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R.E.M.

R.E.M.

Alternative rock group

When four college guys started a garage band together in Athens, Georgia, in 1980, they had no idea they'd go on to sign a historically lucrative record deal, see the end of their band as they knew it, and reign as one of the most influential bands of their era. University of Georgia students drummer Bill Berry, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills, and vocalist Michael Stipe formed R.E.M. When they started, punk rock was mostly what was being played in garages by angst-ridden youth across America, but R.E.M. (named for the "rapid eye movement" phase of sleep) was busy making catchy guitar pop. R.E.M. signifies the point at which all that misdirected, avant-garde, "alternative" music was driven out of the garage and into heady commercial success.

At the start R.E.M. was a driven college rock band, often playing two or three shows a night, five nights a week, three weeks a month. They applied the post-punk D.I.Y. (do it yourself) mentality to what they were doing and just played tirelessly. All the experience and exposure showed up well on their first single, "Radio Free Europe" and "Sitting Still," which was released on their local Hib-Tone record label in 1981. "Radio Free Europe" earned them a cult following that led to their first EP, Chronic Town, on IRS records in 1982.

It wasn't until 1983 and the release of Murmur that anyone besides critics—and those hip to the Georgia underground—took to R.E.M. But because R.E.M.'s haunting style of folk and rock clashed with the synthetic early '80s new-wave sound, more people sat up and listened. Murmur peaked at number 136 on the album charts, but Rolling Stone selected it as album of the year and R.E.M. as band of the year. With their 1984 release Reckoning, the sound was still unlike anything else being played at the time and the push behind R.E.M. became even stronger, as did record sales. With at least one release per year on IRS from 1985's Fables of the Reconstruction to 1988's greatest hits collection Eponymous, the band gained more and more critical acclaim, fans, and record sales. Their 1987 release Document did the unthinkable, reaching the top ten, and produced a hit single, the antilove song called "The One I Love." But in 1988, R.E.M. grew up.

Snagged Monster Record Deal

In 1988, R.E.M. officially earned the right to be called "sell-outs" by their purist fans. After R.E.M. signed a five-record, $10-million deal with Warner Brothers, people could call them whatever they wanted to, but they had to acknowledge the band as a commercial success. Once they were on top, though, R.E.M. did not fail to look back down and got involved with grassroots political and environmental causes. Stipe spoke out on behalf of Greenpeace, animal rights, and the homeless. After their first release for Warner Bros., Green, R.E.M. had become the world's most popular band.

After an exhaustive tour to support the release of Green, during which Stipe cursed Green's hit single "Stand," which had the entire country humming, as the worst song they'd ever written, the band went on a touring hiatus. They hibernated for three years until the much-anticipated release of Out of Time in 1991. R.E.M. blossomed on Out of Time, both instrumentally and commercially. They used a more exotic selection of instruments, including horns and mandolins. The release sped to number one on the album charts and went quadruple platinum. Its hit singles "Losing My Religion" and "Shiny Happy People," a duet with Kate Pierson of the B-52's, were the summer anthems of 1991. On 1992's Automatic for the People, R.E.M. dug deep inside and pulled out a somber, introspective collection of songs. Its hits were "Drive," "Man on the Moon," and "Everybody Hurts."

When Monster was released in 1994, it seemed geared to be played loudly. R.E.M. rocked harder on this record than on any before. Monster included rockers with reverb-laded guitars and distorted vocals alongside more trademark-sounding songs. The album hit number one almost immediately, although it produced a lukewarm first single, "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?," which peaked at number 28. To support Monster, the band geared up for its first tour in five years, but canceled it after a few weeks in March 1995 when drummer Bill Berry suffered a near-fatal double brain aneurysm in Switzerland.

For the Record …

Members include Bill Berry (born William Thomas Berry on July 31, 1958, in Duluth, MN; band member, 1980-97), drums; Peter Buck (born Peter Lawrence Buck on December 6, 1956, in Berkeley, CA), guitar; Mike Mills (born Michael Edward Mills on December 17, 1958, in Orange, CA), bass, vocals; Michael Stipe (born John Michael Stipe on January 4, 1960, in Decatur, GA), vocals.

