Everybody hurts – R.E.M. are splitting up

Here’s something you probably didn’t know and probably wouldn’t have guessed: I’m a closet R.E.M. admirer. Not a fan, per se, because a lot of their music doesn’t really take my fancy, but you know, plenty of it does. Now, the news has broken that the band are splitting up after 31 years:

“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.” R.E.M.

When I found out that they were coming to Nottingham a few years back, we instantly got tickets. The arena was a little peculiar – the Nottingham Forest football stadium! – and it really didn’t lend itself very well to a concert. The acoustics left a lot to be desired, at least where we were sitting. Still, nice to see them live. Now there won’t be the opportunity to do so. It’s a shame, but all good things must come to an end. It seems they simply ran out of things to say, in a way.

Here’s probably my favourite song of theirs:

Got Everybody Hurts on SingStar, but I normally break down in tears trying to sing it. Losing My Religion normally goes a lot better.

Here’s the official press release:

ATHENS, GA–(Marketwire – Sep 21, 2011)

“During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and putting together this greatest hits retrospective; we started to ask ourselves ‘what next?’,” commented Mike 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. The time just feels right.”

R.E.M. is unique in that they are very much still the group of friends from Athens, Georgia that they’ve been since the band formed in 1979. While their career has spanned 15 studio albums and huge global success, the band itself only ever comprised the four original members. The one person to leave this tight-knit group was drummer Bill Berry, who retired two years after suffering a brain aneurysm on-stage during 1995’s “Monster” tour. But not before extracting a promise from his band mates that they would continue on as R.E.M.: “Bill insisted he would stay, if his leaving meant breaking the band up,” remembers Michael Stipe.

Mills adds: “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.”

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

Buck picks up on his thoughts: “One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M., was the fact that the records we made 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 them. Being a part of their lives has been an unbelievable gift.

“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 that has followed 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 a club; watching a group of 19-year-olds trying to change the world.”

R.E.M. will release a career-spanning Greatest Hits album through Warner Brothers in November. More information to follow.

Thank you for the music, R.E.M. – you’ve been great.

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