Formed in Georgia in 1980, R.E.M is an American rock band that is composed of Bill Berry as the drummer, Peter Buck on guitars, Mike Mills on bass and back up vocals, and Michael Stipe on lead vocals. R.E.M was one of the pioneers of the alternative rock genre. Their single “Radio Free Europe” helped to transform the post-punk style into alternative rock as part of the underground music scene in 1981. R.E.M has reportedly sold over 85 million albums worldwide making them one of the world’s best-selling music groups of all time. The band was also inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. But just four years after their induction, the band officially announced their disbandment in 2011 on their website.
R.E.M released several successful album over the course of their career such as
- Murmur (1983)
- Reckoning (1984)
- Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)
- Lifes Rich Pageant (1986)
- Document (1987)
- Green (1988)
- Out of Time (1991)
- Automatic for the People (1992)
- Monster (1994)
- New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996)
- Up (1998)
- Reveal (2001)
- Around the Sun (2004)
- Accelerate (2008)
- Collapse into Now (2011)
They were also responsible for the following hit singles
- Losing My Religion
- Everybody Hurts
- Shiny Happy People
- It’s the End of the World As We Know It
- The One I Love
- Man on the Moon
- Orange Crush
- Imitation of Life
- Fall on Me
- The Great Beyond
- So, Central Rain
- Bad Day
- Country Feedback
- Find the River
- Radio Song
- At My Most Beautiful
History and Career
Michael Stipe met Peter Buck in a record store where Buck worked in 1980. They learned that they shared the same passion and tasted in music. They both liked punk rock artists like Television and Patti Smith. They then met Mike Mills and Bill Berry in the University of Georgia by their mutual friend, Kathleen O’ Brien. They started making music together and played their first official gig on O’Brien’s birthday party. The band got its name, R.E.M, an acronym for rapid eye movement meaning a dream stage of sleep, through a random selection that Stipe made in the dictionary.
Berry, Stipe, Mills, and Buck all dropped out of school to focus on their music. They eventually found their first manager, Jefferson Holt, a record store manager who was impressed by their performance in North Carolina. The band started playing gigs in front of larger crowds. They toured the Southern United States in an old blue van that was driven by their manager and lived on a food allowance of two dollars per day.
R.E.M released their first single “Radio Free Europe” in 1981 under the independent record label Hib-Tone. They released a thousand copies of the album, 600 of it was sent out to be promotional copies. But the single quickly sold out and they have to make another 6,000 copies due to popular demand. The song was hailed by The New York Times as one of the ten best singles of 1981.
The band released their debut E.P album, Chronic Town in 1982 under I.R.S Records. And while they have encountered producer issues, R.E.M managed to release their first full album, Murmur, which claimed critical success in 1983. The album grabbed the 36th spot in the Billboard albums chart and was even named by the Rolling stone as the record of the year. Their second album, Reckoning was also a critically acclaimed album in which they were named by NME as one of the most exciting groups on the planet.
In 1985, they released their third studio album with the title, Fables of Reconstruction which was recorded in London and was produced by John Boyd. This was also the time when R.E.M encountered some stress and problems because of the tension of the touring they are doing. Michael Stipe g had some reinvention and he started to act bizarrely as he put on some weight, wear layers of clothes and dyed his hair blonde. However, this did not stop Fables of Reconstruction in being one of R.E.M’s most successful album selling over 300,000 copies in the United States alone.
R.E.M’s following grew quite large over the years that’s why when they released their album, Document, it had been an instant hit soon after it was released in 1987. It produced the hit song “The One I Love” which went straight into the top ten of the US countdown. In the spring of 1991, the band released their seventh studio album with the title “Out of Time”. The album quickly grabbed the number one spot in both the UK and US charts. This was also the album that held their most popular single, “Losing My Religion”. This album sold over four million copies in the US alone even if R.E.M’s band members decided to stay off the road for a little while.
This album was followed by Automatic for the People which was released in 1992, It became a quadruple platinum album which featured the singles “Man on the Moon”, “Drive”, and “Everybody Hurts”. After releasing two successful studio album, R.E.M felt that they should connect more with their roots and went back to being a rock band. That’s why in 1994, they released their album “Monster”., which was plagued with tension and stress. Even so, the album managed to enter the US and UK chart at the number one spot. R.E.M followed this up with a tour to promote the album. However, just two months after their tour started, drummer Bill Berry suffered from a brain aneurysm while he was performing on stage. He was sent to the hospital and recovered after a month. Then after this, Mike Mills had to go to the hospital to remove a tumor in his intestines. Just a month after that, it was Michael Stipe’s turn to go to the hospital to undergo a surgery for a hernia. Even if the band’s tour encountered many problems, it still managed to be a huge financial success.
In 1997, R.E.M officially announced that Bill Berry will leave the band to live on a farm and focus on his health. The band continued to make their music as a trio and replaced Bill Berry with a drum machine.
The band continued to make music and release albums throughout the years. They released their albums like Reveal, Up, Accelerate, and Around the Sun. And in 2007, they were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2011, the band released their album Collapse into Now which debuted in the top five on the US charts. Unfortunately, this turned out to be R.E.M’s last album because later that year, the band announced their disbandment after 31 years of making music together.