R.E.M.’s Peter Buck recalls his stolen favourite guitar being retrieved by a Finnish biker gang

"It was an inside job and I was furious"

R.E.M.‘s Peter Buck has recalled how his favourite guitar was stolen by an associate of the band, only to be returned by a Finnish biker gang.

Buck has been synonymous with Rickenbacker guitars across his career with R.E.M. and beyond, and speaks in today’s (December 22) edition of the Daily Express about the iconic guitar brand, sharing a story about his favourite guitar.

In the new interview, conducted ahead of the release of new book Rickenbacker Guitars: Out of the Frying Pan Into the Fireglo by Martin and Paul Kelly, Buck revealed that his beloved Rickenbacker Jetglo 360, which he played on every single R.E.M. album, was kidnapped by an associate of the band’s during a 2008 gig in Finland.

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“It was an inside job and I was furious,” Buck said, revealing that the associate had held the guitar for $1million ransom.

Going on to explain how the guitar found its way back to his possession, with help from a local biker gang, the guitarist said: “While our legal team were working it out, some fearsome fellows were riding around on motorbikes, explaining to people we thought connected to the theft, ‘Somebody knows something and we’re going to find out.'”

R.E.M.
R.E.M. in 1996. Credit: Christopher Bilheimer.

Buck’s story continued: “We explained to the idiot who stole the guitar, ‘If you “find” this guitar, you get to be the good guy and you can have €10,000. But if you press on, that’s extortion and you’ll get up to 30 years in prison.’

“He took the €10,000,” Buck remembered. “When I got [the guitar] back, I felt bad about that black Ricky for a few days. I had to play it and sweat on it again, as I’d been thinking, ‘Some real scumbag has held this for a week.'”

When reunited with his guitar in 2008, Buck didn’t reveal the true reason behind the kidnapping and subsequent return, but said it was returned by an “anonymous source,” adding: “It’s great to have it back in my hands.”

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R.E.M.’s manager Bertis Downs added: “We were always hopeful it would turn up, and thanks to the efforts of a lot of people, we are thrilled to have it back in Peter’s possession. We are grateful and very happy that it worked out this way.”

Elsewhere, R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe has confirmed that the band will never reunite. During an interview with radio station WNYC to discuss the new Velvet Underground tribute compilation, Stipe responded to a 2019 Rolling Stone article that speculated over the likelihood of R.E.M. reforming, describing it as “wishful thinking at best”.

“We will never reunite. We decided when we split up that that would just be really tacky and probably money-grabbing, which might be the impetus for a lot of bands to get back together. We don’t really need that, and I’m really happy that we just have the legacy of the 32 years of work that we have,” he told All Of It host Alison Stewart.

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