R.E.M. - "What's the frequency, Kenneth ?"
There is a song by the band Game Theory on their 1987 album Lolita Nation called "Kenneth, what's the frequency ?" It was produced by Mitch Easter, who was also the producer for R.E.M. albums "Chronic Town", "Murmur", and "Reckoning". Coincidence ? Yes. Both song titles are related to an incident that occurred in 1986.
One October night of that year, CBS news anchor Dan Rather was walking down a Manhattan street when he was punched from behind and thrown to the ground. His assailant kicked and beat him while repeating, "Kenneth, what is the frequency ?" No one could explain the event, and the rumors flew fast and wide. "What's the frequency ?" and calling a clueless person a "kenneth" became trendy youth culture catch-phrases which is probably why Michael Stipe (vocals) wanted to use them, rather than out of interest for Rather. The incident also became a running joke on "The David Letterman Show". Rather had a good sense of humor about the whole event and later appeared on the show, singing the song with R.E.M. backing him.
In 1997, based on a tip from a psychiatrist, Rather's attacker was identified as William Tager. According to the psychiatrist, Tager, who is currently serving time for killing an NBC stagehand, blamed news media for beaming signals into his head, and thought if he could just find out the correct frequency, he could block those signals that were constantly assailing him. Hence the enigmatic inquiry.
As for the actual writing of the song, Peter Buck (guitars) explains : "Mike (Mills, bass) came up with the chords to "Kenneth," and I helped him rearrange them. It was weird, because I really couldn't get a handle on it at first. It's so circular, I couldn't tell the A from the B section. Michael was asking : "Where do I sing on this one ?" Then we simplified it, chopped out a couple of parts, including a bridge, and, as we accented the chords, the pieces began to fall into place".
"It slows down at the end. The truth is, Mike slowed down the pace and we all followed, and then I noticed he looked strange. We had to rush him to the hospital and it turned out he had appendicitis. So we never got back to re-recording it".
Available on the album "Monster"