Rock legends REM announce split


Losing My Religion music video courtesy of Warner Bros

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Members of legendary US rock band REM have announced they are splitting up after 31 years.

"We have decided to call it a day as a band," the band said. "To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening."

The group found fame with a string of albums, notably 90s hits Out of Time and Automatic for the People.

The band's website was briefly unavailable on Wednesday afternoon after the announcement was made.

31 years, 15 albums

  • 1980: REM formed in Athens, Georgia, by Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Bill Berry
  • 1988: Breakthrough album Green released
  • 1991-94: Three biggest albums sell millions and make them international stars
  • 1994: Tony Blair names REM as favourite band
  • 1997: Berry quits
  • 2002: Buck cleared of drunken air rage on British Airways flight
  • 2011: Band's 15th and final album Collapse Into Now reaches number 5 on US Billboard

Four of REM's albums in the 1990s went platinum in the UK, peaking with Automatic For The People, which sold more than 1.8m copies.

In the States, three of the band's albums were certified quadruple platinum - representing sales of 4m - according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

The group was originally made up of singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry, who left the band in 1997.

"I hope our fans realise this wasn't an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way," Stipe said as he announced the split.

Asked in a BBC 6 Music interview earlier this year whether every album felt like the band's last, Stipe had said: "I put so much into the work we do that, when I'm done, I feel like I'd never be able to do it again."

REM in concert on 15 September 2004 Singer Michael Stipe cut a distinctive figure on stage and had a unique vocal style

In the same interview he said the band had started off without any goals.

"The fact that we were making records and touring felt like this amazing adventure to us. We didn't necessarily want to conquer the world - but then we ended up doing exactly that in some small corner of the universe that belonged to pop music and us."

Everybody hurts

REM have often used their music and power as a band to carry a message.

Everybody Hurts from album Automatic for the People, started out as a song to comfort "younger people". Its "don't give up" message has most often been associated with suicide prevention but the song has also been used to mark the Dunblane massacre, Princess Diana's death and more recently the earthquake in Haiti.

In 2009, REM was one of a number of bands to form the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo, referring to the US prison in Cuba.

Many of the artists who joined the campaign were angry that their music had reportedly been used as an interrogation tool in the jail.

In a statement, REM said: "We have spent the past 30 years supporting causes related to peace and justice. To now learn that some of our friends' music may have been used as part of the torture tactics without their consent or knowledge, is horrific. It's anti-American, period."


REM at Glastonbury, June 1999 REM headlined the Glastonbury festival in 1999

Over the years, REM influenced and nurtured many other bands - giving exposure to alternative rock acts like Radiohead, Wilco and 10,000 Maniacs through support slots on their tours.

Among those mourning their demise were The Strokes and The Futureheads, both of whom simply posted the message "RIP REM" on Twitter.

US rock group One Republic paid tribute to "one of the best, most enduring bands of our lifetime", adding "you guys will be missed. Your music will keep on keepin' on".

BBC Radio 1's Zane Lowe said the group had been "an integral part of the modern story of rock'n'roll".

"REM never dumbed down. Look at the bands they influenced... The Smiths, Radiohead, Nirvana and so on.

"And they end with dignity. Most won't."

REM won three Grammy awards in 1992, and the best international group trophy at the Brit awards in 1993 and 1995.

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Their fifteenth and final album, Collapse into Now, was released in March 2011. Record label Warner Bros is due to issue a career retrospective in November.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    One of my favourite bands since 1987 when returning from abroad after leaving behind a loved one, I heard on the radio the for the first time the distinctive vocals of Michael Stipe singing "The one i love".
    Will miss you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    They went downhill after Bill Berry left however what a legacy of great albums they have left us with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    There music was pleasant and easy listening, but it was songs like 'everybody hurts' and 'losing my religion' that made them connect with a generation of lost souls and generated so many fans. Both of them could be interpreted at so many levels. The name R.E.M. will echo in eternity. sad day for music and I can't wait for the first re-union.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    A fantastic band with one of the best back catalogues in rock music. A sad day, but when it's time to quit, best to go with dignity rather than carrying on living on past glories when you're years past your sell-by date. Mick and Keith, I'm looking in your direction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    REM in Cardiff in 2005 was the very first gig I took my son to. He was 8 then and it was the week after the London terrorist attacks. He loved it and I honestly believe the experience contributed to his love of music.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    I guess they just couldn't compete against all the amazing talent being produced by X-Factor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    R.E.M. have been one of my favourite bands for as long as I've liked music. They've been ever present in my life and a source of songs that continually touched my soul. This is a sad day indeed, particularly with the awful happenings in Georgia RE: Troy Davis.

    Thanks R.E.M. I will always remember your songs, your music and the two astonishing live gigs I was lucky enough to enjoy. Walk unafraid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The best band since The Beatles.

    The greatest American band ever.

    These guys virtually invented Alternative Rock so without them you'd never have heard of Nirvana or Radiohead to name just two.

    Some of their albums are among the greatest ever recorded. Automatic for the People, Murmur and New Adventures in HiFi are particular favourites of mine.

    It's the end of the world as we know it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    @22.WaynoUK - Hardly gone are they. People can still enjoy their work.

    People even enjoy Elvis's work some 30 odd years later.

    It's not as though they're dead and all their work has been destroyed with them - people really do need to put things into perspective, including the vacuous sycophantic media.

    Nice boost for their album sales prior to Christmas though...

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Shows how out of touch I am. I thought they split up years ago!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    And in the blink of an eye, they were gone!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Re Steve Barnett: Why should every debate be about the same small number of topics? This is a story that has just broken, is of importance to many music fans and won't come around again. If you don't like it, don't take part. Your selfish attitude is the only vacuous thing about this debate, as well as your inability to spell the word 'vacuous'.

    Thanks for the memories, REM. You will be missed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    My heart is breaking right now.......

    I cannot believe this is it!

    New adventures in hifi is my favourite album EVER. I so hope Michael does some solo material soon, it would be a crying shame to waste such a beautiful voice and talent for songwriting

    REM have been my favourite band since I was 14, that's 24 years!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Went down hill after Murmur. The Long Ryders were better!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    R.E.M. has been the most influential band of my times! The greatest music and unforgettable lyrics! It’s the end of the world, as I know it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Painful, but Stuart_MCFC is about right; unfair as it is to judge later work by this masterpiece, they arguably peaked with the effortless brilliance of 'Automatic...', my favourite of all time. Unlike, say, RHCP, they seemed to struggle to regain magic in later times.

    Hell of a legacy tho - 100's of perfectly formed songs endowed with Stipe's enigmatic, unique vocal.
    Here's to future projects!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    New Adventures in Hi Fi was the best REM album.

    Great live, I saw them in Zeiget a few years back, unbelievable show. Even a bitter dude like me felt something, not sure but I think it was 'joy'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Thanks for the music and the memories, I think this is good,sad for the fans, who like me feel we will never get old as long as we have our music to listen to, but the fact is we do and I am glad they had the strength of character to quit whilst they are old enough to say been there done that, but young enough to not need false teeth and zimmer frames.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Friday night at Glastonbury 2003, REM's headline slot was one of the greatest live music experiences of my life.

    Sad to hear the news but timing seems right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Remember double-taking after seeing REM albums in a tiny 'indie' section in an Our Price store on Kensington High Street. This is despite the band having just signed a multi-million dollar deal with Warners.


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