Peter Buck

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It's not the end of the world as we know it, but it could be the end of an era.

R.E.M. announced today that someone made off with founding member Peter Buck's signature Rickenbacker guitar immediately following their Tuesday night performance at Finnair Stadium in Helsinki, Finland.

In pleading for its safe, no-prosecution-necessary return, the band emphasized how important the instrument is to Buck, who has been toting his Rick onstage and into the studio since R.E.M. cut Chronic Town in 1982.

A generous reward is also on the table. Anyone with useful information is encouraged to email or call 706-353-6689.

"Though the guitar has not yet been located, there is an active investigation and we are all hopeful that the guitar will eventually be returned," read a statement on R.E.M.'s website. "We still would like to hear from anyone with information which could assist us, which may be shared anonymously if desired.

"Finally, we are hopeful that the guitar will eventually be found. After all, one of band's most beloved bootlegs was from Boston in July of 1983 at The Paradise, called 'Return of the Rickenbacker' (a few songs from which were included on the 2006 retrospective, The Best of the IRS Years)."

The pioneering alt-rockers are in the middle of a world tour in support of their latest album, Accelerate. Buck, Michael Stipe and Mike Mills go on with the show Friday in Tallinn, Estonia.

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