R.E.M. (formed 1980)
R.E.M. is an alternative American rock band. The lineup of the band consists of Michael Stipe on lead vocals, Peter Buck on guitar, Mike Mills on bass guitar and Bill Berry on drums and percussion.
R.E.M.: Formative Years
Michael Stipe met Peter Buck in 1980 whilst Buck was working in a record store in Athens, Georgia. They shared a love of bands like Television, Patti Smith and The Velvet Underground. The pair of them soon met Bill Berry and Mike Mills, who were students at the University of Georgia. Their debut gig as a band was at a friend's birthday party in April 1980.
R.E.M.'s first single was 'Radio Free Europe', released in 1981 on the independent Hib-Tone label.
I.R.S. Records obtained a copy of R.E.M.'s demo tapes and signed a contract with the band, despite R.E.M. having been courted by RCA Records. The Chronic Town EP was R.E.M.'s first major label release.
R.E.M.: Debut album onwards
R.E.M.'s debut album, Murmur, was released in 1983, to huge critical acclaim. Rolling Stone magazine made the album its record of the year. Their first national TV appearance came in October of that year, when they appeared on Late Night with David Letterman. They performed 'So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)', which became the lead single from their second album, Reckoning.
The third album from R.E.M. was 1985's Fables of the Reconstruction. It was produced by Joe Boyd, who had previously worked with Nick Drake and Fairport Convention and they recorded the album in England. The resulting recordings were seen as a departure from the quality of their predecessors.
Life's Rich Pageant was released in 1986 and was recorded by John Mellencamp's producer, Don Gehman, who raised the profile of Stipe's vocals in the songs. The track 'Fall On Me' became popular on commercial radio.
R.E.M.'s fifth album, Document became their breakthrough release. Frustrated by I.R.S. Records' poor overseas distribution, R.E.M. signed with Warner Bros. Records when their existing contract had expired. Their major label debut was 1988's Green, recorded in Nashville, Tennessee. The album has sold over 4 million units worldwide.
In 1990, following a 12-month break, R.E.M. reconvened and recorded Out of Time, using the mandolin, organ and acoustic guitar to break away from the expected sound of alterative guitar bands. The lead single, 'Losing My Religion', became a massive worldwide hit, as was its follow-up, 'Shiny Happy People', featuring Kate Pierson of the B-52s.
The next album from R.E.M. was 1991's Automatic for the People, another huge global success. Many of the tracks featured string arrangements by John Paul Jones, Led Zeppelin's bass player. Again, the album spawned a number of global hits, including 'Man On The Moon' and 'Everybody Hurts'.
In 1994, R.E.M. released Monster, intended to be a more upbeat album, after the two slow-paced releases preceding it. The album featured the popular tracks 'What's the Frequency, Kenneth?' and 'Bang and Blame'.
In March 1995, Bill Berry suffered a brain aneurysm and collapsed onstage in Switzerland. Although he recovered within a month, the band was plagued with other health issues, as Mills required abdominal surgery and Stipe also required emergency surgery to repair a hernia. The following year, however, they still managed to release an album, Adventures in Hi-Fi, having re-signed with Warner Bros for a staggering $80 million contract.
In April 1997, Bill Berry left the band. The remaining three members decided to carry on as a three-piece. For their next recording sessions, they hired Barrett Martin, formerly of Screaming Trees and Joey Waronker, Beck's touring drummer. Despite troubles and tensions during the recordings, Up was finally released in 1998, with 'Daysleeper' being the lead single from the album. The following year, they released the instrumental score to Milos Forman's Man on the Moon. The film was an Andy Kaufman biopic and starred Jim Carrey as the lead character and Courtney Love as his girlfriend. Also in the film were Danny DeVito and Paul Giamatti.
R.E.M. then released Reveal in 2001, with Waronker drumming, as well as Scott McCaughey of The Minus 5 and Ken Stringfellow of Posies.
Around the Sun was released in 2004. The lead single was 'Leaving New York' and around this time, the band hired a permanent new drummer for the purposes of touring, Bill Rieflin. Rieflin was previously a member of Ministry. That year, R.E.M. joined the Vote For Change tour, with Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and Bright Eyes.
Whilst rehearsing for their induction into the Georgia Hall of Fame, R.E.M. also recorded a version of John Lennon's '?9 Dream' for Amnesty International.
Accelerate was released in 2008, following recording sessions with the producer Jacknife Lee. The album debuted at the number two spot on the Billboard charts.
R.E.M.'s music has inspired a number of bands, most notably Nirvana. Lead singer Kurt Cobain was vocal in his praise of the band and he and his wife, Courtney Love, of Hole, became good friends with Michael Stipe.