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R.E.M. is an alternative rock band from the Southern state of Georgia. Originally a four-piece, the group has performed as a three-piece band since 1997 when their drummer departed the group. In it’s thirty-year career, the band has sold millions of albums worldwide and won three Grammy Awards as well as becoming one of the most vocal political groups in the music industry.
R.E.M. was formed in Athens, Georgia in 1980 and comprises singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry who subsequently left the group in the late 1990s. The name R.E.M. was chosen at random by Stipe after other names including Twisted Kites were rejected. The group played their first performance on stage at a friend’s birthday party in April 1980.
The group quickly won fans around their hometown and extensively toured the college circuit over the next 18 months, honing their performing and singing talents. They recorded a single in 1981 called “Radio Free Europe” which, despite a limited release, sold out. The same year, they recorded an EP called “Chronic Town” that was praised by music critics. By now they had signed to I.R.S. Records and in 1983 recorded and released their first studio album, “Murmur” which reached number 36 on the US Billboard album chart even though it only sold 200,000 copies.
R.E.M.s next two albums fared no better commercially. “Reckoning” released in 1984 did reach number 27 on the US charts but barely dented the charts overseas, and “Fables of the Reconstruction” released the following year performed poorly in both the domestic and international markets.
In 1986, they released “Lifes Rich Pageant” which did better, reaching number 21 on the Billboard charts and was certified gold for selling over 500,000 copies. The band’s core audience was still the American college scene and it wouldn’t be until the release of their fifth album that the band would breakthrough into the mainstream rock market.
“Document” was released in 1987 and the first of the group’s albums to sell over a million copies. The first single release, “The One I Love” made it into the top 20 singles charts in North America and the UK. In December of that year, the band graced the cover of the influential Rolling Stone magazine, who dubbed them “America’s Best Rock & Roll Band”.
The band left their record label in 1988 and signed to Warner Bros. Records. Their debut album for the label “Green” became their biggest selling album to date, shifting over four million copies worldwide. Singles from the album range from political songs such as “World Leader Pretend” to the more upbeat “Stand”. To promote the album, the band embarked on a year long tour after which, they took a break from the industry, not returning until mid-1990 to record their seventh album, “Out of Time”.
“Out of Time” was released in March 1991 and hit the top of the US and UK album charts, eventually selling over 12 million copies worldwide. One of the singles from the album became a worldwide hit and one of their most famous works. “Losing My Religion” reached number four on the Billboard charts and was swiftly followed by “Shiny Happy People”. Instead of touring to promote the album, the band played a number of one-off concerts and appeared in an episode of MTV Unplugged. The album garnered R.E.M. seven nominations at the 1992 Grammy’s eventually winning three: for Best Alternative Music Album, Best Short Form Music Video and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
“Out of Time” was followed by the multi-million selling album, “Automatic for the People” which was released in late 1992. Three singles from the album would make it into the Billboard Top 40 singles chart - “Drive,” “Man on the Moon” and “Everybody Hurts” - and become some of the best-known material that the group has produced.
R.E.M. returned to their rock roots with “Monster”, their ninth album, released in 1994. It produced the hit singles “What’s the Frequency Kenneth?” and “Bang and Blame” and has sold over nine million copies since it’s release. The group went out onto the road to promote the album, their first tour since 1998 but it wasn’t a happy experience as various band members fell ill, with both Berry and Stipe requiring surgery, the former for a brain aneurysm and Stipe for a hernia.
Before releasing their tenth album, “New Adventures in Hi-Fi”, the band renewed their contract with Warner Bros. Records signing for a reported $80 million. This move paid well for everyone as they sold over five million copies of “New Adventures in Hi-Fi”. The following year, Berry decided to leave the group and after much soul-searching, the remaining members decided to continue as a trio, using session musicians to take Berry’s place.
Their next release, “Up” didn’t do so well commercially, selling less than two million copies globally and less than 900,000 copies in the US. They returned to form internationally with the release of “Reveal” in 2001 even though US sales were still low. By now the American market was growing tired of the band’s sound although they were still hugely popular in other parts of the world, particularly in the UK where they continue to have top ten album and single sales.
In 2004, the band released album number 13, “Around the Sun” to mixed critical and commercial success. Later the same year, they took to the road to support the Vote for Change tour alongside Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Jackson Browne. The group have released a further two albums in the intervening period. “Accelerate” in early 2008 went to number two on the US charts and “Collapse Into Now” which came out in March 2011 and reached number five in the US and UK album charts.
R.E.M. are a multi-million selling record group who have produced some of the best-known songs within the alternative rock genre. They use their success to promote causes close to their heart including voter registration, human rights abuses as well as donating funds to preserve the heritage of their home town of Athens, Georgia.