Group formed in Athens, GA, 1980; signed to IRS Records, 1982; released debut EP Chronic Town, 1982; released Murmur, 1983; released Reckoning, 1984; released Fables of the Reconstruction, 1985; released Life's Rich Pageant, 1986; released Document, 1987; signed a five-record, $10-million record deal with Warner Brothers, 1988; released Green, 1988; released Out of Time, 1991; released Automatic for the People, 1992; released Monster, 1994; signed a five-record, $80-million record deal with Warner Brothers, 1996; released New Adventures in Hi-Fi, 1996; drummer Bill Berry left band, October 1997; released Up, 1998; composed soundtrack for Man on the Moon, 1999; issued Reveal, 2001, and Around the Sun, 2004; participated in the Vote for Change tour, 2004; inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, 2006; inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2007; released Accelerate, 2008.

Awards: Grammy Awards, Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "Losing My Religion," Best Alternative Music Album for Out of Time, Best Music Video for "Losing My Religion," 1991; inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2007.

Addresses: Record company—Warner Brothers, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019. Web site—R.E.M. Official Web site: http://remhq.com.

The small-town boys from Georgia made music industry history in 1996, signing a five-record, $80-million deal with Warner Music, the largest record contract ever awarded at the time. The deal came at the end of a bidding war, with DreamWorks, Sony, Capitol, and MCA offering $35 to $50 million. "R.E.M. embodies everything important about this company," Warner Bros. president Steven Baker told the Los Angeles Times. "They are a tremendously hard-working, successful band with integrity and vision." Two weeks later, the band released New Adventures in Hi-Fi, which, although it debuted at number two, wasn't very well received and enjoyed only lukewarm sales.

In early October of 1997, on the first day of rehearsals for their new album, drummer Berry decided to leave the band. "Rock drummers are like car tires: they're regularly replaced, but you don't get far if you're missing one," wrote Time in 1998. And if that was the case for any band, it was especially true for R.E.M. The band was always known for working as a democracy—every decision in their 17 years together had been made unanimously. All members received songwriting credit on their albums, drummer Berry included. "I put it to the guys," Berry told Rolling Stone. "I don't want to do this anymore." Michael Stipe told Rolling Stone in 1998, "I was just consumed by Bill's departure."

For the band's first release after Berry left, 1998's Up, all ears were tuned to hear the sound of a new R.E.M. "The pulsing drum machine that opens Up hints at what skeptics may have feared: The Berry-less (but not drummerless) R.E.M. may have bought a floor ticket to music's latest overplayed trend, electronica," Ann Powers wrote in Rolling Stone in 1998. "But the mellotron, harpsichord and other groovy effects on Up never overwhelm the band's mighty sense of self." Or as David Fricke wrote in Rolling Stone, "Up is the record that Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills would have made with or without departed drummer Bill Berry."

Headed in a New Direction

Up also was a first for Stipe as lyricist: for the first time, his enigmatic song lyrics were printed on the CD's insert. Stereo Review noted in a 1998 review of Up that Stipe, known for mumbling his often cryptic verse, seemed to be trying to make himself a little clearer. "The most interesting aspect [of Up] is Michael Stipe's lyrical openness; he has never been more nakedly self revelatory, nor has he enunciated his lyrics with such deliberate precision." The reviews for Up were wildly mixed, from speculation that it was the group's best record ever to Billboard's 1998 review of it as a "record that sounds as if the group was sulking all the way through it." In a year-end interview with Rolling Stone in 1998, Stipe had this response: "If this record dropped out of the sky by a three-piece band that nobody had heard of, people would be in the street shouting at the top of their lungs, naked, about it."

In 1999, R.E.M. recorded the soundtrack for Milos Forman's Man on the Moon starring Jim Carrey. The soundtrack included R.E.M.'s "Man on the Moon" from Automatic for the People along with "The Great Beyond," which was issued as a single and reached number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Between May and October of 2000, R.E.M. recorded its next album in Ireland and Canada. Reveal was released in 2001 to mixed reviews, with Stephen Thomas Erlewine writing for All Music Guide that the album was "[just] all a bit too studied to ring true." In 2003, Warner Brothers released a compilation of the band, In Time: The Best of R.E.M., 1988-2003. In addition to offering an overview of the band's career, In Time featured two new songs, "Animal" and "Bad Day," the latter which charted on the Canadian Singles Chart. In 2003, former drummer Bill Berry joined the band for a brief reunion during a Durham, North Carolina, show.

Honored Rockers

R.E.M. returned in 2004 with Around the Sun, an album that a number of critics found directionless. "Ten years after the commercial zenith of Monster and seven years after the departure of linchpin Bill Berry," noted Erlewine, "R.E.M. have never seemed as directionless as they do on their 13th album, Around the Sun." In 2004, R.E.M. joined Bruce Springsteen, Bright Eyes, and others on the Vote for Change tour, and then embarked on the band's first major world tour in ten years. I.R.S. records released a second compilation of R.E.M. in 2006, And I Feel Fine … The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-87, expanding the portrait of the band. On March 12, 2007, R.E.M. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and the band performed four songs with drummer Berry.

