R.E.M. got together in the spring of '80. Peter Buck (guitar), Mike Mills (bass), Bill Berry (drums) and Michael Stipe (vocals) were students at the University of Georgia but weren't real interested in their education. Their first gig was in a rundown church that had been converted into apartments. Shortly thereafter, they were playing clubs, halls and parties.
After some low-key independent efforts R.E.M. signed with I.R.S. in '82. The "Chronic Town" EP was followed by albums "Murmur" with "(Don't Go To) Rockville," "Reckoning" and "Fables Of The Reconstruction." They were dispatched to an ever growing legion of faithful. In '87 "Document" came out with "The One I Love" and "It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)." They were on top of the indie world.
R.E.M. then left I.R.S. and signed with Warner Records, for a tidy sum. That led to the "Green" CD with the quirky "Stand," "Pop Song '89" and the much harder and denser "Orange Crush." But road life proved extreme with every member suffering a major health problem. So the band suspended further touring until '95. Back in the studio R.E.M. produced "Out Of Time" containing "Losing My Religion" and "Shiny Happy People" and "Automatic For The People" with "Man On The Moon," referencing late comedian Andy Kaufman.
"Monster" followed in '94 and featured "What's The Frequency, Kenneth" which was what an attacker yelled as he pummeled television newscaster Dan Rather. Also on the CD was "Bang And Blame" and "Crush With Eyeliner."
In '97 Bill Berry left the band for health reasons and R.E.M. continued as a trio. Coincidentally, R.E.M. began to slow down appreciably which left a lot of time to fill. Consider, for a moment, Peter Buck's life. It was not the '80s any more. Sure, there was the occasional tour, one-off charity concert or Trans-Atlantic flight but not a whole lot going on day to day. So Buck's life consisted of driving his kids to a Seattle private school. Maybe on the way home he stopped at the neighborhood Starbucks and grabbed a newspaper. That and a latte killed twenty minutes. At home Buck might get wired on the "Price Is Right" or the daytime soaps. Lets hope not.
When you've done it all, there isn't much left except to abuse airline attendants. Stipe was "busy" as a Hollywood producer, which probably took less time than Buck's chauffeuring duties. With the exception of Berry, R.E.M. needed R.E.M. The "Reveal" CD ('01) was for R.E.M. and fans. Best thought of as a project designed to allow Buck, Stipe and Mills some quality time together while providing an illusion of productivity. It's one day at a time for Rock stars. But it wasn't always that way.
'03 release "In Time: The Best Of R.E.M." showed, in a concise disc, what this band achieved in their lengthy career. A second disc contained live material and songs that hadn't previously appeared on R.E.M. albums. The laidback "Around The Sun" arrived in '04.
R.E.M. issued their first concert album in '07. "R.E.M. Live, " a two-CD, one-DVD package, documented an '05 Dublin show. The 22 song set focused on songs from '04's "Around The Sun" but also included "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville," "Losing My Religion," "Man On The Moon" and "Orange Crush."
'06 could have been called a 'retrospective year." The CD "And I Feel Fine... The Best Of The I.R.S. Years 1982 -1987" and the DVD "When The Light Is Mine: The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982 -1987" were released simultaneously.
R.E.M. was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. While rehearsing for the ceremony, the band recorded a cover of John Lennon's "#9 Dream" for "Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur," a tribute album benefiting Amnesty International. Released as a single, the track marked Berry's first appearance with the band in over a decade.
To top off the year, R.E.M. was nominated for the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame (in their first year of eligibility). When they were officially inducted, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder handled the honors. Berry also performed with the group at the ceremony.
"Accelerate" landed in April, '08. Recorded in Vancouver, B.C. and Dublin, the group played a series of live concerts in Ireland's capital to warm up for the studio sessions. "Returning to Dublin (see above) for our live rehearsalů provides the great start we need for our next album's work," said Stipe. That did the trick. "Accelerate" sold 115,000 copies in its first week to land at #2 on the Billboard 200 (U.S.) The album made its debut at #1 in the United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and the Czech Republic and #2 in Germany, Italy, Holland and Austria.
The Dublin "working rehearsals" for "Accelerate" were recorded and filmed. The result was '09's "Live At The Olympia," a 2 CD/DVD set containing 39 songs.
Earlier in the year, R.E.M. celebrated the 25th anniversary of their sophomore effort "Reckoning," by releasing a remastered and enhanced version of album. The set also included an '84 show recorded in Chicago.
R.E.M. then launched an iPhone application that automatically updated users with news and tour dates. There were also 30-second R.E.M. song clips, photos and videos. The "R.E.M. & You" feature allowed fans to interact with one another and the band directly.
To wrap up '09, Berry reunited with Mills to record a cover of Lenny Kaye's "Crazy Like A Fox." The song was one-half of a special Christmas single that R.E.M. released to fan club members. Mills solo rendition of "Santa Baby" was the other.
