There’s a lot of sad news coming out of Georgia today, but what we’ll focus on in this space is the breakup announced today by the band that made “alternative” music what it is today: R.E.M. The group, which was formed in 1980 by four music fanatics who grew up listening to punk and Avant-garde groups like Television and Patti Smith. The now-three bandmates released this statement today:
“To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening.”
The main reason that we feel so bad about this here at OfTR is that R.E.M. is one of the last popular bands who made their bones by touring out of the backs of vans. There weren’t any Pitchforks or Gorilla vs. Bear to pump up their music like so many Bloc Parties or Clap Your Hands Say Yeahs have over the past 11+ years. To put it in further perspective, they were touring the south and mid-Atlantic states supporting their music before college radio stations became synonymous with playing the likes of, well, R.E.M. throughout the day. They were the flag-bearers of a movement that gave us the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. If you don’t believe me, check out these clips from a 1982 performance in Raleigh, and a 1985 jam in Germany. Watching these is akin to seeing DNA form in your iPod.