R.E.M. announced that they were breaking up today.
I’m one of those that things the end couldn’t come soon enough.
I’m hesitant to be too harsh on the band, because they made up such a huge chunk of my life, particularly during the 80’s.
Let me give you an example, ironically coming over the weekend when I did a little meaningless trivia concerning the band over the week, just for the sake of showing off.
Whether or not he was impressed by my display of geekdom is another matter entirely.
The topic of our discussion began with music of the 80’s.
Suddenly, a song came from his phone.
“Who sings this song?” he asked.
“R.E.M.” I replied after a verse.
“What’s the name of it?” he continued.
“Orange Crush” I recalled. I thought it was a weird song to begin with and one that I hadn’t heard in some time.
He went on.
“What album is it from?”
I answered correctly.
“What album number is Green?”
Before I answered, I asked for clarification.
“Is that studio album only or studio albums and compilations?”
Finally, I brought out the big guns.
“I’ll bet you fifty bucks that I can tell you the year, month, and day that Green was released.”
He didn’t take the bet.
I’m bragging a bit, so let me explain how I even know this: I worked as a program director for my college student run radio station. We received an advanced copy of “Orange Crush” before Green was released and with the advance copy single came a postcard. On it said the following: “Things to do on November 7th: Vote and buy R.E.M.’s Green.”
If you would have made me answer that same question about any other R.E.M. album other than Green, and I would have owed you $50.
I collected R.E.M. records including singles, limited edition releases and pointless imports. I figured their rate of return would be great as the band was destined to continue to rise, but by the time drummer Bill Berry left the band, my interest had waned.
It didn’t seem right without a permanent drummer.
And the recorded results affirmed that.
Sure, a few of the records stirred up to pleasant memories of old, but it seemed more like pandering than newfound inspiration. Plus, they were a different band, twenty years removed from Stipe’s mumbling exploits and Peter Buck’s Rickenbacker jangle.
They were a band of mystery during those early records, and it was during that aforementioned record Green in which he fell into his role as lead singer. And the moment in which he began to approach that role with complete confidence was the moment all mystery was left.
Because of that, I’m not very sad at the moment that one of my favorite bands of all time has ended their tenure.
For me, the end came long before.