Wednesday, September 21, 2011

R.I.P. R.E.M.

It is with great sadness and disbelief that we had to mention earlier on social networks that legendary band and the original college rockers, R.E.M. have broken up after 31 years together. The band issued a statement via their website that said:

"To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening." R.E.M.

The band who released, 15 studio albums including this past year's Collapse into Now and who were supposedly recording their 16th record, split while working in their hometown of Athens, Georgia. The music of R.E.M. became synonymous with what we now know as indie rock, their influence can be heard in bands such as Coldplay, The National, Pavement, Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, Editors, The Frames and many more. The band has seen the highest of highs as they went from respected rockers in the 80's to much commercial success in the 90's thanks to hits like "Losing my Religion," "Everybody Hurts," "Whats the Frequency, Kenneth?," "Man on the Moon," and many others. Yet, the essence of their longevity and character was on stage, as anyone that has attended and R.E.M. gig of any kind will tell you, they are an amazing live band.

In 1997 founding member and drummer, Bill Berry left the band after a medical scare of encountering embolisms in his brain forced him to quit the band, but the three remaining members; Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck and bassist / keyboardist Mike Mills soldiered on with session musicians. The band hit a rough patch as the 90's came to a close with dud albums like 2001' Reveal and 2004's Around the Sun, yet in 2008 the band fired back with a record we called the Album of the Year - Accelerate.

Taking to the band's website after much shock and dismay from the music community, each member said the following:

Mike Mills: "During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, 'what next'? Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together.

"We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who truly love, and respect, each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in this--there's no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off. We've made this decision together, amicably and with each other's best interests at heart. The time just feels right."

Michael Stipe: "A wise man once said--'the skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave.' We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it.

"I hope our fans realize this wasn't an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way.

"We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It's been amazing."

Peter Buck: "One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M. was the fact that the records and the songs we wrote meant as much to our fans as they did to us. It was, and still is, important to us to do right by you. Being a part of your lives has been an unbelievable gift. Thank you.

"Mike, Michael, Bill, Bertis, and I walk away as great friends. I know I will be seeing them in the future, just as I know I will be seeing everyone who has followed us and supported us through the years. Even if it's only in the vinyl aisle of your local record store, or standing at the back of the club: watching a group of 19 year olds trying to change the world."

In 2007 the band were solidified as legends as they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. R.E.M., leave a lifetime of music for generations to come and be inspired. As a long-time fan of the band and music journalist, I have had the honor of seeing them in concert in 1998 as part of the "Up Tour" and a decade later in what would be their final world tour, 2008's "Accelerate Tour" - a review you can read HERE. It is a sad day in the history of rock and roll, but all good things must come to an end.

Photo by Anton Corbijn via