All Mixed Up

All Mixed Up

All Mixed Up

R.E.M. formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980 with a lineup composed of singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, Mike Mills on bass, keyboards, and backing vocals, and drummer Bill Berry.

Considered by many to be one of the first “alternative” rock bands, R.E.M.‘s early music was characterized by Stipe’s distinctive vocal quality that often found the lyrics buried in the mix, Buck’s Byrds-like jangly arpeggiated guitar playing, Mills’s melodic bass lines, and distinctive backing vocals; and Berry’s tight drumming.

They released their first single “Radio Free Europe” on a small independent label before signing with I.R.S. Records which put out the band’s first EP Chronic Town in 1981 and 1982 respectively.

With each subsequent release, R.E.M. experimented with different sounds and styles, bringing Stipe’s lyrics more into the forefront and adding different instruments not necessarily associated with rock, like a mandolin on “Losing My Religion.” Former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones was brought in to add orchestration to some of the tracks.

Their videos were all over MTV, and they managed to continue to garner both critical and commercial success, which they held on to even after signing with Warner Brothers Records.

After a few years of giving hints that they might be finished, the band ultimately called it a day in 2011 following the release of Collapse Into Now.

Though the four original members stand firm in their decision to not perform again as R.E.M., there have been some reissues that they have all been a part of.

Mike Mills and Peter Buck occasionally record and perform together with The Baseball Project. Bill Berry has done a few music projects since leaving the group following an onstage collapse in 1995 due to a ruptured brain aneurysm but is for the most part retired. Michael Stipe is involved in film production and has released a few solo singles.

R.E.M. was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

From start to finish, here are R.E.M.’s five career-defining moments.

  • "Radio Free Europe"

    The first single released by R.E.M., college radio and some of the more adventurous commercial stations latched onto this song from a band that had been making some noise in the Athens GA area.

    With its opaque lyrics and Peter Buck‘s Byrds-like Rickenbacker jangle, there was something about the song that caught the ear of both rock critics and fans.

    Re-recorded for the Murmur LP, this is the original version that came out on the Hib-Tone label

  • "Losing My Religion"

    By this point in R.E.M.’s career, Michael Stipe‘s voice had been moved up in the mix, making it easier to hear the words he was singing.

    That said, did anyone REALLY understand what the song was about?

    Sure the video contained a ton of religious imagery, but the expression “losing my religion” is familiar to anyone who spent some time in the southern United States as a way of saying that someone was at the end of their rope.

    Released in 1991, “Losing My Religion” became R.E.M.‘s biggest American hit, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

  • Signing With Warner Brothers Records

    The darlings of college radio and indie rock took a pretty big chance when they left I.R.S. Records and signed with Warner Brothers.

    Their first four albums on I.R.S. had gone gold, and the fifth, Document, went platinum with the single “The One I Love” breaking into the Top 10 on the Billboard charts here in the United States.

    Signing with a major label such as Warners could have been a sign that the band was making a huge compromise on its next step up the success ladded.

    Instead, Green was both a critical and commercial success with the single “Orange Crush” becoming R.E.M.’s first American number one single on both the Mainstream and Modern Rock Tracks charts.

  • MTV Unplugged

    R.E.M. performed unplugged a couple of times on MTV, giving their fans a stripped-down intimate look/listen to their songs.

    One of the highlights from the first appearance in 1991 was this performance of “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” where Michael Stipe confessed that he had pulled the lyrics off of his computer, and he wasn’t quite sure if they were right.

  • The Break Up

    After 31 years together, R.E.M. for all intents and purposes called it quits in 2011 during the recording sessions for Collapse Into Now.

    Guitarist Peter Buck told The Guardian that he had come to hate everything about the music business – “Everything except writing songs, playing songs and recording them. It was the money, the politics, having to meet new people 24 hours a day, not being in charge of my own decisions.”

    Michael Stipe, in an interview with Anthony Mason of CBS News definitively said the band would never get back together again – “There’s no point.”

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