• R.E.M. in earlier, more hirsute times

I remember back in 1997, when Bill Berry announced that he was quitting R.E.M., some of my R.E.M.-loving friends speculated about whether this meant the entire group would disband. I was unaware until then that the group had apparently made a pact that if any of the original four members decided to leave the band that they’d just split up the whole thing, and apparently this element of the group’s charter was very important to my friends’ respect for them. I remember at least one of them being very disappointed when R.E.M. announced that they would be keeping on.

I figure 1997 would have been a fine place for the band to end. That run of albums from Out of Time in 1991 to New Adventures in Hi-Fi in 1996 was incredible—I’ll admit I’m a more-than-average fan of Monster and New Adventures—and everything they did from then on seemed like an increasingly half-assed attempt to recapture that energy. I love, love, love some R.E.M., but only in my special world where they pulled the plug on it before Up got out to the public. And where also maybe their first five records were condensed into one album with just the good songs.

But at least they’re finally broken up as of today, even if it’s a decade and a half late. I just hit up one of the biggest R.E.M. fans I knew back then on Gchat and he reports feeling the same thing as me: nothing at all, and only a little weird about feeling that way.