As you’ve probably already heard, R.E.M. has decided to call it a day and posted this message on their official website:
“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.” — R.E.M.
They were one of my first favorite bands, which is no small thing. The music you listen to as a teenager is special forever (just listen to any of the Guest DJ Project sets for proof – particularly ones from author Chuck Klosterman and comic writer Jimmy Gownley, who both testified to the greatness of R.E.M. specifically )
In 2001, R.E.M. made KCRW the sole stop on a Southern California tour, performing a handful of songs for us in front of a small audience, including this gorgeous version of “I’ve Been High”.
R.E.M. I’ve Been High from Morning Becomes Eclectic 2001
It was after the departure of longtime drummer Bill Berry, when many thought the band would dissolve. But in that session, they made it clear they were going to keep going as a trio and continue to make music together.
That day they also performed a special cover of “Gentle on My Mind” that later showed up on KCRW’s “Sounds Eclectic Covers Project” CD. Glen Campbell made the track famous, but the band played it as a tribute to songwriter John Hartford, who had recently passed away.
Below is a video of the band performing Michael Stipe’s favorite song, “Country Feedback”. I have to be honest, it’s making me totally teary-eyed listening to it. I don’t know if it’s bringing back the feelings I had in my youth, sitting on the floor of my room, listening to music and feeling like the only people I felt an emotional kinship with were the musicians singing the songs that I loved, R.E.M. in particular. ( I mean, I got upset at my mom when she took down the R.E.M. poster in my bedroom even though I hadn’t lived there for at least 5 years at that point!)
Or maybe it’s just knowing everything has to come to an end. Either way, they made a lot of great music together and influenced countless bands and their legacy is a strong one.