Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “80’s New Wave Bands Edition,” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
‘Everyone is welcome to the party!’ The B-52s on 40 years of new wave.
‘We never thought of ourselves as pop stars,” says Kate Pierson, reflecting on the B-52s’ 40 years of twisting the detritus of American popular culture into new shapes. They were so opposed to the notion, in fact, that when the band were nominated for best pop performance at the 1989 Grammys, for their single Love Shack, their singer Fred Schneider – part of an unorthodox vocal trident alongside Pierson and Cindy Wilson – wasn’t happy. “Incensed!” Pierson recalls.
“I’ve come to treasure the idea that we are silly and wacky and that we give people a sense of fun and release and happiness,” she says. “People come up and say, ‘You helped me through high school,’ or ‘You helped me through a crisis,’ and that’s such a gift.”
(from Mesopotamia EP, 1982)
After their second album, Wild Planet, went Top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic, the pressure was on to reach the next level of success, and the B-52s went into the studio with David Byrne producing, for what was supposed to be their third album, but ended up being the six-track EP Mesopotamia. Why didn’t they finish an album? “It was wrongly stated that we had some kind of conflict with David Byrne, but that’s not true at all. It was really our manager Gary Kurfirst, who was also Talking Heads’ manager, who felt we needed to keep the momentum going. So we just bowed to his pressure to cut it short and put out what we had. Songs like Cake were never really finished.” The sound of the first two records had been dictated by Island Records boss Chris Blackwell, who wanted them to sound sparse, like their live sound. “But we were kind of disappointed – we wanted to sound a little better. So the choice of David Byrne was to evolve the band’s sound a little bit.”