Day 101: Song that you air guitar to every time you hear it.

“Superman” – R.E.M.

SupermanI’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t pick something more obvious. AC/DC perhaps. Led Zeppelin perhaps. Boston perhaps.

Oh sure, I can rock out on the air guitar to “You Shook Me All Night Long,” or “Livin’ Lovin’ Maid” or “More Than A Feeling” with the best of them. (All right, maybe not the best, but certainly among at least the 85th percentile.) So why pick a little-known song by R.E.M.?

Well, for one, I was told there were no right or wrong answers.

Two, you should know by now I’m nothing if not a little contrary. Plus, those others just seemed to be so stereotypical and obvious. I wanted to think a little harder. I thought about “Touch And Go” by The Cars, but I have other plans for that song. So I was pretty psyched when I remembered “Superman.”


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Here’s the story. Back around the time I was trying to sing “Learning To Fly,” I was also trying to teach myself “Superman.”

But let me back up a step. Somewhere along the line, I figured out how to play the two chords that get repeated in the introduction to the song.

But let me back up another step. Somewhere along the line, Pete had bought an I.R.S. (Records) sampler called These People Are Nuts! that included “Superman.” For whatever reason, I immediately got hooked on it. The song, not the album. (For the curious, These People Are Nuts! is patchy, too patchy to get hooked on—for me anyway. But there are some really good songs on it. And some good , but bizarre songs, such as the ever-popular “Checking Out The Checkout Girl.”* And then some songs that are just bizarre.)

At the time, I wasn’t really into early R.E.M. very much, despite being in college. (In those days, it seemed like every college student had to love early R.E.M. Like it was some sort of rite of passage. I hear it was a requirement for graduation at the University of Georgia.) Sure, I had Eponymous (File under grain.) but not much more. And “Superman” wasn’t even on Eponymous (which, if you don’t know, was an early compilation of their “best” songs and a couple rarities from the I.R.S. years, before they signed with Warner Brothers for major dollars). So it really was that obscure compilation album that led me to the song.

Anyway, back (forward?) to those opening chords. I actually discovered them by accident. I can’t remember what I was trying to play, but I went from an E to an E7 (which I didn’t actually know was an E7 at the time) and eureka! When I hit it, I recognized it immediately as the chords from “Superman.” I’d nailed it.

Now back (forward?) again to me trying to teach myself the song. Once I got the opening, I thought, “how hard can the rest be?” so from then on I tried to figure out the rest. As it turns out, the answer to my question was “hard.” I could never seem to get the right inversions of the chords for the rest of the song. (We didn’t have instant Internet access to guitar tabs in those days, and I was never more than a novice guitar player anyway.) I mean, come on, an Asus7 chord? Didn’t you hear me say I was a novice?

So, despite my never being able to actually learn to play the song, when it comes on, I find I must play air guitar to it. I’ve done it for so long, now I do it subconsciously. Even if it’s just the intro.

Because, boy, I nailed those two opening chords.

* Yes, Pete, I know this will now be stuck in your head for another two days. You’re welcome.