The Unbearable Lightness of Being the B-52s (2024)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being the B-52s (1)

Cosmic Thing by The B-52s was 35 years old last week. It was released on June 27th 1989, apparently. Time flies. Listening now to what became the B-52s most commercially successful record remains as much a joy as I did when I first heard it in 1990. I barely knew anything about The B-52s back then. ‘Rock Lobster’ had been great when it came out a good few years before, though I never fully ‘got’ what they were about, or why all the cool kids went nuts for it whenever the song or its flipside, ‘Planet Claire’, came on at gigs. Too busy being a serious young man, probably, to fully appreciate the wonders of Kate and Cindy’s harmonies and their interplay with Fred’s campy delivery.

I heard a few other things '- ‘Give Me Back My Man’, ‘Devil’s in My Car’, ‘Private Idaho’, and probably a few others - and while they were always an eccentric treat to hear, I never paid them much attention. Which is strange, because the male/female vocal interplay in other bands - The Rezillos in Edinburgh; The Moderates in Liverpool - really appealed. Both of these bands seemed to be working roughly in the same parallel universe ballpark as the B-52s, which was a place where pop, art and trash hung out with all the weirdos.

When Cosmic Thing came out, it seemed to tap into something, with ‘Love Shack’ and ‘Roam’ especially raising the band’s profile. It was probably on the back of the success of those two songs as singles that the compilation of early B-52s material - Dance This Mess Around - was released in 1990. I first heard it on cassette. Although most of the songs on it had crept into my consciousness by default, this was the first time I’d actively spent any time with them.

Despite this, I still didn’t know anything about the band. As far as I was concerned, The B-52s were a ‘fun’ band, and I took them at face value. Even the gang mentality swagger of ‘Deadbeat Club’, which seemed to fit with life on the dole in those days, seemed like a hoot. As I listened more to Dance This Mess Around alongside Cosmic Thing, however, these odd, urgent, off-kilter avant-garde vignettes clearly went beyond novelty to something more surreal. Whatever the B-52s were up to, the result was some pretty serious fun.

It was only much later I saw the video for ‘Deadbeat Club’. Again, I took its series of party scenes at face value. Both the song and the video seemed like a more reflective flipside of ‘Love Shack’, though it never had the same commercial impact as what by now had become a party classic.

Very gradually, I became hooked on ‘Deadbeat Club’, returning to the video again and again, fascinated by how these multiple party scenes might have been filmed before being cut up and rearranged with assorted beginnings,, middles and ends. Very eventually again, I started looking in to the background to both the song and the band. This completely upended my perceptions of them, so, while the video to ‘Deadbeat Club’ was still a joy, as I watched it over and over, what I now realised was the central song on Cosmic Thing also now seemed tinged with sadness.

I first wrote a version of this essay in 2018, and have wheeled it out a couple of times since then. This time I have updated it slightly to take in some of where the B-52s are at now. I never got to see them live, not way back when all the cool kids were dancing to ‘Rock Lobster’ at gigs, not when they brought the Cosmic Thing tour to Glasgow, and not later again when they returned for the Funplex tour. In the unlikely event I ever get to Las Vegas, I don’t suppose I’ll ever see them now.

This is my bad, but at least there is plenty of stuff I can watch online. ‘Deadbeat Club’ remains my favourite song on Cosmic Thing. It is by turns joyful, silly, heartbreaking and profound. Like the best songs, it means more as you get older. I watch the video for ‘Deadbeat Club’ every day. I will love it forever.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being the B-52s (2)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being the B-52s - Still Hangin’ With the Deadbeat Club

When Cindy Wilson played the Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh in February 2018 as part of a short tour on the back of her just released solo album,Change, it was a long way from her forty-year tenure as co-vocalist withthe B-52s. Bolstered by a young band drafted in from Wilson’s home town of Athens, Georgia, Wilson’s set of breathy electronic lullabies were a long way from the cartoon trash/art aesthetic of the ultimate party band.

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TheChange show saw a shorthaired Wilson precede her set with an extended Theremin solo. Each song that followed segued into the next without a word to the audience. This rendered the occasion more akin to a live art performance piece tailored for a late night gallery happening than anything resembling rock and roll.

Nor were there any crowd-pleasing song from the B-52s joyous back-catalogue of wacky, wiggy and freaky-deaky parallel universe pop classics, on many of which Wilson sang rip-roaring lead vocal. There was no mention of the fact that it was the fortieth anniversary year of the release of both the B-52s debut single, ‘Rock Lobster’, and the original quintet’s eponymous first album, released in May 1978.

