Thirty-one-year-old veteran alternative rock band R.E.M. called it quits after increasing demand from Warner Brothers Records. The band released a statement last Wednesday, humbly giving their thanks for the many years of support they received from their fans.
There was little indication as to why they split, but Ethan Kaplin, former senior vice-president of emerging technologies at Warner Brothers Records shed some light on the breakup, saying that R.E.M.’s increasingly demanding record label urged them to put out another album this year. It would have been their second this year and 16th of their career.
R.E.M. ended their lengthy career as quietly as it began with a brief online statement followed by individual testimonies from each of the remaining original band members.
Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, Peter Buck, and Bill Berry formed R.E.M. in 1980 in Athens, Georgia.
Their music influenced major alternative rock bands such as Nirvana, paving the way for the alternative/grunge phenomenon of the 1990s.
In the 1980s, R.E.M. had an underground cult following that allowed the band members to complete their first six albums without a major record label. It wasn’t until their 1988 smash hit “One I Love” that launched them into mainstream success.
The band’s success continued through the early to mid 1990’s with their next four albums selling an estimated 30 million copies worldwide, which prompted them to tour non-stop.
They used their time on stage and in the media to preach their political and environmental views and concerns. Despite the mixed criticism the band faced for these views, they never compromised their integrity by backing down on the subjects they felt passionate about.
Shortly after Warner Brothers Records re-signed the band for an unprecedented $80 million, band member Bill Berry quit in 1997.
This might have been the time for R.E.M. to throw in the towel, as their remaining albums were not as critically acclaimed as their first 10, partially due to a lack of unity in the band after Berry’s departure.
It’s a modern tragedy to watch corporate-owned bands and studio artists essentially monitoring the content and sound of their music. Musical integrity is harder to find now than Waldo.
At the very least, we can take solace in R.E.M.’s decision to hold on to its integrity, leaving the show a little early, thus preserving its legacy as one of the most influential bands of the past three decades.