Strange Currencies

The video for Strange Currencies was shot on October 30, 1994 on the first year anniversary of River’s death. Starring Samantha Mathis, the cast was made up of twenty-three people, there’s that number again. While the lyrics alone hold answers to what actually happened between River and Michael Stipe, I’ll just concentrate on the video in this post.


In the first shot we see a stack of newspapers with a fire hydrant in the background signifying the press has been taken care of and the flames extinguished with water. In other words, no leaks from the press, the official story has been watered down. Next, we see a boy inside a television holding on to a baseball bat. This represents River as a child star born into the industry.

The young man we see running throughout the video is River who had essentially been on the run since around 1991. We see his character on the payphone as the car with the spotlight drives by. A message pops on the screen which we will see again towards the end of the video. I’m still trying to figure out what it means, but the scene implies that “River” was in contact with someone discussing private matters that were overheard by the passing car. Michael Stipe is seen in the backseat of the car which implies that he’s being taken for a ride, he’s no longer in control, somebody else has taken over the wheel. The spotlight symbolizes the kingship that River has been avoiding, along with his mother.

Throughout the video River’s character is seen running and hiding from the spotlight. In the scene below we see him hiding above a room that looks to have been ransacked as he swings his legs like a mischievous child playing hide and seek.

The black woman we see with the baby in her arms represents River’s mother. She stands on the sidelines watching everything go down, un-budging, un-affected and seemingly harmless. The baby in her arms is how we know she’s a mother and the black boy in the hooded sweatshirt is her son. We know this by skin color alone.The boy glances at his mother and then holds up a winged figure in front of the camera as the spotlight appears around the corner.

The spotlight represents the Kingship. The boy represents Joaquin Phoenix. The winged figure represents River. (Note: I do not believe Joaquin had a hand in his brother’s death, but I do think he was used as a pawn).

In the next scene, the top of the convertible pulls back and four men are seen in the shadows — the handlers, the kingship’s men, the hidden hands pulling the strings. Michael Stipe is then shown in the backseat of the car where a butterfly appears on the window. The cocooned state is over and the programming he received as a child has now been activated. He’s progressed from ALPHA to BETA to DELTA. Notice the B on the wall next to the shadow men.

A stack of large diesel truck tires appear in the next scene as the lyrics plead,

You know with love come strange currencies, and here is my appeal: I need a chance, a second chance, a third chance, a fourth chance, a word, a signal, a nod, a little breath, just to fool myself, to catch myself, to make it real, real.

Love is a metaphor for money in the song, thus, the title Strange Currencies. The title could also be in reference to mind control techniques such as electric shock and/or radio waves and frequencies.

The large diesel tires symbolize murder and death. The running man is killed by the car as the shoe beside the tire indicates at the end of the video. The couple kneeling down on the sidewalk are Rain and Joaquin who were at the scene while River convulsed on the pavement.

The blonde woman standing off in the background is extremely significant. She’s portrayed in the scene as a sort of suspect, looking off in the other direction even though the main event of the scene seems to be playing out in front of the couple, the running man getting hit, River’s death. She stands among a large stack of tires and is dressed in baggy gray clothing. Is this Stipe’s mean cat alter? The person who served River the poisoned drink?

Before we start pointing the finger at Samantha Mathis, who had blonde hair at the time of River’s death, I don’t think that’s who the woman represents. After all, Samantha Mathis is in the video. In an interesting (if not offensive) interview with Al Jourgensen of Ministry, he explains how every girl he saw that night looked like Christina Applegate. With blonde girls running around everywhere, it would be easy to blend right in. No one would suspect the blonde waitress of slipping something into someone’s drink. Look closely at the above picture again. Does she look like she could be a bald man wearing a wig? Michael Stipe does a double take as he passes by in the backseat of the car singing the words, to make it real, real.

We see the running man again with hubcaps lining the background as the car with the spotlight barrels forward. A young man wearing a backwards baseball cap is seen holding on to the back of the car. This is the part that somewhat confuses me. It’s the first time the young man makes an appearance in the video and again, the strange coding pops on the screen as it did with the telephone booth scene. Does the young man in the cap represent the person the running man was talking to on the phone? River and John Frusciante discussing some sort of plan that was overheard or told to Michael Stipe’s alter? If so, the coding could represent a fire that still needed to be extinguished. Below is a popular picture of John Frusciante from 1991-1992.