This followed the band’s giddy and accidental formation a couple of years before as the playfully apostrophised B-52’s after Wilson, her brother Ricky, Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson and Keith Strickland shared co*cktails at a Chinese restaurant in Athens before playing their debut gig at a party on Valentine’s Day 1977.

There was nary a hint in Wilson’s Edinburgh performance of the barefoot dervish on ‘Give Me Back My Man’ or the countrified melancholy of ‘Ain’t it a Shame’. Nor was there a jot of the vocal gymnastics of ‘Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland’. Beyond all these absences, there was still plenty going on in a sublime and quietly transcendent performance.Change is a textured and sophisticated collection of songs, and hearing it played live and loud was a treat. Beyond the music, there was something else going on as well. That something was about Cindy Wilson’s coat.

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The presumably faux leopard-skin three-quarter-length coat (Wilson’s fellow B-52 Kate Pierson is a high-profile animal rights and anti-fur activist) Wilson wore throughout her Edinburgh performance with a plain black ski pant ensemble looked chicly familiar. For those well versed in the excesses of the B-52s wardrobe, the band’s trashy, flashy and consciously camp retro-vintage thrift store aesthetic seemingly plundered from Fellini’s dreams are still boldly on trend. If anyone understands the dress-to-impress excesses ofLa Dolce Vita, it is a B-52.

One couldn’t be sure, but the vintage winter warmer was a dead-ringer for the one Wilson wore in the video for the band’s 1989 single, ‘Deadbeat Club’. But that was almost years before the EdinburghChange show. Could it be so? And how could such a garment have survived so long and remained so fresh looking? Or maybe Wilson has an entire roomful of three-quarter length faux-leopard-skin coats?

Either away, other than a twanging cover of Athens GA contemporaries Oh-Ok’s bouncy and off-kilter early ‘80s song, ‘Brother’, Wilson’s coat was the only obvious nod to her sartorial and musical past.Change features another cover, ‘Things I’d Like to Say’, a gorgeous ballad by 1960s psych-baroque soft rock band, New Colony Six.

The B-52s always had a way with a cover, from their take on ‘Downtown’, Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent’s hymn to clubland nightlife; to another 1960s song, ‘Paperback Writer’ by the Beatles. Like them, and for all the ice-cool splendour of her tellingly titled record, the coat’s appearance spoke volumes about where Wilson’s new music came from.

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‘Deadbeat Club’ was the fifth and final single fromCosmic Thing, the B-52s’ fifth album, released in 1989 with production gloss provided by Nile Rodgers and Don Was. The first two cuts from the record, ‘(Shake That) Cosmic Thing’ and ‘Channel Z’, announced the return of the band after a hiatus following the death of guitarist Ricky Wilson from AIDS-related pneumonia in 1985. This happened shortly after the band’s fourth album,Bouncing Off the Satellites, had been completed, before being released with little fanfare, and understandably no live promotion to go with it.

It would be the third and fourth singles fromCosmic Thing– ‘Love Shack’ and ‘Roam’ – that fully launched the B-52s into the mainstream pop stratosphere. ‘Love Shack’ in particular was a defining moment for the band, and became a left-field anthem for a party that had just got a whole lot bigger.

‘Deadbeat Club’, which preceded ‘Love Shack’ on the album, was a fitting coda to all that bona fide smash hit single stuff. Heard accompanying its video, ‘Deadbeat Club’ is a deceptively moving piece of personal history that is as much elegy as show of strength. In its underlying ennui concerning times past, the song is a melancholy paean to lost youth. It is also a musical prayer to long-term friendships between small town oddballs bound and defined by a very special gang mentality through shared experience forever after.

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Listening to ‘Deadbeat Club’ cold, one could be forgiven for not looking beyond this. If you’re young and stupid, and without a care in the world because you’re partying hard with a deadbeat club of your own, all you see and hear is the fun, fun, fun of it all. ‘Deadbeat Club’ may be fun at first, but beyond that, it is a song in search of salvation.

The song’s opening spoken-word interaction features a faux-horrified Wilson yelping‘Huh? Get a job?’as if just chastised for her lazy ways by exasperated parents.‘What for?’deadpans a laconic Pierson as only bad influences can.“I’m trying to think,”Strickland chips in before he is overtaken by the wake-up call drum-thwack ushering in the Byrdsian guitar jangle that drives the song.

