Over the last week, since the band’s announcement to disband, the tributes and reflections have continued to roll in on an almost hourly basis… so much so that we’ve had a difficult time keeping up with them all. Thanks to everyone out there who has taken the time to reflect on how much the band has meant to them over the last 31 years. Here are a few we’ve really enjoyed reading:
Especially translated by Birgit Fuss, Editor of Rolling Stone Germany:
R.E.M. – no obituary, just a big thank you
“R.E.M. call it a day”: one of the biggest rock bands in the world resigns after 31 years. Birgit Fuss says thanks with a personal look back – and into the future.
“We can do anything now – or nothing”, Mike Mills said in January when I met him to discuss R.E.M.’s new album “Collapse Into Now”, and for the first time he talked about a solo album. He flashed his usual cheeky smile, so I didn’t take the “nothing” part too seriously, despite some more signs. (Those have always occurred from time to time during the past 31 years, five months and 16 days of R.E.M.). The famous 80 million dollar deal with Warner Records had come to an end, a tour was not going to happen – and Michael Stipe didn’t shy away from saying that he was the one who didn’t want go. Peter Buck and Mills stood behind the decision although everyone guessed that they couldn’t have been too happy. With R.E.M., everyone always did what they could – and at this point, Stipe couldn’t imagine being on stage for months and months. Maybe now the three of them couldn’t imagine starting all over again – with a smaller label maybe or their own, like Wilco just did. With record sales deteriorating everywhere. And with no real challenge for them – R.E.M. knew everything, had everything, were everything.
I could tell the amazing tale of their career – from the first gig in April 1980, the sensational debut “Murmur” to the worldwide hits from “Out Of Time” and “Automatic For The People” and the crack in 1997 when drummer Bill Berry left. How they got back on their feet and played so many fabulous concerts, how in all that time they managed to stay true to their principles and stay a band, not just a business, even if they lived apart from each other in Athens, Seattle, New York City. How a little alternative band became “America’s best Rock & Roll band”, as ROLLING STONE once called them. But you can read all that at wikipedia (or in one of our many cover stories…) – and I decline to write a classic “obituary”, it sounds too final. No one has died, there is still room for that word Stipe uses so often in his lyrics: hope.
They might have drifted apart a little bit, they might simply want to save their friendship now. After 31 years in a truly democratic band that is a lot, and now U2 are the only ones left who could go even further. We have to respect R.E.M.’s decision. It comes from a band that has never taken the easy path and knows exactly how sad a lot of people are going to be. Not disappointed, mind you, because they have done nothing wrong. In fact, R.E.M. have never made a bad album, they have always lived up to their own rules. In three decades they have not made one big mistake as musicians or as human beings in the spotlight. It’s almost as if they floated above ground, untouched. In the past few years they might have lost a bit of their ease, Bill Berry’s departure had rattled their balance. Still, I can hardly imagine never hearing a new R.E.M. song again. But I also know: If they ever decide to get back together it won’t be one of those reunions that is only about money and applause and more money. That comforts me a little bit. I’ll give them time, they are not old yet. “We are young despite the years/ We are concern/ We are hope despite the times.”