In 2008, the band released its 14th album, Accelerate. "One of the benefits of being veterans is knowing how to create a record this focused, and Accelerate benefits greatly from its concentrated blast of guitars, as the brevity of the album makes R.E.M. seem vital even as they're dredging up the past," wrote Erlewine.

Selected discography

Chronic Town, IRS, 1982.

Murmur, IRS, 1983.

Reckoning, IRS, 1984.

Fables of the Reconstruction, IRS, 1985.

Life's Rich Pageant, IRS, 1986.

Document, IRS, 1987.

Dead Letter Office, IRS, 1987.

Green, Warner Brothers, 1988.

Out of Time, Warner Brothers, 1991.

Automatic for the People, Warner Brothers, 1992.

Monster, Warner Brothers, 1994.

New Adventures in Hi-Fi, Warner Brothers, 1996.

Up, Warner Brothers, 1998.

Reveal, Warner Brothers, 2001.

In Time: The Best of R.E.M., 1988-2003, Warner Brothers, 2003.

Around the Sun, Warner Brothers, 2004.

And I Feel Fine … The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-87, IRS, 2006.

R.E.M. Live, Warner Brothers, 2007.

Accelerate, Warner Brothers, 2008.

Sources

Books

Graff, Gary and Daniel Durcholz, editors, MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1998.

Romanowski, Patricia and Holly George-Warren, editors, The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Periodicals

Billboard, October 30, 1998.

Newsweek, October 26, 1998.

New York Times, October 28, 1998.

Rolling Stone, December 11, 1997; September 3, 1998; November 12, 1998; December 24, 1998.

Stereo Review, December 1998.

Time, October 26, 1998.

Village Voice, November 3, 1998.

Online

"R.E.M," All Music Guide,www.allmusic.com (June 15, 2008).

—Brenna Sanchez and Ronald D. Lankford, Jr.

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R.E.M.

R.E.M.

Formed: 1980, Athens, Georgia

Members: Peter Buck, guitar (born Berkeley, California, 6 December 1956); Mike Mills, bass, backing vocals (born Orange, California, 17 December 1958); Michael Stipe, lead vocals (born Decatur, Georgia, 4 January 1960). Former member: Bill Berry, drums (born Duluth, Minnesota, 31 July 1958).

Genre: Rock

Best-selling album since 1990: Automatic for the People (1992)

Hit songs since 1990: "Losing My Religion," "Everybody Hurts," "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?"


As the first American alternative rock band to achieve mass appeal, R.E.M. cultivated an audience by remaining true to their postpunk roots, constantly challenging themselves as well as their fans. By fusing jangly guitars with cryptic lyrics that evoked the dark spirit of the deep South, they created a signature sound that appealed to critics and college students throughout the 1980s. After the success of their major-label debut, Green (1988), they spent the next several years retooling their approach, leading to unlikely but spectacular commercial and artistic success. The albums Out of Time (1991) and Automatic for the People (1993) sold millions of copies, despite their dark and challenging material. The band then branched out even farther with the gritty guitar rock of Monster (1995) and the electronica-inspired Up (1998). They endured health problems and the departure of an original member, Bill Berry, to remain one of rock's most relevant and creative bands.

Southern Roots

R.E.M. started in the college town of Athens, Georgia. Mike Mills and Bill Berry had been playing music together since attending high school in Macon, Georgia, and Michael Stipe and Peter Buck bonded over their shared musical taste at a local record store. The two pairs of friends eventually got together and started to play cover songs in an abandoned church. Soon they began composing original material, adopting the name R.E.M. and joining the new wave of inventive Southern postpunk bands that included the B-52s and Pylon. Though all the band members developed quickly as musicians, the thrust of the R.E.M. sound became Buck's jangly, 1960s-style guitar playing and Stipe's mumbled singing and non sequitur lyrics. They toured relentlessly, and their popularity increased exponentially. In the summer of 1981, they recorded the single "Radio Free Europe," which, despite its very small pressing of 1,000 copies, was named Independent Single of the Year by the Village Voice.


