Francisco. that was wild! The crowd was older and wild! Playing outside in San Francisco this time, it was a much younger audience and they have much more security in these places. so the audience can‘t really run up on to the stage and take their clothes offor whatever. Oh, yeah. people used to do that.
‘On one hand. it‘s disconcerting when people jump on stage. It‘s dangerous for them. But there‘s an excitement in being that close to the audience. It‘s a little bit sterile feeling that separation. but we try to make the best ofit. What I do is I really look at the audience a lot when we‘re playing. I scan and look at faces and make contact with people. Some people look above their heads. but we like to get a lot ofenergy from the audience and give that back.‘
And when she scans the crowd. she sees ‘a lot of peOple start out and they‘re kind of
‘Even being from Georgia was like coming from outer space. This lunny band that dresses tunny.’
smiling and then by the end they have their eyes shut and they‘re gyrating. People get into a dance frenzy at our concerts till they‘re pulsating.‘
Ifyou think that you can detect the faint aroma of patchouli rising from Kate Pierson‘s utterances. you‘d be right. In a typically 90s way. The B-52‘s wed an eco-political awareness to decidedly New Age thinking. On the sleeve of Good Stuff. in the place where soul singers would offer their thanks to God, the B-52‘s pay tribute to the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals and ‘The Nature Spirits. interdimensional friends we have known and loved and Mother Earth‘. The album is dedicated to ‘all ofour brothers and sisters who are living with HIV‘. On the more esoteric side. they consult a psychic. Elaine Ault. whose spirit guides influence the band‘s important decisions.
‘I was definitely a hippy chick.’ she confirms. ‘But a lot of people became very disillusioned after the Kent State thing. I was very disillusioned with America then. I‘d really had it. So I went to Europe and stayed for almost two years.‘
The hippy trail that Pierson followed wasn‘t the one that so many straggly backpackers followed to exotic locations like Nepal and Goa. Perversely, after touring around continental Europe and Ireland. she became a barmaid in the decidedly unglamorous Anson Hotel in Wallsend. while her ‘future ex-husband‘ earned his living on a fishing boat. Wallsend — ‘a wild place‘. it transpires— is rather like ‘coming to America and going to live in Detroit for a while‘. Well, who‘s to say it wasn‘t in 1973?
Lured to Georgia by the desire to live on a farm and raise goats. she fell in with a gang of 24-hour party pe0ple — Fred Schneider, Keith Strickland and Ricky and Cindy Wilson — who were to form a band. move to New York and become darlings ofthe US new wave with their debut single, ‘Rock Lobster‘. The B-52‘s flourished in the climate that bands like Talking Heads, The Ramones and Television helped create;
although their appeal. and radio play, was mainly to a college audience. they had major label backing. Two albums and one David Byrne-produced mini-album followed. consolidating the inroads they had made. Then. in October 1985. the same month as Rock Hudson. Ricky Wilson died of AIDS.
Slowly. numbly, the band pulled themselves together again. About a year later. they started to write their next album. Rather than see an outsider introduced into a tightly-knit band. Keith Strickland, who was already part of the songwriting team. moved from drums to guitar. The B-52‘s were back in business. but it took another five years for them to regain the momentum they had lost. (For this tour. however. the band have admitted Twin Peaks singer Julee Cruise into their ranks to make up for Ricky‘s departed sister Cindy Wilson.)
‘We all have equal creative input.‘ says Pierson. ‘Nobody is a star. . . When Ricky died. that was much more a feeling of: this is something really special. to be able to be a band and have these friendships and do what we‘re doing. That motivated us to become more politically involved too.‘
The B-52‘s apparent timeliness isn‘t just due to the fact that they themselves are now celebrated pop stars. Consider the echoes of their style in the hedonistic but socially-concerned Deee-Lite. And when Shonen Knife appeared. looking— with their matching Pop Art dresses. naive. chirpy songs and quaint guitars — like a Technicolor. Day-glo. 60s-sci-fi vision of what pop groups of the future will look like. two groups immediately sprung to mind: the not-much-missed Devo and their contemporaries. the very-much-in-demand B-52‘s.
‘Japanese groups always look incredibly futuristic anyway.‘ muses Pierson. although she hasn‘t yet seen Shonen Knife. ‘I guess we were very post-modernist at the time. but
not in the sense that we thought everything had already been done and the only thing to do was to draw from the past. I think our music was embedded in the future. but our look . . ! We were grab-bags in the museum of American cultural history. which is dressed the worst!‘
But back to these new fans: how much sense do The B-52‘s make to these well-behaved adolescent motorists. compared to the new-wavers. who could read into the band any ideological baggage about irony and built-in obsolescence that suited them?
‘I think in the very very beginning we were considered very bizarre. People thought. “They come from Georgia. how weird!“ Even being from Georgia was like coming from outer space. This funny band that dresses funny. I think that definitely the fashion thing and the wig thing influenced people. That recycled thrift store, rock‘n‘roll hair thing has been done to the max. And I think we‘ve played that down more — not so much deliberately. but we get kind of sick of having that overshadow the music. I think our new audience sees us more as a band that has some kind of purpose, that we are politically aware. trying to do our part, anyway. to be active politically. We take some kind of stand on certain issues. Greenpeace travel with us. we did a big AIDS benefit on the last tour and we hope to do one this time. So I think we’re seen as more of a 905 band now. I think we always were a 905 band. in the 805 and 703.‘
Later, speaking more generally. she declares. ‘Hopefully, the 90s will be like the 603 without acid.‘ But with The B-52‘s. of course. Can you imagine it any other way?
The 8-52 ’splay the SECC, Glasgow on Wed 16 Dec.
__,. . ..._-_-_J The List 4- 17 December 199211