R.E.M. When The Music’s Over: Part Lies, Part Truth, Part Heart, Part Garbage

Last Wednesday, R.E.M. officially stopped rem-ing.


I’ve been inconsolable. Still am. This band has been my formulative soundtrack and a lifelong passion. I became a fan in my toddler years. I was in the front row for the Aneurysm 95 tour (AKA the Monster tour) and was plucked out by security to sit on the speakers. (At 4. Tell me I wasn’t hooked.) I had to fight to get into a venue at age 14 when I won a contest to see the band in Denver. I was just in Athens back in May for a surprise graduation present from my mom and actually got to go inside the hallowed grounds of Wuxtry Records and was even invited into the H.Q.!

For 31 years they pushed boundaries and always did exactly what they wanted to do. (No matter the consequences or sheer amount of goofiness.) And we all loved them for it. Can you really think of anyone else that carried on for so long doing what they wanted and still remaining humble?

Now what do we do? It’s still impossible to believe that it’s actually over. Obviously things have run their natural course, but I always had a little thought of the guys sticking together over the years and out doing the Stones in the “longest lasting band” category. There was never any place in time where I even remotely considered the possibility of there being no R.E.M.

I just feel that there was more out there to explore and that the now final album, Collapse Into Now, wasn’t truly the end. I just hope that it was truly the band’s decision to end and that there were no pressures from WB to end their contract. (Anybody like the idea of R.E.M. going back to an indie label and doing their own thing In Rainbows style? That’s what I thought might be next. ;(  )

The breakup has spawned many internet comments about the three legged dog years after Bill Berry’s departure in 1997. My question to these people is: “Did you ever actually listen to anything from Up onwards?” They never stopped trying to do more. They never had a “bad” record. Around the Sun got mauled by everyone, but it was just too overdone.

Not only has this spurred me to finally complete my vinyl 1st pressing collection of their records, but to finally write my big definitive critical/personal reviews of the back catalog. So be expecting a huge dump of posts that get very wordy…or murmured.

I started the journey again with Chronic Town. I didn’t even make it through “Wolves, Lower” before breaking down. I played Murmur 30 times. Ugh!

There’s a retrospective compilation due out later this year that spans the band’s entire career (Both IRS and Warner eras).


The tracklisting leaves much to be desired, as such an influential and definitive American band could never be summed onto two CDs. Of course, most like myself will simply buy the set for the 3 Collapse Into Now demos.

Ok…I have to say it…..I’m done with music from now on. Period. Game. Set. Match. My spiritual brothers in music, people who I have spent my life listening to-thinking of-reflecting on-supporting, the music that formed my consciousness and is forever fully embedded in my psyche is now formally over.

I still can’t believe it.

To Peter, Mike, Michael, Bill and all the musicians and staff  for changing the face of music and culture as we knew it. For 31 years. That’s some kind of legacy.

To me, the most magical words in music will always be the credit: Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe….oh and maybe Cans of Piss. 😉

“God, they’re the greatest. They’ve dealt with their success like saints, and they keep delivering great music.” -Kurt Cobain on R.E.M. (Rolling Stone interview, 1994)

EDIT: There’s a new interview with Mike Mills on RollingStone.com about the whys of the band breaking up. It’s nice to see a amicable consensus and no label worries but it still doesn’t make it hurt any less.


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