The young man in the cap is trailing the car that’s chasing down the running man but at the last moment, he loses his grip and accidently lets go holding up his hands in horror. Michael Stipe wipes streaks of water away from the window as we see the running man again. Because he his under mind control, because someone else is driving, he can’t tell who the running man is and attempts to wipe away the water from the glass. We see the shoe beside the tire and a photograph of Samantha Mathis covered in water. In a later post I will explain the significance of water as it plays a major role in this story, but for now I’ll keep it simple: water represents a washing of the mind, blocked memories, a form of liquid amnesia. In every picture we see of Mathis, her face is streaked with water.

The strange coding remains on the screen with her picture, possibly signifying that that fire has also been put out, and then we see Mathis exiting a door labeled with the number twenty-seven. On the Cabalistic Tree of Life, the number twenty-seven coincides with The Tower tarot card. The tower represents upheaval, disaster and loss.

As Mathis exits the Viper Room (the tower) she picks up a bag (River’s guitar?) and makes it out the door just as the car drives by and the shoe is shown by the tire. In a series of quick shots, the mother is shown followed by Michael Stipe looking through the rain streaked window at the vicious dog (his alter). Stipe jumps on the hood of the car, Mathis appears outside and the shadow men appear with glowing eyes. Stipe ducks and Mathis looks both ways as she watches the car drive away.

Samantha Mathis may have seen something she wasn’t supposed to see, or perhaps the kingship feared that she knew too much. Either way, I believe her memories of that night were altered, replaced with false memories and blurred by water. According to Wikipedia, Mathis made the film Jack and Sarah, which was shot in London, in order to get out of the country after River’s death. Her career quickly fizzled out but she remains unmarried without kids. It’s difficult to say what Mathis knows about that night, but the story she gave to William Richert about Frusciante appearing with the blue cup and saying, “Drink this, it’ll make you feel fabulous,” sounds a bit far-fetched at this point.

Odds and Ends

The Umbrellas: The shadow men are seen with two umbrellas, one opened and one closed. This is more symbolism for mind control and monarch programming. The Handlers close off the mind to some memories and open the mind to others.

Dock 3: The words, Dock 3, are seen on the wall behind the band. This represents R.E.M.’s progression through the program. On The Tree of Life, the number 3 represents two paths, Pain and Enlightenment. The Path of Enlightenment is reached through the Path of Pain. I believe the entire band has undergone some sort of programming which will be discussed later.

Cinderella’s Shoe: The last track on R.E.M.’s album, Collapse into Now is about River. The song is called Blue and features the line, Cinderella Boy, you lost your shoe. This is another confirmation that the running man is indeed River. Clips of River from My Own Private Idaho are featured in the video for Blue, which, you got it, I’ll explain later. Anyone familiar with Disney and the mind-controlled celebrities it produces will also note that one of the techniques used is called, The Cinderella Program. This aspect needs more research in reference to River as he is not known as a Disney produced star.

The Fool: In the video for Strange Currencies, Michael Stipe removes his hat as he sings the line, the fool might be my middle name. This represents his transformation and ascension through the program. The Fool tarot card represents new beginnings and is also equal to The Joker in a deck of cards. In a tarot deck, it’s number is zero.

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Greg Kot for the Chicago Tribune on the set of the video for Strange Currencies: 

At about 3 a.m., Mills, Buck and Berry are slugging down drinks after returning from a four-hour scene shot on the streets of Los Angeles. There is a crew of 50 and a cast of 23, all hustling to finish the $200,000 shoot by dawn. Stipe, in the middle of it all, is a solitary, calming presence and a magnet for cast members, technical staff, record company executives and hangers-on alike. “It’s nuts, isn’t it?” he says, to no one in particular. Then, to one of the band’s minions he whispers, “Bring all the booze the band gets to me.”

“You need a drink?” the gofer asks.

“No, I just want to get rid of it,” Stipe answers.

Two days later, Stipe sits down to talk beneath a palm tree in Century City as the band prepares to shoot yet another video, for “Crush With Eyeliner.”

The singer is asked about the booze incident on the earlier video, and pauses. “Ummm . . . we’re sitting on an ant hill here, in more than one way,” he says.

“You weren’t supposed to hear that the other night.”

R.E.M. Against The World


Al Jourgensen’s version of the night River died:


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