The members of American rock band REM shocked the music world last night by announcing that they are splitting up after 31 years.
The band, one of the world's most successful, was formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980 and went on to release two hugely influential and lucrative albums, 'Out of Time' and 'Automatic for the People', in the early 1990s.
In a statement last night, singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, and bassist Mike Mills said: "As REM, 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."
Stipe added: "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 realise this wasn't an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way."
The band released its 15th studio album 'Collapse into Now' earlier this year.
Mills emphasised: "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."
The band had a long association with Ireland, playing here on numerous occasions and in 2008 they recorded the album 'Accelerate' here.
REM had an extraordinary run of success from the release of 'Murmur' in 1983 to 'New Adventures in Hi-Fi' in 1995, releasing one remarkable album after another. 'Lifes Rich Pageant' was the band's fourth album, released in 1986. It marked a noticeable shift from the mysterious sound that had so captivated audiences to more anthemic, politically charged songs that would characterise REM in the years to come.
And Michael Stipe's vocals -- compellingly unintelligible in the early years -- changed forever, as he started to enunciate every word.
This was the album that essentially bridged the gap between the college rock band whose 'Murmur' trumped Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' as Rolling Stone's album of 1983 and America's premier stadium outfit at the end of that decade.