Way back in 1995, my mom asked me if I wanted to with her to see R.E.M. at Gund Arena. I’ll be honest–I didn’t like them at first. I thought Losing My Religion was extremely overplayed, and I never really got into anything from Automatic For The People back then either. Nevertheless, I agreed to go.

A ticket stub I found online...I wish my ticket stub collection had survived all of my various moves over the years.

 

I’m glad I did, because it was a heckuva show. (While searching for a picture from that show, I just stumbled upon a bootleg from that show–something for which I’ve been searching for over a decade.) Although we actually sat behind the stage, the show rocked harder than most of the shows I’ve seen since then.

And on June 11, 1995, my love affair with R.E.M. was born.

For much of the next 16 years, I followed R.E.M. with only slightly less enthusiasm than teenage girls follow Justin Bieber these days. Maybe that’s why it makes me happy to see girls going nuts over him and crying when they see him in person…

On at least one occasion, I drew the blue question mark on my hand that Michael Stipe has tattooed on his hand. I bought every CD on the day on which they came out. My mom and I joined the R.E.M. Fan Club and looked forward to our monthly newsletter.

Most notably, my mom and I saw them six times in person! Those shows are some of the best memories that I have with my mom. I’ll never forget when she picked me up from my dad’s house in the morning during my freshman year of high school and told me to open the glove compartment and I saw two tickets to R.E.M.’s show in Buffalo waiting there for me. We traveled to Buffalo in 1995 to see them and to this day I think about how great that show was every year when Sheila and I make our annual pilgrimage to Niagara Falls and drive through Buffalo.

For much of my life, their music was the soundtrack to many big events.

I listened to Walk Unafraid repeatedly during my senior year of college and I felt incredibly uncertain and hopeless about my life. I think my mom even wrote the lyrics to that song on a note that she left for me one evening at home when I was struggling majorly with my college choice. I used to listen to Daysleeper when I would stay up far into the night studying, and I can’t tell you how many times I listened to Strange Currencies when I was wondering how various girls felt about me. And when I did karaoke for the first time at Bo Loong during my freshman year of college, I sang four R.E.M. songs.

I came home today and Sheila had some wonderful, unexpected news about one of our cases that came totally out of the blue. After celebrating, I loaded up cleveland.com, which delivered some equally unexpected news that was a complete 180 on the happiness scale: R.E.M. had decided to break up.

Needless to say, I’m pretty sad. As you can tell from what I’ve written, their music had been a constant of sorts in my life and the band had been a constant presence in my life from the tail end of 8th grade until graduation from law school, and to know that I’ll never hear any new music from them again is a big downer.

One of the things about which I’m saddest is the fact that Sheila never got to enjoy a R.E.M. show with my mom and me. My mom and I last saw them early in November 2004, a few weeks after Sheila and I started dating. As I dropped her off at Glaser House on a cold Saturday evening and kissed her goodnight, I told her that I was really sad she couldn’t come with us to see the show. I still remember the exact words of what she told me in response: “Don’t worry. We’re going to be together for a long time.” And we have been!

There are some great quotes on the R.E.M. web page about their decision, and it sounds like it was amiable amongst all involved. This makes me glad. Check them out at the link above if you’re interested.

I like to think that they decided to split up in a manner just like this...smiles on their faces, good feelings amongst all involved, and a sense of accomplishment for the great music they had made over the years.

Nothing good lasts forever, and I should have known that this day was going to come eventually. Fortunately, they have a legacy of 15 near-flawless studio albums and several live albums, and I’m sure that any future kids of ours will become very familiar with them.

I am not really sure how to end this post, because nothing that I could write seems fitting or appropriate. So…I’ll just sign off by thanking the four friends from Athens, Georgia who called themselves R.E.M. for all of the great memories and music that I’ve cherished over the past 16 years!

I have the t-shirt that Michael Stipe is wearing. It's from 1995. Maybe I'll wear it tomorrow...