I think it says everything about The B-52’s aesthetic that they performed on television with duct tape on their instruments (you can see a clear close up of Ricky Wilson’s mended guitar near the end of the video below.) They didn’t mind looking trashy like that because trash was their thing; fright wigs, thrift store dresses, the dregs of 1960’s pop culture. And most important to their success, total joy. They were really a tall cold drink of loopy juice at a time when most bands took their posturing very seriously. Rock star posturing is fun, though! Camp is fun! Wigs are fun! Inspiring edgy movies about male prostitutes with mommy issues is fun! Ok, you lost me at Gus Van Sant, but whatever, it’s all in fun.
The B-52’s really don’t get enough credit. I mean, have you seen them? Like, really paid attention, though? Their good-taste-to-the-wind brand of eccentricity is like nothing else. And how about Kate Pierson? She’s the icon you didn’t know you were indebted to; one part drag queen, one part hipster dream girl. Being campy and kooky isn’t mutually exclusive with being edgy, either. The B-52’s were pretty experimental for a party band. Examine the extended intro of this song. I, for one, didn’t know until just now that the space wave noise was actually Pierson’s modulated voice. Unfortunately, the older video is ruined halfway through by the appearance of some kind of alarmingly hirsute talk show host, but the first half is a marvel of sustained weirdness.
Would you mind that terribly much if The B-52’s crashed your kegger? They seem fun, though Fred Schneider seems like the kind of guy who would make you feel bad about your record/book collection. They also make a crashed party sound like fairly innocent fun, because pretending that everything’s the 50’s is their thing. Nothing bad could ever happen in the tacky glow of The B-52’s retro world. It’s all wigs and martinis and camp.
This should cheer you up, and make you wish you could party with the B-52’s. I doubt Fred, Kate and Cindy want to party with you, but you could always party like The B-52’s. All you need is a few wigs, some tacky thrift store clothing and a Cadillac big as a whale to joyride in. And maybe some punch.
In other news, I know you missed me, but I’m still on vacation, and will continue updating only sporadically. Bear with me.
Isn’t it great when really weird people become wildly successful? The B-52’s are a collection of three singers with weird voices letting their freak flag fly, and shockingly enough, people loved it. Maybe because in the late seventies the market was more open to odd things, or maybe because the B-52’s were so exuberantly fun. They weren’t particularly artsy, and they definitely weren’t pretentious or self-serious. They looked and sounded like they were having a blast with their own weirdness. Plus their music was catchy as all hell, which always helps. I guess they filled a void, too, being a happy, colorful antidote to all the angsty punks dominating the scene. They also had a diy, indie vibe with their thrift-tastic stylel and out-of-nowhere beginnings, which helped them keep their cred with the cool crowd.
An acquaintance once commented that “The single most amazing thing about this song is they got all those people to sing ‘Astral projector’ over and over again.” I’m inclined to agree. The astral projector chorus is something out of this world. I’m also inclined to think this is my favorite B-52’s song. I know there’s a lot of good stiff competition, but this one has a special level of absurdity, I think. Especially counting the video, in which the UFO is portrayed by a modestly sized delivery van painted cosmic silver and Fred Schneider flies. It is perhaps ironic that this absurd career highlight came about during the brief period when Cindy Wilson was not on board, because generally, it wasn’t the same without Cindy. It wasn’t a terrible era; there were still a lot of good songs that got made, and Fred and Kate didn’t get any less weird in the interim. I mean, they came up with this, didn’t they. I’m not saying that this proves The B-52’s didn’t need her, I think it’s more like they rallied and did their best and came out with some great stuff, but they really needed her all along. Now if somebody could explain what a Mo-Dean is.
Didn’t I just write something about the B-52’s being a serious and well-respected band? Yeah I said something of that nature, but I don’t recall what it was exactly. Sometimes there’s some seriousness that creeps in; sometimes the B-52’s are just a ridiculous, silly party band who wear huge wigs and dance badly in low budget videos. They’re idiosyncratic, all right. They’re campy, they’re fun, they’re good musicians, they substitute humor for big ideas, they’re great for dancing, they’re weird and they dress bad on purpose. And ‘good stuff’ is shaving cream.