For the third time in their career, The B-52’s are packing up their beehive wigs and bringing their kooky brand of pop to Australia. Their first visit came shortly after the release of their eponymous debut in 1979; the second after the phenomenal success of the Cosmic Thing album in 1990. With this tour, there’s no new album to push (their best of collection, Time Capsule, was released several years ago), but the band remains enduringly popular, thanks in large part to their classic collection of hits, including Rock Lobster, Planet Claire, Private Idaho and Love Shack.
Guitarist Keith Strickland and vocalist Cindy Wilson both express surprise about the longevity of this band they formed over 25 years ago.
When we began it never entered our minds that this would be our career, admits Keith. We’ve been going about 25 years, but it just kind of sneaks up on you.
Over the years, the band have won themselves many gay fans, but the gayness of the band itself (if that term can be used) has always been a point of some conjecture.
We never really consciously thought we were being camp, Keith says of the band’s early days. A lot of the lyrical absurdities and the whole sensibility was just everything we were into; it was very pop art, in a way. For us it was just what it was, we didn’t really have a name for it.
The death of founding member Ricky Wilson from an AIDS-related illness in 1985 shook the band greatly, and resulted in a five-year gap between albums.
Cindy still finds it hard to talk about her brother’s death.
Back then it was very hard to talk about AIDS, she says. Basically my family had no idea how to handle it, so they wished me to be a little bit quiet about it, until it was just obvious that it had to be talked about. But definitely, it was very, very hard.
The drift back into recording and performing after Ricky’s death was gradual, but resulted in the band’s most successful album (Cosmic Thing) and singles (Love Shack and Roam).
That success jump-started us for another 10 years, observes Keith. Love Shack just went across the board with everybody. Our audience drastically changed after that song. People came in knowing that song and not having a clue about Rock Lobster or Planet Claire -¦ but I think now our audience has grown to understand that there are many facets to our music.
Although the band has continued performing since then, Cindy took some time out to have two children during the 90s. She says the band is still recording new material, but adds she doesn’t want to jinx the process by talking about it.
Both Keith and Cindy say they’re looking forward to playing in Sydney immensely.
We’ve always had a good response in Australia, which was surprising to us because you’re so far away, says Keith. The decision to do an Australian tour came when the band was offered a spot in a music festival in New Zealand, he says.
The timing of the upcoming tour -“ they play the Hordern Pavilion on 1 March, five days before Mardi Gras -“ has started many people wondering whether they might pop up for a performance at the Mardi Gras party.
Keith confirms that most of the band will be staying on in Sydney after their concert, although Cindy will be flying home to her family.
We’re staying in Sydney for [Mardi Gras], he says. But there are no surprise shows planned. It may be difficult to throw that together.
So the only way to guarantee you’ll see The B-52’s is by buying a ticket to the concert. Form an orderly queue -“ behind me, please.
Thanks to the good people at Michael Coppell Presents, Sydney Star Observer has 10 double passes to The B-52’s concert on Monday 1 March to give away.
To be in the draw to win one of these double passes, email firstname.lastname@example.org by 10am on Monday 2 February with the correct answer to the following question:
What make is the car the band sing about in the song Love Shack?