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      The B-52's

      The B-52's

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      Arguably the definitive new-wave band, the B-52's quirky sound and sensibility were an antidote to the angrier influence of punk rock, and an influence on alternative rock to come. The founding lineup-Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland and siblings Cindy and Ricky Wilson-all came together around the bohemian college circuit of Athens, GA (both Pierson and Schneider were New Jersey transplants), and pronounced themselves a band after imbibing tiki drinks at a Chinese restaurant. Influenced by Beat poetry as well as surf music and pop-culture trash, they began performing at house parties and on campus. The thriftshop look also became a trademark, and the name was taken from a bouffant hairstyle favored by the two women at the time. Their first indie single "Rock Lobster" evinced the band trademarks of surreal humor, scratchy surf guitar, Schneider's deadpan narration and the two women's interlocking voices. The group was signed to Island Records and their first two albums (The B-52s and Wild Planet included the material from their college-party sets. Both became fixtures in dance clubs, college radio and the hipper commercial stations, with "Private Idaho" and "Planet Claire" becoming two of new wave's most recognizable numbers. The group then branched out musically with mixed results; a session with producer David Byrne proved disappointing and the planned Mesopotamia album was released only as an EP. In another Talking Heads connection they toured in late 1984 with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth as their rhythm section. The group's first era ended with Ricky Wilson's death from AIDS in October 1985; the band was devastated and went on hiatus for more than a year. They ultimately continued as a quartet, with Strickland moving from drums to take Wilson's place as guitarist and main composer. Star producers Don Was and Nile Rodgers were both recruited for Cosmic Thing, whose sound was more streamlined, tuneful and less obviously humorous than before. It became the biggest hit of their career, going platinum and spawning Top Five singles in "Roam" and "Love Shack." Its success gave a second life to the group, though the followup album Good Stuff (made as a trio while Cindy Wilson temporarily left the band) was far less successful. Singer Julee Cruise briefly joined the band in Wilson's place, but Wilson returned fulltime in 1994. The B-52s remained a touring fixture, making only one further studio album (Funplex in 2008). 2017 brought Cindy Wilson's first solo album, Change, along with Keith Strickland's announcement that he was retiring from live shows. That year also marked the band's 40th anniversary, which they celebrated with a live show with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.



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