R.E.M. Guitarist Battles Air-Rage Claim, Band Battles Paper Manufacturers

By | March 21, 2002 at 12:00 AM

R.E.M.’s Peter Buck says he has no recollection of behavior on a Seattle-to-London flight that now finds him facing charges, including assault, in a London court, the BBC reports.

Testifying on Wednesday (March 20), Buck claimed that after taking a sleeping pill on the April, 2001 flight, he felt “woozy” and “fear[ed] I had had a heart attack and was in a weird hospital in Disneyland.” When asked if he remembered details for which he is charged, the guitarist told the jury: “None whatsoever.”

What Buck does remember is being in a police cell at London’s Heathrow Airport, saying he was “horrified” by the realization.

However, British Airways pilot Tom Payne offered dramatically different testimony, saying that Buck’s behavior was so disruptive that he considered landing the plane at the nearest airport in order to turn him over to authorities.

Payne’s deliberations came after Buck allegedly refused parting with a bottle of wine and then tore up a warning letter issued to him by the staff. Witnesses claim the guitarist, with slurred speech, told the pilot, “You are just a captain and I am R.E.M.”

Buck claims he had three glasses of wine during the flight and a few “sips” before taking off. Previous testimony, however, alleges that he had 15 drinks before being cut off by the flight staff.

Regardless of his lack of recollection, Buck was apologetic for the disturbance, saying that “young people pay attention to what you do” when you’re in a band.

Buck is accused of one charge of being drunk on an aircraft, two counts of common assault against the flight attendants, and one charge of damaging airline crockery stemming from the incident on the Seattle-to-London flight 11 months ago. The 45-year-old musician denies the charges.

The trial resumes Thursday.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, R.E.M. has announced some more positive news surrounding the group-it is supporting a campaign to save America’s forests by changing the way that paper is manufactured. Buck and bandmates Michael Stipe and Mike Mills recently taped a public service announcement for airing of television in support of the efforts of the Paper Campaign.

“Insist that the paper you use is tree-free,” Stipe says on the PSA.

Mills adds, “The perception is that third-world countries are the only places being wiped out. What people don’t realize is that the forests being most devastated are in our own back yard-the American South.”

The campaign’s first target is office supply retailer Staples Inc., reportedly the country’s largest supplier of copy paper. According to the Paper Campaign, Staples’ redbox paper brand is made entirely from trees, with zero recycled content.

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