R.E.M., 1980-2011: Genre-defining college rock band breaks up after 31 years

R.E.M. — the iconic college-rock band that soared to major-label uperstardom in the late ’80s and early ’90s before suffering the loss of a key original member — announced today that it has “decided to call it a day as a band” after 31 years together.

R.E.M. revealed its decision to break-up with a one-sentence statement on its website and a stark, black-and-white photo by Anton Corbijn (seen above). The band — just Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills, following the loss of Bill Berry in 1997 — released its final album, Collapse Into Now, in March, but had opted not to tour the record.

The band’s statement in full:

“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.”

The R.E.M. website now has been updated with individual statements from each member:

MIKE

“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

“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

“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.”

What do you think of R.E.M.’s decision to break up? Share your thoughts, or your memories of the band and its legacy, in the comments section below.

 

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36 Comments

  • Saw them twice on the excellent Green tour… didn’t ever want to spoil the memories of those shows so I never saw them again… followed them up through the mid-90s, they will be missed!

     
  • Brian

    This should’ve happened many years ago, but kudos to them for making it last as long as they could. ‘Monster’ was a misstep, ‘New Adventures…’ a comeback, but everything after to me was very lackluster. They definitely leave a legacy and rightly hold their place among the few legendary bands of the 80′s (The Smiths, The Cure, U2, Depeche Mode)

     
  • Honestly, the only album that was decent since Automatic was ‘Accelerate’. Monster had it’s moments, but Hi Fi, Up, Reveal, Sun and Collapse Into Now sucked!

    I had a feeling when they said no tour was coming. I am surprised there is no ‘final show’ scheduled.

    Collapse into Now just sucks, plain and simple. REM were a great band from 1982 – 1992, after that it was hit or miss; mainly miss, lol.

    I’m glad I got to see them on the last few tours. Adios guys. Thanks for some great music!

     
  • They are one of the greats, and should remembered as such. Even if some of their later albums were not the best, they really are one of those bands that will stand the test of time.

     
  • Mike, true statement. Most bands can’t keep up the quality in studio albums; The Cure, Depeche Mode, U2…all have put out some garbage over the years.

    But as a live act, REM were at the top of their game in 2008. They played rare stuff from every album, and put on a great show. Perhaps we’ll get a farewell show or mini-tour, who knows.

     
    • Ronnie B

      I agree with you Joe, but think the last 2 Depeche Mode albums were great. They are probably still the only band on that list of yours that still does great work.

       
    • Steve

      The 2008 tour was amazing. and I really hope to see a studio version someday of “Staring Down the Barrel of a Middle Distance”.

      I am glad they went out on a high note of the 2008 tour, even if it wasn’t planned as a “farewell”.

       
  • James

    They defined the early 80s college rock scene. How long before the reunion tour?

     
  • scott (the other one)

    New Adventures in Hi-Fi is a great album–the most underrated in their catalog.

     
  • It was time. They definitely took a turn for the worse after the New Adventures in Hi Fi album, but Collapse Into Now was surprisingly good. I’m sad, but it’s for the best.

     
  • Agustin

    How i feel? Like shit!
    I’ve lost my favourite band today.

     
  • michael

    For 3-4 years, R.E.M. were a very important band for me, and I thank them for the albums from those years.

     
  • if you’re not a fan or think you are because you like Automatic, then don’t waste your time posting. liking the one album that everyone says your supposed to like doesn’t qualify you to say that their later stuff sucked. their music changed and evolved. it always has. from the murmured abstraction of their early albums, to reaching a more cohesive maturity post IRS, to working with what you have when your drummer retires, to experimenting with new sounds with subtle hints back to one’s glory days. while some of their latest albums may have been a departure from what made them who they are, they all had some beautiful moments within them: Up continued their habit of ending an album strong with one of my favorite songs of all time; Reveal was one of their most mellow and beautiful albums they’ve released; Around the Sun, to me, was up there with Automatic, where virtually every song wowed me on first listen; Accelerate was amazing; and Collapse, well, it had it’s moments but overall kind of collapsed. it is a sad day indeed that they have called it quits. i’m glad to have seen them live thrice, and will continue to enjoy their entire discography, reminding me of what music could, and should, be.

     
    • Jeff, don’t be a snob.
      They were good in their time, and like others have mentioned, when Bill left they lost a very good drummer and someone who contributed quite a bit in song writing and development.
      Can someone at this site post their UK debut on the The TUBE tv show please?

       
  • I was never a big fan (though I do really like their early stuff), but I am glad I got to see them a couple of times….great live show. They truly were one the pioneers of the “college rock” genre of the 80′s…..

     
  • I have all of their cds (and the wonderful cd / surround sound dvd reissues!) and can find something I like about each one for different reasons… my favorite is one many on here seem to have hated (Monster)… they were one of the bands I always bought on day one and they often had interesting special editions too… thought provoking music, and always something to surprise you when you saw them live… they will be missed… to quote them, “it’s the end of the world as we know it”…

     
    • snaab

      First Time I saw them was on Document No. 5 tour. Again for the Monster tour but I pretty much went to that to see Sonic Youth for that one. Monster is my favorite Album, pretty much stopped listening to them after that one.

       
  • They should have broken up when Berry left. Then they would have been well-positioned for the 80s reunions of the aughts. And we would have been spared a lot of crappy albums.

     
  • tom mulvihill

    thanks for making music that matters & I hope they continue to due the rest of the IRS years remasters & hopefully a b-side collection box too!

