R.E.M. Breaks Up

R.E.M. has broken up after more than three decades
“Band on the floor, crowd on the stage. At the Pier, Raleigh NC, 1980” (Photo by Chris Seward, Courtesy of REMHQ.com)

Seminal rock band R.E.M. has called it quits after 31 years.

"Band on the floor, crowd on the stage. At the Pier, Raleigh NC, 1980" (Photo by Chris Seward, Courtesy of REMHQ.com)

“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,” read an announcement on the group’s official website Wednesday. “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.

Formed in Athens, Georgia in 1980, R.E.M.—consisting of singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry—ascended from a jangly college rock band with a devoted cult following to one of the most influential alternative rock groups of all-time, recording 15 studio albums, continuously evolving its sound, ultimately selling more than 70 million copies, and influencing several generations of equally influential acts, such as Sonic Youth, Pavement, The Butthole Surfers, The Replacements and Nirvana, to name a few. The band became known for their energetic performances and political activism; R.E.M. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

In 1997 Berry left the band on the condition the other members would continue to tour and create music despite his absence. Commenting on their decision to ultimately disband the group, the remaining members of R.E.M. posted the following with the above letter to fans:

“During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, ‘what next’?” writes Mills. “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,” he continues. “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.”

“A wise man once said—‘the skill in attending a party is knowing when it’s time to leave,’” explains Stipe. “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,” he continues. “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.”

“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,” adds Buck. “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,” he assures. “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.

Infamous R.E.M. tunes include: “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” “The One I Love,” “Losing My Religion,” “Stand,” “Orange Crush,” “Shiny Happy People,” “Man on the Moon,” “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” “Bang and Blame” and “Everybody Hurts,” among many others.

R.E.M.’s catalogue includes: 1983’s Murmur; 1984’s Reckoning; ‘85’s Fables of the Reconstruction; 1986’s Life’s Rich Pageant; Document in 1987; 1988’s Green; ‘91’s Out of Time; Automatic for the People in 1992; 1994’s Monster; 1996’s New Adventures in Hi-Fi; 1998’s Up; 2001’s Reveal; Around the Sun in 2004; 2008’s Accelerate; and 2011’s Collapse into Now.