The first two lines, sung by Wilson solo, set the tone.‘I was good, I could talk a mile a minute’she reflects.‘On that Caffeine buzz, we were on,’she continues, before Pierson interrupts her reverie to join in for a joint‘We were really humming.’

The unison of their vocals gives the song a swagger, like Wilson and Pierson are revelling in their bad gal act they’ve perfected before continuing.

‘We would talk every day for hours’they sing, ‘We belong to the deadbeat club’, their us- against-the-world spirit of terminal adolescent defiance basking in their own myth making.

‘Any way we can / We’re gonna’ find something,’ they continue, not quite sure what the night will bring, but going all out for it anyway.

Then, with gleefully libertine intent, ‘We’ll dance in the garden in torn sheets in the rain’. Pierson and Wilson sing the line twice, like they just had the best idea ever, and want to enjoy the sheer taboo-busting badassery of it all. All this before going into a chorus in which they’re joined by Schneider, just to let us know the gang’s all here.

The second verse finds Wilson and Pierson singing about going down to Allen’s, a real-life Athens bar where they can drink a 25-cent beer while listening to garage-pop classic ‘96 Tears’ on the jukebox.

‘We’re wild girls,’they declaim in case you hadn’t spotted it,‘Walkin’ down the street.’They follow up with an inclusive ‘Wild girls and boys / Going out for a big time.’

By the third verse things are getting out of hand. ‘Let’s go crash that party down in Normaltown tonight’Wilson and Pierson dare, referring to another real life Athens landmark.‘And then go skinny dipping / In the moonlight.’ If Normaltown sounds like the sort of strip-cartoon suburban dead-end the B-52s might just have invented, there is a romantic bravura to the image of what they get up to there after dark.

Intoxicated now, and getting bolder by the second, Kate and Cindy stress the point about being wild girls and boys before going into the chorus once more. This is followed by a parting refrain of‘Oh, no, here they come, the members of the Deadbeat Club’before they wander off into the night to cause mayhem elsewhere. As a withering kiss-off to the local squares who might be complaining about the noise, the company they keep or any darn thing at all, the line is a withering act of defiance.

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‘Deadbeat Club’ was initiated by Keith Strickland, who, up until Ricky Wilson’s passing, had been the band’s drummer. It was Strickland who proposed a regrouping of the B-52s following the two-year silence. Having co-written much of the band’s music with Ricky, Strickland moved onto guitar, and took the music for what would become ‘Deadbeat Club’ to the rest of the band.

They in turn picked up on some of the memories the music conjured up, of their carefree early days partying hard when Ricky was still alive. When they were hanging out in cafes and bars all dressed up in drag glam gear in a conservative college town in America’s deep south, the quintet really was referred to as deadbeats. Incidents from that era became a lyrical narrative that Strickland has described as probably one of the most autobiographical B-52s songs ever written.

Given that every neighbourhood in every town ever had an equivalent deadbeat club, made up of all the teenage misfits, oddballs and freaks who clung together for comfort, turning their outsider status into an asset, the song transcended its roots to sound defiantly anthemic.

In this sense, for all the fun, games and cartoon-styled capers that went with them, we should never forget just how subversive the B-52s were, and how deeply political such a construction remains. Here was a mixed gender quintet made up of three gay men, one bisexual woman – none of whom were out when they formed - and the guitarist’s kid sister.

As Cindy Wilson has described it in interviews, The B-52s were “two peaches and a bunch of nuts”, who married Peter Gunn detective theme surf-garage guitars and science-fiction schlocky horror keyboards to free- associative surrealist poetry. The wordless squeaks and squawks of ‘Rock Lobster’ even looked to Yoko Ono for inspiration. This was picked up by John Lennon, who recounted in an interview with the BBC not long before he was murdered how he heard ‘Rock Lobster’ in a club in Bermuda and declared to himself how he should “Get out the axe and call the wife”. John and Yoko’s 1980 album,Double Fantasy, was the result.

As for the the B-52s, ‘Rock Lobster’ set the tone for a series of call-and-response narrative vignettes mashed up from a pop cultural pick-and-mix that were more routines than songs per se. Kate and Cindy’s harmonies are knowingly reminiscent of ’60s girl groups, but with a left-field top-spin that may have drew from Ono, only with a yearningly libidinous intent.

In many B-52s songs, Kate and Cindy are egged on by Fred, whose cosmic interjections and asides resemble those of an evangelical MC, a ringmaster of mirth leading from the front with attitude aplenty. In the video for ‘Deadbeat Club’, Schneider can be seen proffering an album cover to the room as a wild card suggestion to put on the record deck next. Compared to such big personalities, Strickland may appear quieter and more in the background, but his role as the band’s de facto musical director is crucial.