     
  • Mike S

    No question their later catalog is spotty, but those essential records at the beginning have had an inestimable influence on today’s music. I’m taken back to my first encounter with R.E.M., a fellow high school student with a t-shirt with a gargoyle on it. I ran across the same artwork in a record shop; of course, it was their landmark debut, Chronic Town. It immediately became my favorite record. I had the honor of seeing them when they were supporting Murmur, still relative unknowns, looking for a place to crash. I was able to see them two more times, once on the Document tour, but my favorite ever R.E.M. show was in support of Fables of the Reconstruction. They projected images of wagons and cannons on the massive wall of the venue. Natalie Merchant joined Michael onstage for a couple of duets. It was a great show, a memorable night, one I’ll never forget.

     
  • Humperdinck

    What to say..? Simply one of THE greatest bands of all time. Truly maverick and original, and without whom… well, I think everyone reading this website knows. Michael, Peter, Mike and Bill – THANK YOU! From Nottingham Rock City to Hyde Park, from Chronic Town to Collapse Into Now, jangley guitars and mumbled vocals never sounded so so good.

     
  • Derek

    I feel like I grew up with R.E.M. and one of my core bands from my childhood in the 80′s and early 90′s is now gone. I will always cherish the memories I have from Radio Free Europe to Driver 8, Nightswimming, Texarkana, Catapult, Losing My Religion ect. It has been a great run R.E.M., and I’m glad I got to grow up with your music. See you in Athens!

     
  • Monikerjay

    Well honestly, after Bill Berry left, a certain cog was gone from the wheel. They always said that if one member left they would call it quits…which obviously didn’t happen. This band was a huge and positive inspiration for me and a lot of kids growing up in the 80′s. It was time to do this after Hi-Fi but at least they gave it a try. Saw them in 1995 for the Up tour…and a little band called Radiohead opened for them in Austin TX. RIP REM…

     
  • Brian

    Thank You for the last 31 years!!!!!!!!!!
    You will be missed……….

     
  • Brian

    Thank You for the last 31 years!!!!!!!!!!
    You will be missed……….

     
  • Derek

    I’m a bit of an outlier when it comes to REM as my favorite album was Fables of the Reconstruction. I also loved Document. The last album I listened to intensely was Automatic for the People. Couldn’t get excited about any of the later stuff, but some of my all time favorite songs come from those few albums.

     
  • Mike S

    Well so be it. Saw them live in 84 on the Little America tour in support of Reckoning and again in 87 on the Work tour in support of Document. They were great live! Although later records did not contain the “hits” there was still some solid material there that true fans of the band could appreciate. Was hoping to catch them live one more time as I am with several other 80′s bands lately, but alas that won’t be happening unless there is a reunion tour. Bought Collapse into Now recently and it’s hit & miss but still R.E.M. Thanks guys for the years of great music!

     
  • Joe whey

    They suck. Good riddance.

     
  • I remember sitting on the back porch of my sister’s S.F. apartment and listening to Reckoning. I had just been accepted to USF and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. Harborcoat, So. Central Rain, and (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville calmed me down and primed me for what was to come.
    The following summer I was back in Phoenix, back with the gang, and the word was out that the new Talking Heads album had been released! We raced down to Tower to get it and there, in the new arrivals bin, was FABLES. Well, needless to say we cobbled together our shekels and purchased both. Wendell Gee quickly became our song of the summer. We also spent many fruitless hours scanning MTV hoping to catch the video for Can’t Get There From Here.

    Take a seat at the table gentlemen, you have nothing left to prove. Thanks and take care.

    Nick.

     
  • Rob C

    Kudos to a brilliant career, especially the College Years & pre-Warners career. I’ve seen them live twice – once on the Green World Tour and then touring Monster in Germany. It’s a shame that they have never taken the opportunity to tour the individual albums in their entirety, as is the trend today, as I am sure the fans would pay top dollar to see Murmur and Reckoning played live in their entirety.

    Thanks for the memories boys and all the best on your solo careers!

     
  • Steve

    To everyone who is saying ‘Collapse into Now’ sucked is so full of shit. R.E.M. came into my world in 1989, and I actually think ‘Collapse into Now’ is one of their best (now it’s their Abbey Road) And to everyone who constantly mentions ‘Automatic for the People’, then says, “everything they did after just sucks…” give it a break. You are obviously just reading and repeating what everyone else is saying. It’s stale.

    Anyway, thank you to R.E.M. for 31 wonderful years of music. I am one of those fans who actually thinks even ‘Around the Sun’ has good moments.

    Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe. You forever changed me. And I will always be grateful for it.

     
  • Mikey

    Sometimes I feel like I can’t even sing (say, say, the light)
    I’m very scared for this world
    I’m very scared for me (say, say, the light)
    Eviscerate your memory
    Here’s a scene
    You’re in the back seat laying down
    The windows wrap around
    To sound of the travel and the engine
    All you hear is time stand still in travel
    And feel such peace and absolute
    The stillness still that doesn’t end
    But slowly drifts into sleep
    The greatest thing you’ve ever seen
    And they’re there for you
    For you alone you are the everything
    For you alone you are the everything

     
  • I’m sorry to see them go, but I’m glad they did it on their own terms. Even if their experiments didn’t work, they were never afraid to experiment, to try something new. One of my favorite bands of high school/college and one of the few from that time in my life that I still listen to regularly.

     
  • Scott Mittleman

    Here’s to R.E.M. You will be missed.

     
 

 

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