From Murmur to Monster

After the success of "Radio Free Europe" and the EP Chronic Town (1982), the band recorded its first full-length album, Murmur, for the independent label I.R.S. in 1983. It was released to similarly enthusiastic reviews, culminating with a best album nod from Rolling Stone magazine. That an independent band from Georgia could accomplish this feat, beating out such heavy hitters as Michael Jackson and the Police, seemed revolutionary. The music is complex and haunting, with strong rhythms derived from English postpunk, and the unique combination of Buck's bright guitar lines and Stipe's passionate vocals. It seems to be distilled from the same sources as the novels of William Faulkner, resulting in a juxtaposition of lush beauty and Southern madness. While other American underground guitar acts of the era explored the possibilities of abrasive noise, R.E.M. concentrated on developing a signature voice, by turns melancholy and gorgeous.

R.E.M. recorded four more albums for I.R.S. and scored a Top 10 single in 1987 with the song "The One I Love" from the album Document (1987). The following year they signed to Warner Bros. and released Green (1988). The album is an extension of the sound they developed throughout their independent years, amplified by an aggressive production that favors the guitars and drums. They notched hits with the playful "Stand" and the foreboding "Orange Crush." They embarked on an extensive world tour that left them exhausted.

While on break from touring, the band began to develop songs that sounded nothing like their previous work. Many took this to be a sign of concert burnout, as the band stated that they would not tour in support of the new material. Though seemingly a gesture aimed at alienating their fans, Out of Time (1991) emerged as their biggest-selling and most personal album to date. The songs evoke the pastoral Georgia setting of its recording, with Buck abandoning the electric guitar almost completely for acoustic instruments. The lush single "Losing My Religion," a somber meditation on faith driven by Buck's mandolin, rocketed to the top bracket of the pop charts, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it sounded like nothing else on the radio. Stylistically, Out of Time is all over the map, from the funk assault of "Radio Song" (complete with a rap by KRS-One) to the magisterial pop of "Near Wild Heaven." The album represents a revamped R.E.M., dipping into new sounds and genres, and finding their feet as a band all over again.

The band continued this eclectic streak with the moody Automatic for the People (1992). Not as awkward as moments of Out of Time, the album finds R.E.M. at the peak of their considerable powers. Many of its most memorable songs merge a sullen tone with invigorating instrumentation, such as the highly textured melancholy of "Sweetness Follows" and the gorgeous piano ballad "Nightswimming." These down moments are balanced out by the dizzy pop of "The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight," and the crunchy country rock of "Man on the Moon." "Everybody Hurts" emerges as the band's most direct ballad, a simple and affecting wail for hope against hope propelled by Stipe's most soulful vocal performance. Closing with the hopeful pocket symphony "Find the River," Automatic stands as R.E.M.'s most stunning accomplishment.

Spot Light: The Monster Tour

Michael Stipe liked to joke that R.E.M. would eventually break up on stage at the stroke of midnight, New Year's Eve 2000. The series of health problems that plagued their worldwide Monster tour of 1995, however, seemed calculated to turn that prediction into reality a few years ahead of schedule. The Monster tour marked R.E.M.'s return to the road after a hiatus of nearly six years. With a full slate of dates in North America and Europe, it was the band's most ambitious tour, and their first since rising to international fame. The troubles began at a March date in Lausanne, Switzerland, when drummer Bill Berry collapsed ninety minutes into the show, suffering from a brain aneurysm. Berry was saved from death by emergency surgery, and the band resumed the tour in May. Two months later Mike Mills underwent surgery to remove an intestinal tumor; in August the tour was interrupted yet again as Stipe went under the knife for an emergency hernia-removal procedure. Despite these obstacles, the tour was a massive commercial success and featured the band in top form. Along the way they recorded the brilliant New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996), their final album with Berry on drums. Although he maintains that the Monster experience did not influence his decision, Berry left the band and retired to his Georgia farm before the recording of Up (1998). Ever stalwart, the band pressed on and recorded the album not with a new drummer but with electronic beats and drum loops in their most experimental work to date.

By 1994 R.E.M. was ready to return to the road and celebrated this new spirit with the amped-up guitar rock of Monster (1994). The album is not as accomplished as its predecessor, but it boasts yet another new direction for the band as they try their hand at the sludgy guitar dynamics that ruled American rock at the time. Their creativity shines through the feedback, as evidenced by the supremely catchy "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" and the sleazy glam-rock ode "Crush with Eyeliner." The band embarked on a massive and successful world tour that was marred by health emergencies, including a brain aneurysm suffered by Berry and surgeries for Mills and Stipe.