The raw catch in Pierson and Wilson’s harmonies on many B-52s songs is possessed with an oomph that goes beyond technique. When, caught up in the unfettered good-time euphoria of ‘Love Shack’, the song pauses a second to allow Wilson to give vent with a filthy-sounding‘Tiiiin roof / Rusted...,’you somehow know exactly what she means. As for ‘Dirty Back Road’ from the band’s second album, Wild Planet, a decade earlier, well….

When ‘Deadbeat Club’ and its parent album were released, the B-52s had been around for more than a decade. Schneider and Strickland were in their late thirties, with Pierson in her early forties. The youngest of the band, Wilson was 32, the same age as her brother when he died. Without referring to Ricky directly, it was the video for ‘Deadbeat Club’ that brought home the band’s sense of loss.

Made at a time when MTV was king and video budgets were big, ‘Deadbeat Club’ was directed by Jeff Preiss. The year before, Preiss had been cinematographer onLet’s Get Lost, photographer Bruce Weber’s black and white documentary study of jazz trumpeter and singer Chet Baker. Footage moved languidly between archive images of Baker the beautiful icon of 1950s’ cool, to the old man whose looks and musical prowess had been ravaged by heroin addiction.

The colour-clashing riot of the video for ‘Love Shack’ and the green screen travelogue of ‘Roam’ were both directed by Adam Bernstein, who would go on to win an Emmy award for his work on TV series,Fargo. After such multi-coloured japes, bringing Preiss in marked a radical change in tone. ‘Deadbeat Club’ was duly filmed in a similar verite style toLet’s Get Lost in gauzy black and white.

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Cindy’s face is the first thing we see in the clip, her big eyes looking vacant and ever so slightly wasted as she lays back in that three-quarter length leopard-skin coat she wears throughout many of the video’s moments. She mouths her‘Huh? Get a job?’line directly to camera, which cuts to Pierson and Strickland as they complete the dialogue before the song kicks in proper. As the guitar comes in, the camera cuts to a highway scene of two open-top cars. Kate and Fred are in one, Cindy and Keith in the other, with the women at the driving wheel of each.

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Over the next four minutes or so, the camera flits in blink-of-an-eye succession between two or three party scenarios, with the band in different outfits in each. Look, there’s Fred striding his way towards the sort of wood-lined club-house you’d like to imagine the B-52s lived in together the way the Monkees did. Inside, one party or another is in full swing. There’s Keith with a candelabra on his head while some guests we don’t know share intimacies on the sofa. Is that really Michael Stipe from R.E.M.? He’s from Athens too, after all, so why not? And look, there’s Fred and Kate on the couch, before someone giddily falls off the armrest while trying on shoes.

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Outside, there’s Keith on a bike in a hip suit. Cindy wears a feather boa, and vamps for the camera. Both she and Kate wear their hair high. Except when Cindy dances close to the bonfire or sways by the trees like some hippy chick left over from Haight-Ashbury. Fred wears a jacket so sparkly he might have liberated it from Liberace’s closet.

One minute it’s early evening, the next it’s almost dawn, with all five band members on the highway with wind in their hair like real live movie stars, except better dressed. Everything seems to come in retro patterned fabrics, from Fred’s cardigan and the pet Dalmatian who pads about the room, to Kate’s co*cktail frock, and, of course, Cindy’s coat.

When Kate sings her‘Wild girls and boys’line in the song’s final verse, her hands-on-hips sass is counterpointed by Cindy’s comic side eye roll as she lays in repose. In the song’s fade-out, she’s on her feet, posing in mock admonishment to whoever is behind the camera, trying to catch her attention.

As the lens moves between all this, it does so, not with rapid-fire jump-cut brutality, but with the leisured eye of a bemused onlooker attempting to capture every moment for Proustian posterity. As it is remembered in the morning-after jumble of flashbacks, time gets mixed up and incidents blur into each other. No-one stands still for a second. All they do is dance and spin in a whirl of perfect motion, like nothing else matters but that moment.

While Kate, Cindy and Fred lip-synch throughout, it all appears au naturelle, as though the good times were for real and were never going to stop. This may go some way to explaining the glazed look in Wilson and Schneider’s eyes especially, as well as the series of seemingly unguarded moments the camera focuses on outside the song itself.

