On Thursday, R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills tweeted that David Letterman had just announced his retirement, begging the question – at least among those unfamiliar with the Late Night music schedule – how he was the one to get the scoop. The answer, of course, was that he, former bandmate Peter Buck and Joseph Arthur, an Ohio singer-songwriter best known for his work in Fistful of Mercy and RNDM, were performing at the taping, performing “Walk on the Wild Side” to promote Arthur’s upcoming Lou Reed tribute album.
Watch the group play the iconic song backed by three violins and a cello below. “I’m sorry, Paul,” Dave cracks before introducing the artists, “I’m just making myself a note here to call the jacket company and cancel the Christmas order.” Clearly moved, he goes on to repeat how lovely and beautiful the band’s rendition was, signing off by saying “Good night, and good night to Lou.”
After the taping, Mills, who made his first Letterman appearance when R.E.M. played “Radio Free Europe” and what would become “So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)” on the show in 1983, explained why he made the announcement: “I figured there’s 300 people in the audience all tweeting the same thing, so I figured it’s all right.”
“The man who owns this network, Leslie Moonves, he and I have had a relationship for years and years and years, and we have had this conversation in the past, and we agreed that we would work together on this circumstance and the timing of this circumstance,” Letterman said during the show. “And I phoned him just before the program, and I said, ‘Leslie, it’s been great. You’ve been great. And the network has been great, but I’m retiring.'”