The single for Drive was released one year before River’s death on October 1, 1992. The actual album, Automatic for the People was released four days later on October 5, 1992. A dark and foreboding song, Drive ventured into new territory with a musical ambience never before heard in the past decade of R.E.M.’s albums. Lyrically, the song addresses Michael Stipe’s ongoing struggle of convincing River to let go and give in. Throughout his career, Stipe repeatedly refers to River as Baby in his lyrics. In this song, Baby never rides or drives but only walks and rocks around the clock. The concept of driving is a reference to mind control and the handler/slave relationship forced upon River and Stipe.

“Drive’ is just telling kids to take charge of their own lives. [Pause.] Among other things.” (Guitarist, Mike Mills)

The other things Mills alludes to are River and Michael’s ongoing struggle and silent war with each other as the Kingship’s deadline loomed closer. River refused to give up the wheel as Stipe warned of the impending consequences.

Psychic Driving

Psychic Driving is a psychiatric procedure in which patients are subjected to a continuously repeated audio message on a looped tape to alter their behavior. In other words, somebody else has taken over the wheel. The procedure was pioneered by Dr. D. Ewen Cameron, and used and funded by the CIA’s Project MK Ultra program. Without getting too bogged down in details, driving is another term used for mind control, and the vehicle a metaphor for the mind. The person who has taken over the wheel is the victim’s handler. The video for Fjogur Piano, a song by the Icelandic band Sigur Ros, brilliantly displays this concept. You can go here for an in depth analysis of the video by The Vigilant Citizen, but below is a quick summary.

Here again, we have the butterflies symbolizing mind control be it Monarch programming or some other programming, it all stems from MK Ultra. The video also ties in the concept of psychic driving with The Handlers in the front seat and Shia LaBeouf and his female alter blindfolded in the backseat sucking on lollypops, oblivious to their chaotic surroundings. The lollypops or candy symbolize the mind-altering drugs used with hypnosis. If you look closely, the lollypops have scorpions inside them. The Handlers wreak havoc and go on a joy ride, so to speak, until the car ride ends underwater and Shia and his female alter wake up the next day with cuts and bruises, but remain unaware of what has happened. The Handlers are shown at the end of the video cleaning up the room, sweeping away broken glass and putting everything back in its rightful place. The cycle starts over.

In P’s song, Michael Stipe, Gibby Haynes sings,

“I’m glad I met old Michael Stipe, I didn’t get to see his car. Him and River Phoenix were leaving on the road tomorrow, and I tonight.”

Although I’m not entirely certain of what this verse means, I’m inclined to believe it holds more significance than just Stipe and River taking a road trip. Given the dire situation the two friends faced, it’s possible this lyric is in reference to psychic driving and mind control.

River_92If Michael Stipe was still licking his paws over being rejected by River, he managed to maintain a friendship. River was on the set of the video for Drive which was filmed in Los Angeles in 1992. According to Stipe, River got into a fight with Oliver Stone who was extremely drunk at the time. “The scene in the trailer was very, very funny,” recalled Stipe.

Despite their romantic differences and mounting turmoil, Stipe continued pursuing the issue at hand. As the sands of the hourglass emptied into the bottom, Michael Stipe documented the time-sensitive tale through his lyrics and videos. Although it began with the album Out of Time, the song Drive is really where things got interesting.

Shot in black and white, the video for Drive features Stipe crowd surfing over an ocean of people. Thousands of hands keep him suspended and pass him across the room without his feet ever touching the ground, in other words, the crowd has taken over the wheel. Flashing lights give the video a hypnotic effect as R.E.M. and the crowd of fans are hosed down with strong blasts of water. In the end, Stipe, the crowd, and the rest of the band are drenched in water but the source for the blasts go unseen.

The album art for the single shows two narrow country roads, one long and one short, seemingly out in the middle of nowhere. A white diesel truck follows the longer of the two roads, either at dusk or dawn, and appears to have steered away from the beaten path much like River had done.

Much to Michael Stipe’s dismay, River brushed off the tick tock clock and refused to give up the wheel. He rocked around the clock with Flea and John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, concentrated on his own music, and experimented with drugs—smack, crack, bushwhacked, tie another to your racks, baby. Stipe drives to get off, he gives up the wheel to comply with The Kingship but River chose to walk instead. Ollie ollie in come free is a catchphrase used in such children’s games as hide and seek to indicate that players who are hiding can come out into the open without losing the game, that the position of the sides in a game has changed. River did eventually come out of hiding, unfortunately the positions stayed the same and he lost the game.


Drive:

Smack, crack, bushwhacked
Tie another one to your racks, baby
Hey kids, rock and roll
Nobody tells you where to go, baby

What if I ride, what if you walk?
What if you rock around the clock?
Tick-tock, tick-tock
What if you did, what if you walk?
What if you tried to get off, baby?

Hey, kids, where are you?
Nobody tells you what to do, baby
Hey kids, shake a leg
Maybe you’re crazy in the head, baby

Maybe you did, maybe you walked
Maybe you rocked around the clock
Tick-tock, tick-tock
Maybe I ride, maybe you walk
Maybe I drive to get off, baby

Hey kids, shake a leg
Maybe you’re crazy in the head, baby
Ollie, ollie, ollie ollie ollie
Ollie ollie in come free, baby

Hey, kids, where are you?
Nobody tells you what to do, baby

Smack, crack, shack-a-lack
Tie another one to your backs, baby
Hey kids, rock and roll
Nobody tells you where to go, baby

Maybe you did, maybe you walk
Maybe you rock around the clock
Tick-tock, tick-tock
Maybe I ride, maybe you walk
Maybe I drive to get off, baby

Hey kids, where are you?
Nobody tells you what to do, baby
Hey kids, rock and roll
Nobody tells you where to go, baby, baby, baby


R.E.M. performance at the MTV Music Awards in September of ’93. Everybody Hurts/Drive
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