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In an email exchange in 2018, Preiss recalled making the video what was then just shy of three decades ago. This was long before he directed his 2014 feature film,Low Down, about the life of jazz pianist Joe Albany. Preiss remembered filming ‘Deadbeat Club’ in Athens, casting the band’s friends, and using their homes as locations. Preiss also remembered how he and his crew “basically tried to not get in the way of the joy produced by the music. I mean, the music and the sound produced by Kate and Cindy’s voices is so powerful in that way (plus Fred’s voice as a kind of ironically commenting one-man Greek chorus).

“The idea of the video was just as simple as that. The song looks back on memories of friendship and a joyful feeling of freedom that’s virtually subversive in its existing for its own sake. So we looked for it.

“At the same time, we tried to exploit our love of movies - movies with wild party scenes in particular - and tried to make it loop back onto itself: people who loveLa Dolce Vita celebrating their mirroring ofLa Dolce Vita in order to produce their own version ofLa Dolce Vita. it was actually an incredible time in the making!”

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Beyond the excess, as with every party, it is the private times that count in ‘Deadbeat Club’, the solitary come-downs and pauses for thought when every pleasure seeker has to call time out and take a step back into their own world awhile. This might only last a second, but such fleeting moments matter. It is the way Kate and Fred dance with a fervour that threatens to spiral out of control, but which somehow keeps its balance.

Kate bumps, grinds and shimmies like she’s stepped out ofI Dream of Jeanie. Fred throws slo-mo shapes, his Liberace jacket and whitened face giving him the otherworldly air of a Kenneth Anger character worshipping the sun. Then there is Keith; where he was all smiles earlier, now he sombrely nods along to the music, internalising the experience. There he is again, alone and noticed only by the camera, contemplating his own thoughts, lost in a zen funk.

And then there is Cindy, still wearing that coat, dancing perilously close to the bonfire, spinning as she barely mouths the chorus. And there she is again, sat on her own, hair towering above her. Her eyes only flick to the camera when seemingly prompted, so she stares as if posing like Penelope Tree or some other Warhol superstar, distracted by an unspoken sadness that’s over in an instant.

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Such is the unbearable lightness of being the B-52s, the self-styled world’s greatest party band who life got in the way of, and who, onCosmic Thing and in the ‘Deadbeat Club’ video in particular, appear to be walking a shadow-line tightrope between innocence and experience. The way the footage is edited, this sense of in-the-moment intoxication sees the band mood-swing their way to the other side as they try on different personalities from the B-52s dressing-up box for size.

Preiss would go on to do something similar for R.E.M. on the video for ‘Near Wild Heaven’, the third single from the band’s 1991Out of Time album. Just asCosmic Thing shimmied the B-52s into the mainstream,Out of Time was the one that saw their younger contemporaries cross over.

One of the singles taken from Out of Time was ‘Shiny Happy People’. This saw R.E.M. vocalist and ‘Deadbeat Club’ sofa guest Michael Stipe duet with Kate Pierson on a self-consciously naive pop confection that was arguably the album’s novelty equivalent of ‘Love Shack’.

Such criss-crossing connections amongst Athens’ disparate musical community go further. Stipe’s sister Lynda sang and played bass with Oh-Ok, whose song, ‘Brother’, would be covered by Cindy Wilson onChange.

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When the video for ‘Deadbeat Club’ was made, the B-52s were twelve years and five albums old. In that time they had gone from cult club status to global stardom, infiltrating the mainstream with pop art subversions that came gift-wrapped in fancy dress. When Ricky Wilson died, the original deadbeat club gang lost a limb that could never be replaced. Like all gangs, that loss made them stronger.Cosmic Thing was the result.

In the three and a half decades since, there have been two other B-52s albums.Good Stuff came out in 1992, with the band reduced to a core trio due to Wilson taking a sabbatical to raise her family with husband Keith Bennett. Wilson met Bennett the night of the first impromptu B-52s performance back in 1977, and he went on to become Ricky Wilson’s guitar tech, with the couple marrying a few months before Ricky’s passing.

It would be another sixteen years before the follow-up toGood Stuff, withFunplex appearing in 2008. Inbetween, the three-piece B-52s became the BC-52s for the 1994 Flintstones movie. Wilson returned to the fold to record two new songs for the 1998 retrospective,Time Capsule: Songs for a Future Generation. One of them, ‘Debbie’, was a fantastical homage to Blondie’s Debbie Harry. Director Ramaa Mosley’s video for the song features Wilson sporting what again looks like that three-quarter length leopard-skin coat.

