R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck has spoken of how his favorite guitar – a Rickenbacker Jetglo 360 – was stolen by an associate of the band in Helsinki in 2008, only to be returned to him by a Finnish biker gang.
In a new interview with UK newspaper the Daily Express, Buck explains that the theft was an “inside job” and that he was “furious”, adding that the thief had held the guitar for a $1,000,000 ransom.
“While our legal team were working it out,” he explains, “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.’
He continues: “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. 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.”
In 2008, Buck revealed that the guitar had been returned to him by an “anonymous source”, adding: “It's great to have it back in my hands.”
Bertin Downs, R.E.M.’s manager at the time, 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.”
Peter Buck played his treasured Rickenbacker Jetglo 360 on every R.E.M. album, from their debut, Murmur in 1983, to the band’s 15th and final full-length, Collapse into Now, in 2011.
R.E.M. announced their break up in 2011. Bassist Mike Mills said in a statement at the time that during their final tour, and while producing Collapse into Now, “We started asking ourselves, ‘What’s next?’”
“Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey,” he continued. “We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together.”