During the Monster tour, the band recorded songs in several cities that were compiled and released as New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996). The album plays like an alternative greatest hits collection, with the band revisiting the various styles of their entire catalog and producing some of their best stand-alone songs. "Leave" is an angry lament played over a sample of a siren. "Undertow" finds the band employing Buck's raging guitars more effectively than anything on Monster, backing Stipe's visceral lyrics about emotional and/or physical drowning with expert force. "E-Bow the Letter," a duet with Patti Smith, recalls the lush balladry of Out of Time, and the bittersweet "Electrolite" evokes the warm Southern tone of their early albums with a simple, elegant piano arrangement.


New Adventures

Shortly after the release of New Adventures in Hi-Fi, the longtime drummer Berry announced that he was leaving the band. Facing an uncertain future as a trio, R.E.M. commenced a fractious period that culminated in the release of Up (1998). Despite the reported friction during its recording, the record is remarkably breezy, their most experimental effort to date. The band dabbles in the sonic textures of electronica, adding warmth to the cold, mechanical structures of "Lotus" and "Airportman." The effect is surprisingly effective, with Stipe especially opening up and having fun with the album's array of new sounds, especially on the jittery "Hope." For added effect they replicate the sound of the Beach Boys on "At My Most Beautiful" and even take a detour back to jangle pop for the anthemic "Daysleeper." The band returned to the road once again, playing selections from their entire catalog and performing the new material with surprising élan.

In 2001, R.E.M. released their twelfth album, Reveal, which was marked by further but more comfortable sonic experimentation. The single "Imitation of Life" displays a conscious joining of the old and new R.E.M. aesthetic: a soaring, jangly chorus undercut with electronic details. The songs lack the live immediacy of their past work, but the focus on studio craft suits the nature of the new material. As its title suggests, Reveal invites close listening with deep rewards for the R.E.M. faithful and rock/pop fans alike.

R.E.M. have earned the rare combination of critical and commercial plaudits throughout their career. It is nearly impossible to imagine a rock landscape devoid of their ever-innovative presence.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Chronic Town (EP) (IRS, 1982); Murmur (IRS, 1983); Reckoning (IRS, 1984); Fables of the Reconstruction (IRS, 1985); Life's Rich Pageant (IRS, 1986); Dead Letter Office (IRS, 1987); Document (IRS, 1987); Eponymous (IRS, 1988); Green (Warner Bros., 1988); Out of Time (Warner Bros., 1991); Automatic for the People (Warner Bros., 1992); Monster (Warner Bros., 1994); New Adventures in Hi-Fi (Warner Bros., 1996); Up (Warner Bros., 1998); Reveal (Warner Bros., 2001).

WEBSITE:

www.remhq.com.

sean cameron

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R.E.M.

R.E.M.

Alternative rock band

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

When four college guys started a garage band together in Athens, Georgia in 1980, they had no idea theyd go on to sign a historically lucrative record deal, see the end of their band as they knew it, and reign as one of the most influential bands of their era. University of Georgia students drummer Bill Berry, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and vocalist Michael Stipe formed R.E.M. When they started, punk rock was mostly what was being played in garages by angst-ridden youth across America, but R.E.M. (named for the rapid eye movement phase of sleep) was busy making catchy guitar pop. R.E.M. signify the point at which all that misdirected, avant-garde, alternative music was driven out of the garage and into heady commercial success.

At the start R.E.M. was a driven college rock band, often playing two or three shows a night, five nights a week, three weeks a month. They applied the post-punk D.I.Y. (do it yourself) mentality to what they were doing and just played tirelessly. All the experience and exposure showed up well on their first single, Radio Free Europe and Sitting Still, which was released on their

For the Record

Members include Bill Berry (born William Thomas Berry, July 31, 1958, Duluth, MN), 1980-97, drums; Peter Buck (born Peter Lawrence Buck, December 6, 1956, Berkeley, CA), guitar; Mike Mills (born Michael Edward Mills, December 17, 1958, Orange, CA), bass, vocals; Michael Stipe (born John Michael Stipe, January 4, 1960, Decatur, GA), vocals.

Group formed in Athens, Georgia, 1980; signed to IRS Records, 1982; released debut EP Chronic Town, 1982; released Murmur, 1983; released Reckoning, 1984; released Fables of the Reconstruction, 1985; released Lifes Rich Pageant, 1986; released Document, 1987; signed a five-record, $10-million record deal with Warner Brothers, 1988; released Green, 1988; released Out of Time, 1991; released Automatic for the People, 1992; released Monster, 1994; signed a five-record, $80-million record deal with Warner Brothers, 1996; released New Adventures in Hi-Fi, 1996; drummer Bill Berry left band, October, 1997; released Up, 1998.

Awards: Four Grammy awards.