Getting into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame was a major accomplishment. In '10, R.E.M. earned another accolade. The Library of Congress selected the band's debut single "Radio Free Europe," for their National Recording Registry, saying it was "one of the cornerstones of '80s College Rock."
Around that time, the video album R.E.M. Live From Austin, TX, a concert recorded for the TV show Austin City Limits, arrived.
Next, the band began work on their 15th studio album titled "Collapse Into Now." The Jacknife Lee produced set was recorded in Berlin and featured collaborations with Vedder, on "It Happened Today," and Patti Smith.
"(We) wanted this new one to be more expansive (than '08's "Accelerate")," said Mills of "Collapse Into Now." "We wanted to put more variety into it and not limit ourselves to any one type of song. There are some really slow, beautiful songs; there are some nice, mid-tempo ones; and then there are three or four Rockers."
A few days before the album's '11 release Stipe performed at the annual Tibet House U.S. benefit concert at Carnegie Hall. The event was hosted by composer Philip Glass.
Like a bolt out of the blue (though it had probably been building for some time), R.E.M. called it quits on 09/21/11, after 31 years. "A wise man once said, 'the skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave," Stipe wrote on remhq.com. "We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it."
A few months later, R.E.M. issued their first career spanning retrospective "Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011." The set included tracks recorded after the completion of the band's final album, "Collapse Into Now."
While not as well known, or appreciated, as U2's Bono for his political activism, Stipe could wade into an issue and present his point of view. In '16, he authored a USA Today op-ed asking Georgia governor Nathan Deal to veto a bill that would allow students to carry guns on college campuses.
"If the governor signs the bill on his desk, he'll be going against the 78% of Georgians who say they oppose guns on campus, as well as a host of college administrators and prominent student and faculty organizations that have spoken out against the bill," wrote the Georgia native.
1985 Fables Of The Reconstruction
1986 Life's Rich Pageant
1991 Out Of Time
1992 Automatic For The People
1996 New Adventures In Hi-Fi
2004 Around The Sun
2011 Collapse Into Now
2011 Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011
R.E.M. began on I.R.S. Records. In the mid-80s they switched to Warner Records, which broadened their audience. The I.R.S. albums are generally very strong with "Document" as their best album from that period.
Overall though, "Green" is R.E.M.'s major accomplishment. "Out of Time" is next with the strongest song line-up. "Automatic For The People" and "Monster" are also worth owning. "In Time: The Best Of R.E.M." is a two disc set. The first disc is an 18-track collection of the group's hits, more interesting efforts and two new songs, "Bad Day" and "Animal". No arguing with that. "Bad Day" ("it's been a bad day, please don't take our picture") in particular is a rousing Rocker in the classic R.E.M. mold.
For the person who already owns most of the hits on individual albums the second disc is probably of more interest. It includes an impressive acoustic version of "Pop Song '89," soundtrack material and a couple live tracks.
While "Around The Sun" has a touch of Dylan ("Wanderlust"), a nod to U2's "Pop Mart" era ("Electron Blue") and even Jethro Tull ("The Worst Joke Ever"), R.E.M. seems focused on being the Eagles of the '90s. Unfortunately, it's '04. The album revolves around regret, neglect and suspicion and is pleasant enough but hardly worth jumping off the couch for.
After "Around The Sun" who would have thought the ol' boys had it in them? But they got inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame then released "Accelerate," their best CD in a long, long time.
Next was something even more unexpected. R.E.M. topped themselves (proving that "Accelerate" wasn't a late career last gasp). "Collapse Into Now" should have been called "Collapse Into The Past" or "Return To '83." This album has more energy, drive and commitment than recent efforts and is a clear reminder of their glory days. Stipe is as cleverly obtuse and esoteric as ever while Buck's playing has a forceful ring and confident passion that had been sorely missed. Like so many, and often lesser bands, they'd hit cruise control probably without realizing it - retirement while still working.
Just to be contrarian, a Stipe tendency, "Collapse Into Now" is their most vital work in years. The highlights include "Discoverer," "All The Best," the single "Mine Smell Like Honey" (figures), and the kicker "Alligator _Aviator _ Autopilot _ Antimatter." Who but Stipe could come up with that?
"Green" ('88) R.E.M. comes flying out of the gate. Though it has the tongue in cheek title "Pop Song '89," the opening track is a riff driven Rocker. "Stand" is a cheery organ/guitar romp with Stipe's out of body lyrics. "Orange Crush" has a wall-of-sound approach that Buck's guitar slices through. The song is dense but not plodding. It even employs military cadences and is loaded with hooks. The lyrics are obscure enough that you can read almost anything into them. "You Are The Everything," "Hair Shirt" and "World Leader Pretend" are great songs and excellent performances.
"Out Of Time" ('91) "Losing My Religion" turned out to be R.E.M.'s biggest pop hit. "Shiny Happy People" was another successful single. But what makes this album special is not the hits but the incredible quality throughout. "Near Wild Heaven," the romping "Texarkana" and the brilliant "Me In Honey" shows R.E.M. hitting on all cylinders.