Personalities | Peter Buck | Avoiding Rock Cliches | Guitar Heroes
Alternative-rock guitarist Peter Buck (b. 1956) was born in Berkeley, California. After dropping out of college, he moved to Athens, Georgia, where he met singer Michael Stipe while working in a record shop. The pair discovered that they had similar tastes in music: punk rock, Patti Smith and Television.
Together with Mike Mills (bass) and Bill Berry (drums), they formed R.E.M.. After achieving some popularity locally they recorded a single, ‘Radio Free Europe’, independently. The record was followed by an EP, ‘Chronic Town’, on the larger indie label IRS.
Debut album Murmur (1983) established R.E.M.’s alternative credentials, with the band deliberately avoiding what they saw as rock clichés. Buck’s clear, bright guitar deftly added texture without seeking to dominate the production. His early, arpeggiated style was influenced by the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn and was notable again on Reckoning (1984).
Buck remains most commonly associated with Rickenbacker guitars, particularly the black ‘Jetglo’ 360 model. ‘Feeling Gravity’s Pull’ from the Fables Of The Reconstruction (1985) album featured an ominous chromatic guitar figure from Buck amidst its folk-rock vibe. Life’s Rich Pageant (1986) was a more direct rock record, while Document (1987) was the band’s most conventional album so far with Buck contributing bursts of angry guitar and taking a rare solo on ‘Strange’.
R.E.M. became one of the first American alternative bands to cross over into the mainstream, and their major-label debut Green (1988) saw them balance experimentation and commercial appeal. Out Of Time (1991) was guitar-light but included ‘Country Feedback’, an innovative combination of the guitar styles of its title. The effect was heard again on ‘Sweetness Follows’ from Automatic For The People (1992). Monster (1994) was a leap into harder rock territory, powered by grunge-influenced guitars and glam-rock riffs. R.E.M. has continued as a three-piece since Bill Berry left in 1997. In 2006, Buck toured with Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 as lead guitarist to support the band’s first release, Olé! Tarantula. In 2008, Buck joined McCaughey and Steve Wynn in the band the Baseball Project.
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