Addresses: Record company Warner Brothers, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.

local Hib-Tone record label in 1981. Radio Free Europe earned them a cult following which led to their first EP, Chronic Town, on IRS records in 1982.

It wasnt until 1983 and the release of Murmur that anyone besides criticsand those hip to the Georgia undergroundtook to R.E.M. But because R.E.M.s haunting style of folk and rock clashed with the synthetic early 80s new-wave sound, more people sat up and listened. Murmur peaked at number 136 on the album charts, but Rolling Sfone selected it as album of the year and R.E.M. as band of the year. With their 1984 release, Reckoning, the sound was still unlike anything else being played at the time and the push behind R.E.M. became even stronger, as did record sales. With at least one release per year on 1RS from 1985s Fables of the Reconstruction to 1988s greatest hits collection Eponymous, the band gained more and more critical acclaim, fans, and record sales. Their 1987 release Document did the unthinkable, reaching the top ten, and produced a hit single, the anti-love song called The One I Love. But in 1988, R.E.M. grew up.

In 1988, R.E.M. officially earned the right to be called sell-outs by their purist fans. After R.E.M. signed a five-record, ten-million-dollar deal with Warner Bros., people could call them whatever they wanted to, but they had to acknowledge the band as a commercial success. Once they were on top, though, R.E.M. did not fail to look back down and got involved with grassroots political and environmental causes. Stipe spoke out on behalf of Greenpeace, animal rights, and the homeless. After their first release for Warner Bros., Green, R.E.M. had become the worlds most popular band.

After an exhaustive tour to support the release of Green during which Stipe cursed Greens hit single Stand, which had the entire country humming it, as the worst song theyd ever writtenthe band went on a touring hiatus. They hibernated up for three years until the much-anticipated release of Out of Time in 1991. R.E.M. blossomed on Out of Time, both instrumentally and commercially. They used a more exotic selection of instruments, including horns and mandolins. The release sped to number one on the album charts, and went quadruple platinum. Its hit singles Losing My Religion and Shiny Happy People, a duet with Kate Pierson of the B-52s, were the summer anthems of 1991. On 1992s Automatic for the People, R.E.M. dug deep inside and pulled out a somber, introspective collection of songs. Its hits were Drive, Man on the Moon, and Everybody Hurts.

When Monster was released in 1994, it seemed geared to be played loudly. R.E.M. rocked harder on this record than on any before. Monster included rockers with re-verb-laded guitars and distorted vocals alongside more trademark-sounding songs. The album hit number one almost immediately although it produced a lukewarm first single, Whats the Frequency, Kenneth? which peaked at number 28. To support Monster, the band geared up for its first tour in five years, but canceled it after a few weeks in March 1995 when drummer Bill Berry suffered a near-fatal double brain aneurysm in Switzerland.

The small-town boys from Georgia made music-industry history in 1996, signing a five-record, $80 million deal with Warner Music, the largest record contract ever awarded at the time. The deal came at the end of a bidding war, with DreamWorks, Sony, Capitol and MCA offering $35 to $50 million. R.E.M. embodies everything important about this company, Warner Bros. president Steven Baker told the Los Angeles Times. They are a tremendously hard-working, successful band with integrity and vision Two weeks later, the band released New Adventures in Hi-Fi, which, although it debuted at number two, wasnt very well received and enjoyed only lukewarm sales.

In early October of 1997, on the first day of rehearsals, drummer Berry decided to leave the band. Rock drummers are like car tires: theyre regularly replaced, but you dont get far if youre missing one, wrote Time in 1998. This was especially true for R.E.M. The band was always known for working as a democracyevery decision in their 17 years together had been made unanimously. All members received songwriting credit on their albums, drummer Berry included. I put it to the guys, Berry told Rolling Stone. I dont want to do this anymore. I was just consumed by Bills departure, Michael Stipe told Rolling Stone in 1998.

For the bands first release after Berrys departure, 1998s Up, all ears were tuned to hear the sound of a new R.E.M. The pulsing drum machine that opens Up hints at what skeptics may have feared: The Berry-less (but not drummerless) R.E.M. may have bought a floor ticket to musics latest overplayed trend, electronica, Ann Powers wrote in Rolling Stone in 1998. But the mellotron, harpsichord and other groovy effects on Up never overwhelm the bands mighty sense of self. Or as David Fricke wrote in Rolling Stone, Up is the record that Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills would have made with or without departed drummer Bill Berry.

