April 12 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of R.E.M.’s debut album, Murmur, which helped launch Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, Bill Berry and Peter Buck from indie artists to eventual Rock & Roll Hall of Famers.
Released by I.R.S. Records in 1983, Murmur, produced by Don Dixon and Mitch Easter, featured songs the band had already been performing for fans on tour, including a rerecorded version of their debut single “Radio Free Europe,” which was originally released in 1981 on the independent record label Hib-Tone.
The album debuted at 36 on the Billboard Albums chart, but it was a huge hit with critics. In fact, Rolling Stone named Murmur the Best Album of 1983, beating out such classics as Michael Jackson’s Thriller, The Police’s Synchronicity and U2’s War.
By 1991, the album was certified Gold by the RIAA, and continued to land on “best of” and “must have” lists, including the 2005 book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die; Rolling Stone’s 2013 list of The 100 Best Debut Albums of all Time, where it landed at 18; and Blender’s list of the 500 CDs You Must Own Before You Die.
Of course, following Murmur, R.E.M. went on to have huge success, releasing 15 studio albums. Their two biggest commercial hits were 1991’s Out of Time and 1992’s Automatic for the People. They earned three Grammy Awards and were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, their first year of eligibility.
Much to many fans’ dismay, R.E.M. officially disbanded in 2011, although there are still plenty of folks holding out hope for a reunion one day.
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