Life’s Rich Pagent Collapses Into Now: Top (From Left), REM’s Bill Berry, Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Peter Buck in 1984. Below in 2011 without Bill Berry who left the band in 1997 (Top: Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage)
After more than three decades and 15 studio albums, alternative cornerstone R.E.M. announced its breakup yesterday (Sept. 21).
“A wise man once said, ‘the skill in attending a party is knowing when it’s time to leave’,” the band’s lead singer Michael Stipe wrote on the band’s official website. “We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we’re going to walk away from it.
“I hope our fans realize this wasn’t an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way.”
In celebration of the band’s 31 years, here are 31 chart highlights that narrate the storyline of the group’s many successes on Billboard surveys.
May 14, 1983
R.E.M. makes its first appearance on a Billboard chart, as debut set “Murmur” enters the Billboard 200. The set would peak at No. 36.
May 21, 1983
A week later, the Athens, Ga., band dents its first Billboard songs chart, as “Radio Free Europe” debuts on Mainstream Rock. It would rise to No. 25 on the chart.
July 23, 1983
R.E.M. makes its unassuming Billboard Hot 100 introduction, as “Europe” starts at No. 90. It would reach No. 78 in a five-week run.
May 5, 1984
Second set “Reckoning” arrives on the Billboard 200. The album would climb to No. 27.
May 26, 1984
“Reckoning” single, and an eventual alternative classic like “Europe,” “so. Central Rain (I’m Sorry),” begins on Mainstream Rock, where it would reach No. 43. It would cross to a No. 85 peak on the Hot 100.
June 29, 1985
Another summer, another album that would help build R.E.M.’s loyal following: “Fables of the Reconstruction” enters the Billboard 200 on its way to a No. 28 peak.
July 6, 1985
“Fables” lead track “Can’t Get There From Here” begins its ascent to a No. 14 peak on Mainstream Rock. Follow-up “Driver 8” would motor to No. 22.
Aug. 23, 1986
“Lifes Rich Pageant” bows on the Billboard 200. It would go on to reach No. 21, the band’s highest peak on the tally to that point.
Aug. 30, 1986
R.E.M. scores its first top 10 on a Billboard chart, as “Fall on Me” rises 12-9 on Mainstream Rock. The jangly melodic rocker, which hinted at the band’s pop radio potential, would bound to No. 5 on Mainstream Rock and manage a No. 94 Hot 100 peak. Fellow “Pageant” contender “Superman” would reach No. 17 on Mainstream Rock.
Sept. 26, 1987
R.E.M. begins its rise to its first Billboard 200 top 10, as “Document” debuts, eventually peaking at No. 10, its first top 10 album.
Dec. 5, 1987
A major milestone: Casey Kasem announces on “American Top 40” that “The One I Love” has become R.E.M.’s first Hot 100 top 10, jumping from No. 12 to its No. 9 peak. Long a staple of college rock radio, the band that week is sandwiched between pop/R&B divas Whitney Houston and Jody Watley.
Dec. 19, 1987
Today one of the band’s most revered anthems, “It’s The End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” reaches No. 16 on Mainstream Rock.
Sept. 10, 1988
While the group doesn’t rank on the maiden listing, Billboard launches the Alternative chart, fueled by the modern rock format’s newfound proven viability – which R.E.M. helped solidify. Twenty-three years later, the band boasts 26 entries on the chart, including 15 top 10s and six No. 1s.
Nov. 26, 1988
Perhaps R.E.M.’s most landmark week to that point: “Green,” its first album for Warner Bros. after recording for the independent I.R.S. label, enters the Billboard 200. Concurrently, the band celebrates its first No. 1s on Billboard song charts: “Orange Crush” reaches the top of Mainstream Rock and Alternative.
Jan. 28, 1989
“Stand” becomes the then-quartet’s second Alternative No. 1. Two weeks later, it tops Mainstream Rock. In April, it would become R.E.M.’s then-highest-charting Hot 100 hit, reaching No. 6.
March 30, 1991
Building upon the success of “Document” and “Green,” “Out of Time” bursts onto the Billboard 200 at No. 27. Seven weeks later, R.E.M. completes the journey from the college radio circuit to, for the first time, the Billboard 200 summit. The album would go on to sell 4.5 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, and win the best alternative album Grammy Award.
