R.E.M., comprised of drummer Bill Berry, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills, and lead vocalist, Michael Stipe, has inspired countless bands - from the guitar pop and post-punk of the 80s to the alternative rock sweep of the 90s - with their political leanings, arty nature, relentless touring schedule, and a unique sound that manages to be both traditional and modern at once. In 1981 the Athens, Georgia quartet's first single, "Radio Free Europe" became a hit on college radio and topped the Village Voice's Best Independent Singles poll. In 1983, their debut album, Murmur was declared Album of the Year in Rolling Stone Magazine. Four albums and five years of touring followed as R.E.M. singles continued to dominate the college radio charts. In 1987 they released their final record on indie I.R.S., Document, which had a Top 40 hit, "The One I Love", and signaled their introduction to the mainstream. In 1988 the band signed to Warner Bros Records, released Green, had a Top 10 single, "Stand", and toured arenas. Their seventh album, Out of Time, had a monster hit "Losing My Religion" which remains the band's best known song and remains their biggest selling album. 15 years, six albums, dozens of singles and millions of fans later, R.E.M. continues to sell out shows and push the musical envelope.
Lush pop and folk melodies saturate R.E.M.s catalogue. Memorable harmonics, urgent basslines and arpeggiated guitar chords are led by cryptic lyrics that are alternately murmured or belted in Stipe's distinctive voice. R.E.M.s sound was unique in the post-punk era, as was their grassroots, "play anywhere to anyone", rise to the top in an age of ready-made, MTV-ready one hit wonders. This has given the band a confidence and fearlessness that few groups of the era share and a freedom that you can hear in their musical choices. Michael Stripe has become one of the most enigmatic front men in rock n roll history, for years having written ambiguous lyrics that left fans guessing at their meaning. As the band's success rose, Stipe began speaking out on the political meaning behind his lyrical content. Now an international celebrity, he has used his high profile to campaign for the environment and AIDS education and as a spokesman for peace.