REM have broken up after performing together for more than 30 years.
The group behind chart hits Everybody Hurts, Losing My Religion and The One I Love, posted a statement on their website earlier today.
The band – Mike Mills, Peter Buck and Michael Stipe – said they would “walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality and of astonishment at all we have accomplished.”
“Thanks for listening,” the statement concluded.
Each band member gave their own views on why the band was splitting and singer, Stipe said: “A wise man once said "the skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave." We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it.”
REM formed in 1980 in the US as a four-piece alternative rock band, including Bill Berry on the drums.
They emerged in the early 1980s from the college radio scene – scrappy and lo-fi, abrasive but somehow beautiful – blossoming into bona-fide stadium-fillers only in the second decade of their career.
"We were the band that had no goals," Michael Stipe told the BBC earlier this year, while promoting REM's 15th and final album.
On their first gig, played in a church, the band was called Twisted Kites, and they played a mixture of original material and covers, including the Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen and Jonathan Richman's Roadrunner.
"It was really fun," Stipe said later, "but I don't remember the last half of it."
The group eventually achieved critical success for their debut album entitled Murmur, but REM gained mass popularity in 1987 with the album Document, featuring the commercial breakthrough song, The One I Love.
On the basis of the lyrics, ‘This one goes out to the one I love. This one goes out to the one I've left behind’, the song is frequently requested by lovestruck couples on radio phone-in shows.
They have seemingly missed Stipe's barb that the subject of the song was "a simple prop to occupy my time".
"[The One I Love] is incredibly violent," he admitted to an interviewer in 1988. "It's very clear that it's about using people over and over again."
The band’s mixture of post-punk poise and jangly, Byrds-esque guitar made them seem simultaneously cutting-edge and a romantic reminder of rock's past.
Mike Mills said the sound was explicitly informed by their small-town surroundings in the "out-of-the-way" town of Athens, Georgia.
"If you grew up in New York or LA, it would change your viewpoint on just about everything," he wrote in a 1985 edition of Spin Magazine. "There's no time to sit back and think about things.
"Our music is closer to everyday life – things that happen to you during the week, things that are real.
"It's great just to bring out an emotion … better to make someone feel nostalgic or wistful or excited or sad."
After the release of Document, REM suddenly outgrew the college radio circuit, the university-centred underground scene that had sustained their careers over the course of five increasingly confident albums.
For some purists, the band never recovered. Snatched away from independent label IRS by mega-corp Warner Brothers, then home to 80s stars Prince and Madonna, they were seen as sell-outs.
But their second major release on the label, following Green in 1988, was Out of Time, featuring the career-defining singles Losing My Religion and Shiny Happy People (a track the band came to detest). It entered the charts at number one on both sides of the Atlantic.
But things never turned to even keel for the band after drummer Bill Berry collapsed on stage in Switzerland from a brain aneurysm and quit the band in 1997.
Moments of brilliance, such as The Great Beyond or Imitation Of Life, seemed to crop up with increasingly less frequency.
REM have clocked up 15 studio albums in their career, with their final release, Collapse Into Now peaking at number five in the U.K. and US album charts last year.
Read REM’s complete official statement below:
To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening. R.E.M.
MIKE : “During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, 'what next'? Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together.”
“We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who truly love, and respect, each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in this–there's no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off. We've made this decision together, amicably and with each other's best interests at heart. The time just feels right.”
MICHAEL: “A wise man once said–"the skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave." 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.
“We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It's been amazing.”
PETER: “One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M. was the fact that the records and the songs we wrote meant as much to our fans as they did to us. It was, and still is, important to us to do right by you. Being a part of your lives has been an unbelievable gift. Thank you.
“Mike, Michael, Bill, Bertis, and I walk away as great friends. I know I will be seeing them in the future, just as I know I will be seeing everyone who has followed us and supported us through the years. Even if it's only in the vinyl aisle of your local record store, or standing at the back of the club: watching a group of 19 year olds trying to change the world.”