Up also was a first for Stipe as lyricist: for the first time, his enigmatic song lyrics were printed on the CDs insert. Stereo Review noted in a 1998 review of Up that Stipe, known for mumbling his often cryptic verse, seemed to be trying to make himself a little clearer. The most interesting aspect [of Up ] is Michael Stipes lyrical openness; he has never been more nakedly self revelatory, nor has he enunciated his lyrics with such deliberate precision. The reviews for Up were wildly mixed, from speculation that it was the groups best record ever, to Billboards 1998 review of it as a record that sounds as if the group was sulking all the way through it. In a year-end interview with Rolling Stone in 1998, Stipe had this response: If this record dropped out of the sky by a three-piece band that nobody had heard of, people would be in the street shouting at the top of their lungs, naked, about it.

Selected discography

Chronic Town, IRS, 1982.

Murmur, IRS, 1983.

Reckoning, IRS, 1984.

Fables of the Reconstruction, IRS, 1985.

Lifes Rich Pageant, IRS, 1986.

Document, IRS, 1987.

Dead Letter Office, IRS, 1987.

Green, IRS, 1988.

Out of Time, Warner Brothers, 1991.

Automatic for the People, Warner Brothers, 1992.

Monster, Warner Brothers, 1994.

New Adventures in Hi-Fi, Warner Brothers, 1996.

Up, Warner Brothers, 1998.

Sources

Books

Gary Graff and Daniel Durcholz, editors, MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1998.

Romanowski, Patricia and Warren, Holly George, editors, The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Fireside/Simon & Shuster, 1995.

Periodicals

Billboard, October 30, 1998.

Newsweek, October 26, 1998.

New York Times, October 28, 1998.

Rolling Stone, December 11, 1997; September 3, 1998; November 12, 1998; December 24, 1998

Stereo Review, December 1998.

Time, October 26, 1998.

Village Voice, November 3, 1998.

Online

R.E.M., All-Media Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (January 5, 1999).

SVS Internet Services, http://www.svs.com/rem/news/wb.text (January 5, 1999).

Brenna Sanchez

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R.E.M.

R.E.M.

Avant garde rock band

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

As southern regional bands like the B-52s began gaining national recognition in the late 1970s, four University of Georgia students decided to take the musical plunge and formed R.E.M. (for the term used by sleep researchers: rapid eye movement) in April of 1980. Drummer Bill Berry and bassist Mike Mills had already played in various Macon bands, but it would be guitarist Peter Bucks first group, which he described in Rolling Stone as the acceptable edge of the unacceptable stuff. His simple chording allowed the bands rhythm section to stretch out and explore while Michael Stipes vocals, according to Deborah Feingold in Rolling Stone, combined vivid imagery with pithy telegraphic phrasing, sacrificing grammar for impact.

In 1981 R.E.M. released an independent single, Radio Free EuropeVSitting Still, which immediately became a favorite of critics; the word on the band began to spread underground. They meanwhile gained valuable experience through grueling club work, playing mostly cover tunes. We were playing five nights a week, usually three weeks out of the month, doing two

For the Record

Band formed in Macon, Ga., in April, 1980; members include vocalist Michael Stipe (from Decatur, Ga.), guitarist Peter Buck, bass guitarist Mike Mills, and drummer Bill Berry (from Hibbing Minn.).

Awards: Rolling Stone Critics Poll selected R.E.M. best new group, and Murmur best album of the year, both 1983.

Addresses: Record company Warner Bros. Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91510.

or three sets a night, said Buck in Guitar Player. If anything, thats why we got to be an okay band. We learned to stand up in front of these guys who wanted to hear Allman Brothers, and made them understand it. The band hooked up with Lets Actives Mitch Easter, who produced their five-song EP Chronic Town at his Drive-In Studios in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. At the time, it wasnt a bigger project than anything else, but you could tell something was gonna happen with them, Easter said in Musician. They had the now sound, and they seemed like stars.

But critics and Georgians seemed to be the only ones hip to R.E.M. until their September 1983 release, Murmur, recorded in Charlotte at Reflection Studios with Easter and Don Dixon producing. We were dealing with a fragile sort of art concept and trying to bring in a little pop sensibility without beating it up, Dixon told Rolling Stone. The LP, which explored new studio ideas and odd overdubs, only made it to Number 136 on the charts but was voted best album of the year by Rolling Stones critics, who also selected R.E.M. as band of the year. The magazine later recognized Murmur as the eighth-best LP of the 1980s. We were conscious that we were making a record that really wasnt in step with the times, Buck stated in Rolling Stone. It was an old-fashioned record that didnt sound too much like what you heard on the radio. We were expecting the record company to say Sorry, this isnt even a record, its a demo tape. Go back and do it again.

