R.E.M. are a three piece band from Athens Georgia following the retirement of drummer Bill Berry due to heart problems. They started out with the name Cans of Piss along with others before picking random letters out of the dictionary to form REM - more commonly thought of as Rapid Eye Movement.
Their style is hard to describe and has changed over the years. They started out as a country folk sound from the Southern States before experimenting with jazz, techno and rock before attempting a more mellow sound for their past 2 albums.
Since 1981 they have grown form a small opening act for fellow Georgians the B-52s to become one of the biggest selling groups of all time who still today pack stadiums around the world.
In 1981 their first single Radio Free Europe became a hit on college radio across America. they then signed to IRS records. 1982 saw the release of the EP Chronic Town and 1983 was the release of Murmur - Rolling Stones 193rd Greatest Album of all time and *the best of the 80's which actually beat Michael Jackson's Thriller to the 1983 crown.
Reckoning (1984) Fables of the Reconstruction (1985) and Life Rich Pageant (1986) all produced marvellous songs with hits on radio stations across most of Europe, even MTV started playing their music. During this time REM practically defined College Rock. Songs such as Fall on Me, Superman and Cant Get there From Here come from this time.
Document (1987) was their last album for the independent record label I.R.S., and provided their first major hit single with "The One I Love", which reached No. 9 on the U.S. pop charts. Widely misinterpreted as a love song, it expresses a grim satisfaction over the end of an unhappy relationship.
Their IRS years were summed up with Dead Letter Office (1987) and Eponymous (1988). With Document, the band's first top 10 album, R.E.M. reached new heights as a commercially viable group.
You may have noticed that they produced an album every year up to this point - touring sparingly but carrying on with their passion for songwriting.
With Document, the band's first top 10 album, R.E.M. reached new heights as a commercially viable group
The Early Warner Years 1988-1995
In 1988, R.E.M. signed for a 5-album contract to the major label Warner Brothers Records and released Green. This was the band's first time with heavy promotion, and they toured large arenas worldwide in 1989. Some fans from the I.R.S. days complained that R.E.M. had become too commercial and that the quality of the music had decreased, but the band had now been brought to international attention, with radio hits like the top 10 "Stand."
R.E.M. came back to songwriting in 1990 to record their seventh album, Out of Time, which was released in the spring of 1991 and became the band's first chart-topping album in both the U.S. and U.K. A lush mix of a pop and folk album, Out of Time boasted a wider array of sounds than the group's previous efforts, and its lead single, "Losing My Religion", became the group's biggest pop hit and one of two REM songs that everyone knows. It reached number four in the states and only 21 in the UK but has since received more airplay than most number ones. The band also scored a Top 10 hit with "Shiny Happy People," one of two songs on the album to feature vocals from Kate Pierson.
Then they hit the big time.
the winter of 1991 saw them return home to pen what would become REM's biggest selling album worldwide. In autumn of the following year they released the dark, meditative Automatic for the People (1992). Though the group had promised a harder-rocking album after the softer textures of Out of Time, Automatic for the People was an instant hit proving to have 4 hit singles and 8 other songs that define the word Album. Most of the acoustic sound of the album came from the influence of Peter Buck but also Led Zeppelin bassist. Like its predecessor, Automatic was a quadruple-platinum success, generating the Top 40 hit singles "Man on the Moon," "Drive,""Nightswimming"and "Everybody Hurts;" written by drummer Bill Berry, it sold 15 million copies worldwide in spite of such melancholy themes as death, suicide, and sexual jealousy. It became arguably their biggest song and has been attributed to saving many from severe depression.
After two jovial albums, R.E.M. decided to return to being a rock band. Though the record was conceived as a back-to-basics album, the recording of the grunge-influenced Monster (1994) was difficult and plagued with tension. The single "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" proved to be a crossover hit and Monster their fastest-selling album to date, debuting at the top of the U.S. charts, but many critics disliked the band's experimenting with glam rock.
The band then toured the world but the Monster tour was plagued with problems form Bill Bery's aneurysm to Stipe's hernia. However the tour proved to be a great financial success.