April 6, 1991
“Time” lead single “Losing My Religion” roars onto the Hot 100, eventually reaching No. 4 – the band’s best career performance on the chart. The song produces a best pop vocal/group Grammy Award and, spotlighting R.E.M.’s newfound reach, becomes its only Adult Contemporary chart hit, peaking at No. 28.
R.E.M. – Losing My Religion by Warner-Music
June 22, 1991
After “Religion” logged eight weeks atop Alternative, tying “Orange Crush” for the band’s longest reign, “Texarkana” reaches No. 4. The song shows that even a track not sung by Michael Stipe – in this case, Mike Mills (its writer) – can become a fan favorite.
Sept. 28, 1991
“Shiny Happy People,” featuring vocals from fellow Athens alternative singer Kate Pierson of the B-52’s, bounces to No. 10 on the Hot 100.
Oct. 24. 1992
“Automatic for the People” blasts onto the Billboard 200 at No. 2. At 3.5 million sold to-date, it’s R.E.M.’s second-best-selling set.
Nov. 14, 1992
Despite its dour vibe, a departure from the band’s catalog of more generally upbeat fare, “Automatic” lead single “Drive” wraps a five-week command of Alternative.
Dec. 19, 1992
“Ignoreland” peaks at No. 5 on Alternative, followed by three more “Automatic” chart entries: “Man on the Moon” (No. 2), “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite” (No. 24) and “Everybody Hurts” (No. 21).
Nov. 6, 1993
“Hurts” peaks at No. 29 on the Hot 100. Now considered one of R.E.M.’s signature songs, the inspirational ballad was remade by the all-star Helping Haiti cast last year (coordinated by Simon Cowell). The charity single features vocal turns by, among others, Jon Bon Jovi, Mariah Carey, Miley Cyrus, Kylie Minogue and Rod Stewart.
R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts by Warner-Music
Dec. 11, 1993
A match made in indie-rock heaven: “Photograph,” featuring then-10,000 Maniacs frontwoman Natalie Merchant, peaks at No. 9 on Alternative. The track was released on the “Born to Choose” compilation.
Oct. 15, 1994
Sporting a crunchier electric-based sound, “Monster” becomes R.E.M.’s second album to crown the Billboard 200 – and the only one to begin at the summit. The set has sold 2.9 million copies to-date.
Oct. 22, 1994
The hits keep coming: “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” completes a five-week stay atop Alternative. Follow-up “Bang and Blame” would go on to lead the list for three weeks.
Sept. 28, 1996
“New Adventures in Hi-Fi” enters the Billboard 200 at No. 2. Brooding experimental lead single “E-Bow the Letter,” featuring Patti Smith, would reach No. 2 on Alternative. The hookier “Bittersweet Me” would rise to No. 28 on Pop Songs; the cut, however, would mark R.E.M.’s last visit to the mainstream top 40 radio tally.
Nov. 14, 1998
“Up” opens at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. With R.E.M. having graduated to a home base at adult alternative radio, the swaying “Daysleeper” would go on to top the Triple A chart for two weeks.
Dec. 25, 1999
As the band feted Andy Kauffman in its hit “Man on the Moon,” the movie of the same name about the late comedian is accompanied by a sequel song. “The Great Beyond” begins an eight-week rule on Triple A.
R.E.M. – The Great Beyond by Warner-Music
June 2, 2001
R.E.M. reaches the Billboard 200’s top 10 in a third decade, as “Reveal” debuts at No. 6. “Around the Sun” would follow in 2004 (No. 13) and “Accelerate” would charge in at No. 2 in 2008. The lead single from the lattermost set, “Supernatural Superserious,” would mark the group’s return to the Alternative chart after a seven-year gap, advancing to No. 21.
March 26, 2011
R.E.M.’s final studio album, “Collapse Into Now,” jumps aboard the Billboard 200 at No. 5. First track “Mine Smell Like Honey” would peak at No. 8 on Triple A and follow-up “Uberlin,” No. 26. In a closing piece of chart symmetry, the band’s final single spent its last week on the chart dated May 14, 2011 – 28 years to the day after R.E.M. made its first appearance on a Billboard chart.