Easter also produced their 1984 release, Reckoning, which broke the Top 30, but R.E.M. was still radically different from their contemporaries both musically and idealistically. We could probably do all these multimedia things and be more successful right off the bat, but in the long run, if we keep plugging at it, well get to the level of popularity that we deserve, Buck said in Guitar World. It may take longer but itll be worth it.

Slowly the bands sales began to build momentum as Fables of the Reconstruction became a big seller in 1985. David Fricke in Rolling Stone called it an exploratory Smorgasbord, as the group continued on their own path and refused to become another commercial-oriented pop unit. We made a contract with the world that says, Were going to be the best band in the world; youre going to be proud of us, Buck stated in Rolling Stone. But we have to do it our way. R.E.M. conceded slightly on Lifes Rich Pageant by recruiting John Cougar Mellancamps producer, Don Gehman, who added a rock punch to their sound with big drums, organs and pianos, but also incorporated banjos and accordions. The band, however, seemed to be caught between pleasing their loyal following and breaking into new audiences.

Signing off both sides of an LP as rousing and raucous as Lifes Rich Pageant with self-consciously hip jokes is an unfortunate waste, wrote Anthony DeCurtis in Rolling Stone, an apparent effort to cling to insider status when every other aspect of the album is a lesson in how to assume the responsibilities of mass popularity without smoothing the subterranean edge. As it is, its a brilliant and groundbreaking, if modestly flawed, effort by an immensely valuable band whose most profound work is still to come.

After Dead Letter Office, an LP of studio outtakes, B-sides and covers, R.E.M. finally made their crossover statement in 1987:Document. They had aged seven years since their inception and their changing political and world views were evidenced on the album. They also had a hit single on their hands, The One I Love, as the LP rose to Number 10 thanks to a back-to-basics approach that relied on a big beat and up-front guitars. R.E.M. had finally managed to reach a larger audience without compromising, their priorities still intact. Without exception, stated Fricke in Rolling Stone, their records combine a spirit of willful perversity with a healthy restlessness and a steadfast refusal to acknowledge either commercial or critical expectations.

With 1989s platinum-selling Green, the band solidified its reputation as progressive rocks reigning authority, while maintaining the delicate balance between artistic integrity and mass-market appeal. Testifying to this feat, Michael Azerrad wrote in Rolling Stone: Having made the leap from a small label, I.R.S., to a monolithic major one, Warner Bros., R.E.M. hasnt sold out; rather, the band has taken the opportunity to crack open the shell its been pecking at since it recorded its first album. People contributor Michael Small elaborated on R.E.M.s method, explaining, Not only does Green contain a heaping dose of appealing pop melodies, but each word stands out clearly and fits into phrases that actually make sense. Its high time I razed the walls that Ive constructed, sings Stipe in World Leader Pretend, a pensive number that seems to signal his intention to drop some of the bands studied aloofness.

Rolling Stone featured Stipe and company on an April 1989 cover, dubbing them Americas Hippest Band. Inside, DeCurtis heralded R.E.M.s full emergence from its shadowy status: Once the darlings of the underground, they are now solicited by parents groups to improve the social habits of the young. College-radio perennials, they have now graduatedinto high schools. Having signed a five-record deal with Warner Bros, last year for a reported $10 million, the members of R.E.M. are approaching the status ofcan it be?superstars. Although the perhaps unfair, but unfortunately inevitable, cries of sell-out did eventually surface, R.E.M.s membersstill residents of Athens, Georgiahave tried to remain philosophical about their growing recognition. Buck told DeCurtis: The influence that Id like to think we have is that people saw that theres a way to go about doing this on your own terms. The thing is, you have to not worry about success.

Selected discography

Chronic Town (EP), IRS.

Murmur, IRS, 1983.

Reckoning, IRS, 1984.

Fables of the Reconstruction, IRS, 1985.

Lifes Rich Pageant, IRS, 1986.

Dead Letter Office, IRS, 1987.

Document, IRS, 1985.

Eponymous (greatest hits compilation), 1RS, 1988.

Green, Warner Bros., 1988.

Out of Time, Warner Bros., 1991.

Sources

Guitar Player, January 1985; June 1985.

Guitar World, July 1984.

Musician, August 1986; September 1986.

People, January 9, 1989.

Rolling Stone, November 7, 1985; August 28, 1986; July 2, 1987;October 22, 1987; January 12, 1989; April 20, 1989; November 16, 1989.

Calen D. Stone

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"R.E.M.." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved June 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/rem-0