More recently, both Pierson and Schneider have released solo albums. Several years prior to her own current solo releases, under the name The Cindy Wilson Band, Wilson recorded ‘Ricky’, her most explicit statement on the loss of her brother.

In 2012, Strickland retired from touring with what was then a group hitting their sixties (Cindy Wilson, the baby of the group, was only in her mid-fifties). Since then, age hasn’t stopped the rest of the group. What was meant to be a farewell tour in 2022 was extended to take a series of Las Vegas residencies and one-off shows. This never-ending last hurrah echoes the title of the very last track onFunplex; ‘Keep This Party Going’.

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Thirty-five years on from it being filmed, the ‘Deadbeat Club’ video looks like a groovy home movie, a time capsule of a band mythologising themselves in close-up, grabbing every moment of pleasure they can before the fun stops and la dolce vita grows tired. Individually and together, Pierson, Schneider, Strickland and Wilson party hard, laugh out loud, dance like there’s no tomorrow and, if you look closely amongst the merry-making, take a moment out to reflect on who they are and how they got here. At the end of the video, with just the four band-members in repose and all the last gasp partygoers departed, it is as if they have finally found the space and time to be themselves again.

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Up untilCosmic Thing and ‘Deadbeat Club’, the B-52s entire raison d’être was a day-glo teen- dream response to small town life and the desire, one way or another, to get out of it. This was writ large whether putting on some vertiginous bouffants and heading to the neon side of town in ‘Wig’, kissing tummies and pineapples in ‘Strobe Light’, or else entering the campy twilight zone of ‘Planet Claire’. There was the turbo-charged brattiness of ‘Give Me Back My Man’ and ‘Dance This Mess Around’, and the resigned disappointment of ‘Ain’t it A Shame’. There was also the bible belt social satire of ‘Devil in My Car’, but even that suggested an embracing of everything that was weird, however oppressive it might be.

Cosmic Thing was different. Slicker, smarter and sassier than previous records,Cosmic Thing was a homecoming, a prodigal’s return of local boys and gals done so good they could record a hymn to globetrotting such as ‘Roam’.

Cosmic Thing was also an unconscious attempt at closure, as the four surviving B-52s, older and sometimes wiser, re-engaged with their roots. Up until then, any sense of nostalgia in their music had been imagined and exaggerated to the nth degree.Cosmic Thing, and ‘Deadbeat Club’ in particular, was pulsed by a diaristic authenticity that gave it both poignancy and strength.

Footage of Kate and Cindy performing ‘Deadbeat Club’ on the B-52s fortieth anniversary tour back in 2018, with Cindy resplendent in blue wig and Nefertiti-like robes, shows them putting as much heart and soul into the song as they did on theCosmic Thing tour back in 1990. There may have been no Ricky, no Keith, and, in this instance, no Fred, but in spirit at least, the gang was all here.

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While it seems unlikely the B-52s will make another record, that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped. While live shows in Las Vegas continue, albums of vintage concert recordings continue to appear. The most recent of these,Divinity on the Sand, slipped out in 2024.

Solo work and collaborations continue to similarly run on apace. In 2023, a new Cindy Wilson album,Realms, was released. Like its predecessor, the record is an electronically inclined collection of ten Wilson originals.

At time of writing, Fred Schneider has just appeared on ‘The Big WOO’, a track onWave from the WOOniverse, an album of recordings by P-Funk keyboardist Bernie Worrell, who died in 2016. With tapes sourced by Worrell’s estate, the album has been completed by a stream of collaborators and friends. ‘The Big WOO’ sees Schneider appear alongside guitarist Binky Griptite, keyboardist Marco Benevento and percussionist Steve Scales to make a glorious piece of squelch-funk.

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, the B-52s go on. Whatever they do next, the legacy of Athens GA’s original deadbeat club is secure. Take a look at the video for Wilson’s single release of ‘Brother’. Filmed outdoors in shiny happy colour and directed by Lance Bangs, the clip features Wilson and her young band in a similar looking location to where the ‘Deadbeat Club footage was shot. Now, as then, there is much fun with fancy dress, bicycle rides and general goofing around.

If ‘Deadbeat Club’ was a purging in disguise, like ‘Brother’, it looks and sounds like a real life song for a future generation. Wilson and the B-52s are still keeping the party going, wild girls and boys taking it as out of bounds as they can. Maybe if we all head over to the neon side of town we’ll find them there, all their yesterdays wrapped up in a three-quarter length leopard-skin coat, dancing for eternity.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being the B-52s (2024)
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