Shortly before the release of the new album, which was going to fulfill their contract, the band re-signed with Warner Brothers in 1996 for what was, at the time, the largest recording contract advance in history: $80 million for five albums.
The Later Warner Years
New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996), a long, roughly-produced and decidedly bleak record, unleashed sentiments regarding the problems during Monster. The album featured the seven-minute "Leave," the band's longest, and perhaps most intense, song to date. In light of such a huge contract sum, the commercial failure of New Adventures in Hi-Fi was particularly surprising. Though it received strong reviews and debuted at number two in the U.S. and number one in the U.K., the album failed to generate a hit single, and it only went platinum in USA, where its three predecessors went quadruple platinum.
R.E.M. had always maintained strong band unity, sharing writing credits among its four members and generally seeking unanimous consensus on band decisions. In interviews over the years, Michael Stipe and others had stated repeatedly that the departure of any member of the band would likely lead to their breakup. This was tested on October 30, 1997, when Bill Berry announced his wish to leave the group, citing exhaustion and the mental fatigue of touring and promotion. In consultation with the band, Berry said he would not depart if it would lead to the group's breakup; according to Stipe, he even offered, if the others wanted, to continue drumming on studio recordings, though it would likely depress him. Stipe said: "I just love the guy too much to see him sad." Acquiescing to Berry's wishes and relieving him from the guilt of triggering a breakup, R.E.M. announced that it would continue as a three-piece.
The band came back with Up in 1998, led off by the single "Daysleeper," Up debuted in the U.S. top 10 but sank quickly, only going gold and producing no major radio hits. In Europe, however, the group remained popular.
A year after Up's release, R.E.M. contributed a song, "The Great Beyond," to the soundtrack of the movie Man on the Moon, which starred Jim Carrey in the life story of comedian Andy Kaufman and was itself named for the 1992 R.E.M. hit that referenced Kaufman in the lyrics. A major U.K. hit and a minor U.S. hit, "The Great Beyond" garnered greater radio airplay than any of R.E.M.'s singles from Up.
Reveal (2001) confirmed the return to a mellower songwriting approach, with songs such as the catchy pop jangle "Imitation of Life," and "All The Way To Reno (You're Gonna Be A Star)." Again, popular and critical response varied on either side of the Atlantic: Reveal garnered mixed reviews in the U.S. but was critically feted in Britain, receiving generous praise from many popular music magazines including Uncut, Wired, NME and Q.
The single "Bad Day" (2003), featured on the greatest-hits compilation In Time - The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003, was originally the prototype for 1987's "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)", with similarities in the lyrics.
Continuing their three-year release pattern with the previous albums, the band returned in 2004 with Around the Sun, which meeting some of the mildest critical praise of any post-Berry album in R.E.M.'s career. This time a drummer was hired; Bil Reiflin.
Singles from Around the Sun included "Leaving New York," "Aftermath," "Electron Blue" and "Wanderlust." R.E.M.'s Around the Sun World Tour was its first global jaunt since the ill-fated Monster Tour in 1995. While touring behind Around the Sun, R.E.M. took part in two live festivals that reflected the band's growing political orientation. In late 2004 the band toured with Bruce Springsteen and Bright Eyes on the Vote for Change Tour supporting U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry. And in July 2005 R.E.M. participated in Live 8. A scheduled R.E.M. concert at the same venue, Hyde Park, London, one week later, was postponed for an additional week in the aftermath of the 7 July 2005 London bombings. R.E.M paid tribute to those dead by opening with Everybody Hurts at Ipswich gig 8/7/05.
In a recent interview, Buck said that R.E.M.'s next album would be very different from their current sound. Based on the new song "I'm Gonna DJ", played live on the 2004-2005 world tour, fans anticipate another rock album. According to Stipe, the band expects to have around 25 songs to choose from for the next album, widely expected to be released sometime in late 2006 or early 2007, as the band is taking a year off following the Around The Sun World Tour. The band remains signed to Warner Bros., with two albums remaining on their contract