"Driver 8" by R.E.M. (Berry, Buck, Mills, and Stipe)
Fables of the Reconstruction, 1985. (1 C!)

The walls are built up, stone by stone,
the fields divided one by one.
And the train conductor says
"Take a break Driver 8, Driver 8 take a break
We've been on this shift too long"

CHORUS:
And the train conductor says
"Take a break Driver 8,
Driver 8 take a break
We can reach our destination,
But we're still a ways away"

I saw a treehouse on the outskirts of the farm.
The powerlines have floaters so the airplanes won't get snagged.
Bells are ringing through the town again,
Children look up, all they hear is sky-blue, bells ringing

CHORUS

BRIDGE
Way to shield the hated heat.
Way to put myself to sleep.
Way to shield the hated heat.
Way to put myself, my children to sleep.

He piloted this song in a plane like that one.
She is selling faith on the Go Tell crusade.
Locomotive 8, Southern Crescent, hear the bells ring again.
Fields of wheat is lookin' thin

And the train conductor says
"Take a break Driver 8,
Driver 8 take a break
We've been on this shift too long."
And the train conductor says
"Take a break Driver 8,
Driver 8 take a break
We can reach our destination,
but we're still a ways away"


A series of images--fields divided by stone walls, farms, cropdusters, church revivals. A man working the line, watching, waiting to go home and see his children, but knowing that the reason he can't is because he has to work in order to feed them. A sad paradox. Other people's children, their treehouses, playing, watching the train.

And he's tired.

Instead of a straight story, the lyrics are highly imagistic, meant to paint a picture in order to convey the mood, without giving a sharp outline of what is going on. It is a sort of lyrical impressionism, typical of R.E.M. I see it in the Great Depression. Here's a man, riding through a parched midwest and south. But at least he has a job, at least he can feed his children and give them a place to sleep.


When I was a kid growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I used to go out to the tracks that ran through the middle of town. Going north, the tracks would break up, and were unusable. Going south, they lead towards Pottstown, Reading, other places. So it was rare for a train to come our way, at least on those tracks. There were other tracks, though. I would wander along all that I could find, through the woods, along the tressles. I would listen to this song, this album, as I did, and wish that a train would appear, and I could hop on like a hobo and ride the train out of town. But the train never came, and eventually I moved away.

But at night, I'd lay in bed with the window open, and I could hear train whistles. If I only knew where to find the trains...


My great-grandfather used to stoke the boilers on trains for the Pennsylvania Railroad. On day, he was severly burned; it changed his personality. He went from being a very happy sort of party animal, to a very bitter, angry man.

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