of biographers, who indeed do work by committee, and who would like to make his seemingly chosen martyrdom the result of depression over breaking up with Dali seven years and several boyfriends earlier, rather than about his oft-stated desire to become the "new St. Sebastian", which he saw as the ultimate symbol of victory through ultimate surrender, and a means to transcend the flesh, which he'd always seen as problematic.
    dakinion July 18, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSadly barely a handful of comments on what is, in my opinion, REM's finest track. The lyrics helped me come to terms with my mortality during a recent debilitating illness... it helped me face the fight with great dignity and not to fall down the "why me?" spiral.

    Aside from this personal refelection, I understand that the lyrics are based upon the short story "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. In this story a lottery is held in a small village and the "winner" is ritually stoned to death!
    ThePrinon February 18, 2009   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationOne of my favorite REM songs. As shown by the few comments above, you can really come to different conclusions about it. I have been reading The Gulag Archipelago, so I immediately thought of the many people martyred by the Communist regime under Lenin, Stalin, Berea, etc. The lines, “Gentlemen, mark your opponents \ Fire into your own ranks” makes me think of how fascist regimes only hurt the people they are supposed to be helping.

    The really interesting person here is the narrator though. Someone mentioned “The Lottery”. It is almost as if the person who “won” it did a fist pump and shouted, “Sweet!” This guy really wants some kind of meaning in his life and finally finds it by becoming a martyr. In order to “climb”, he has to “fall”. That is the great tragedy in this song to me. Not the committee picking out the “weakest part” to destroy, but a person who can only “fill his heart” by dying. “Someone has to take the fall”, but for what? Are you even a martyr if you don’t have something particular that you are dying for?
    clovuson April 23, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI guess any song could be about love/relationships and I always assumed this one was too.

    Twice in my life I have been in relationships where both parties probably knew they weren't going to work long-term. And yet for whatever reason (familiarity, ease, not wanting to start dating someone else) we stuck together - maybe longer than we should have.

    In both cases I guess you could say I "stepped up" and said it's time to part ways and in both cases the reaction from the other person was negative. They got upset, angry, etc. As I looked back on these I always thought I had to be the bad guy in order for progress to be made.

    Consider these lines:
    Who cast the final stone?
    Who threw the crushing blow?
    Someone has to take the fall

    It sounds like somebody had to "take the fall" (i.e. be blamed/chastised for ending the relationship) and so this guy says it might as well be me. I mean consider that this martyr doesn't really seem like a helpless victim - he is taking responsibility for casting the final stone/throwing the crushing blow, right?

    I could even take it a step further and say there were times in the relationships the other person wanted me to just go with what they said - to be the weaker party:

    A punch toy volunteer
    A weakling on its knee
    Is all you want to hear
    And all you want to see

    By stepping up and being the "stronger" one that ends the relationship that was out of character for the weaker person and also caused the turmoil this song alludes to.

    Maybe I'm way off, but this makes sense to me.
    Strawon August 16, 2011   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI'm fairly sure this song is about Michael Stipe's sexuality. Written ten years before he came out of the closet, it's essentially a justification (to himself) for staying in the closet, written cryptically enough that he could deny it if he were asked.

    Look at the first couplet:

    I'll take the position
    Assume the missionary part

    Position... missionary... missionary position, anyone? "Position" has a double meaning: essentially "I will take the position that I have sex in the missionary position. I will remain in the closet."

    You work by committee
    You had me pegged from the start.

    Who's "you"? You is conservative America. Fundamentalist Christianity. Those who would call Stipe a mortal sinner despite never meeting him.

    I'll be pounce pony.
    This ceremony
    Only fills my heart.

    I think "ceremony" may have a double-meaning here: the ceremony involved in scapegoating (here represented by a pounce pony, which is a sacrificial animal used to help trap a carnivore), and the marriage ceremony, which Stipe at the time was barred from.

    Romantically, you'd martyr me
    And miss this story's point

    Again, "you" is right-wing America circa 1998, and Stipe is saying that any romance he experiences is "martyred" by right-wing America: denigrated so they can feel better about their own romances. Which is certainly not the point of his love life - to give the Right a target for hatred. But it is a reality he has accepted.

    Who cast the final stone?
    Who threw the crushing blow?
    Someone has to take the fall
    Why not me?

    Yes. It is a reality he has accepted. We'd all throw stones at each other if we couldn't single out someone to throw all the stones at. Apparently that is Michael Stipe. He will accept this responsibility.

    Gentlemen mark your opponents
    Fire into your own ranks.
    Pick the weakest as strategic
    Move, square off, to
    Meet your enemy.
    For each and every gathering
    A scapegoat falls to climb.

    Kind of the heart of the song: Every group scapegoats to maintain group cohesion. Every group needs an enemy, and they pick the enemy from amongst their neighbors. The way Stipe sees it, conservative Christianity is held together by the scapegoating of people like him.

    He's trying to make the best of this. He won't complain. He'll "fall to climb": he will accept the role, he will be the punch-toy volunteer, he will provide those who need a scapegoat with their scapegoat, and he won't let it destroy him. He'll take pride in the role.

    My actions make me beautiful
    And dignify the flesh
    Me, I am free
    jon1020936on March 14, 2016   Link

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