|My first, and only, REM show. ATL 2008|
“I wouldn’t be in Athens if it weren’t for R.E.M.”
It’s a common refrain you’ll hear over and over in the coming days as the town tries to digest the news that our favorite sons have decided to retire. And it’s true for a lot of us. I know it’s true for me.
I can’t claim to have been there from the beginning. Born the year of Document, my first intro to the band involved Sesame Street and a song called “Furry Happy Monsters.” I was maybe 10 when Bill Berry retired. My older friends, ones who were actually there at the old church that famous night, are fond of telling me how much I missed. So yes, I’m part of the younger generation of R.E.M. fans.
The only memories I have of the early days are of long faded photographs and bootlegs from shows played in places that don’t exist anymore. Thanks to Youtube, I can watch the blonde Stipe shake and shiver, see Bill in full on flight, watch the roar of Buck’s guitar and laugh at Mills’ nudie suit. But I’ve got my own experiences to draw on now, looking back on the amazing career that the guys have had.
This blog you’re reading? It wouldn’t be here without R.E.M. I started it to relay stories from Athens to my friends across the planet, most of whom I met through the Murmurs.com fan site during the weeks leading up to Accelerate. The twitter account? Set that up to follow remroaddog during the tour. REMHQ has linked to my content both here, at WUOG, and Flagpole more times that I can count.
I have had so many incredible experiences with this band. They were the soundtrack to my college years, appropriate, no? I got to DJ with Mike, shoot the breeze with Peter, and watch Bill Berry surprise everyone and play drums onstage again. The times I’ve been up to the HQ office have been unforgettable. I’ve gotten so much advice and encouragement from that group. I’m so honored and thankful that I’ve gotten to do so much with a band and its management, especially such a group of good, talented, and amazing people.
I’m listening to Collapse Into Now a day after the announcement. It’s oddly comforting. The whole album takes on a new light now, whether by design or not. I keep replaying “It Happened Today” over and over and over. Yes, I’m sad that R.E.M. won’t be releasing any more new material or playing any more shows. But let’s think about all they’ve done.
Athens and all its eccentricities are known worldwide because of their loyalty to the town. They introduced their fans to other artists, ranging from Pylon and Love Tractor up through associated acts like the Decemberists. Those of us here in town know that when you see a large anonymous donation to a local charity, you can usually figure out who it was. And that’s the kicker.
For all their accomplishments, they stay remarkably humble and low key. That, I think, is the secret. You could always imagine yourself hanging out with a member of R.E.M. in some forgotten bar or record store. If you ever dealt with any of their staff, they practically rolled out the red carpet for you. Fan club? STILL $10. R.E.M. always did it their way.
It’s only fitting that they end their extraordinary run with an almost understated announcement. No giant farewell tour, no full page ads in Rolling Stone… Michael will continue his art, Mike, his golf swing, Peter, his half-dozen bands…
As for us, the fans, friends, and family of R.E.M., at least we can rest easy knowing that we’ve gotten their all. You couldn’t have asked for a better career. The band is not just influential but popular! They outlived all their contemporaries and beat the game. All things must come to an end. R.E.M. didn’t burn out, explode, or outlive their musical life. It’s the right time.
So Michael, Peter, Bill, Mike, Scott, Bill R., Bertis, Kevin, Mercer, David, and all the many good people at REMHQ, THANK YOU. From the bottom of my heart and I swear, I’ll Remember Every Moment.