The days and weeks after a SongwritingWith:Soldiers retreat can be a difficult time…
The B-52s' Cindy Wilson Felt Late Brother's Presence on New Live Album, Reveals Shock at R.E.M.'s Breakup
- Posted on Oct 10th 2011 3:00PM by Chris Epting
Robb D. Cohen
Recorded last February in their hometown of Athens, Ga., on the anniversary of their first live performance in 1977, the new set captures Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson and Keith Strickland in their purest form, cranking out 18 songs with all of the humor, funk and insanity that has come to define the B-52s.
Wilson, who sings and plays percussion, was a founding member of the band along with her late brother Ricky. She spoke with Spinner (in her lovely Southern accent) about the new live album, the group's legacy and the surprising break-up of fellow Athens band, R.E.M.
It seems strange that this is your first live album after all these years.
You wouldn't believe the trouble we had trying to record shows over the years! Something would always go wrong, technically, like we were just not supposed to be doing it! Tape wouldn't work, the recorders would break down, but finally, it all came together this year, just the way it was supposed to, I guess. You can't rush these things.
Did recording this at a big anniversary show in your hometown make you more conscious of the performance?
We were hyper-conscious. I mean, it's in our hometown to start. So everyone is there, everyone that's been so special to the band over the years. So many great friends. Literally, it seemed every time you looked out in the crowd, your eyes locked with someone you knew well. We have fun every night we play, we always try and stay in the moment, but this show was extra special. It was the perfect one to capture.
Your brother Ricky, who passed away in 1985, was a big part of this band. Was it on your mind that night?
I'll tell you, with what happened that night, I know Ricky was there. You just had this feeling in the air. Then I look out and see this big banner that says, "Ricky is Here!" I just stopped and, oh my God, I got chills. We all talked about him but when we played, his presence was everywhere, all around me. It was incredible.
And it all goes back to that special Valentine's Day in 1977.
That was it. Our first show as the B-52s. Also the night I met my husband to be. A big night for me! And now here we are, in the later part of our career, still doing what we do. We've made it so far; it's like a badge of honor for all of us, this band, this incredible experience. And Athens back then was just like this hippie town that was sort of transforming with all the New Wave stuff going on and it was perfect for us. A hip little university town that was the perfect place for the band to grow.
How does Athens today compare with the one back in the 1970s?
Well, it's grown a lot, but thankfully it's still definitely the still an "alternative" town. It's still a great place for musicians.
In 1990 you took time off to start a family.
We had released 'Cosmic Thing' the year before and it was a big success. We toured for two years with that record and it helped get us out of the depression after Ricky died. It was like a mystic experience making it, as if Ricky was there rooting us on. A year into the tour, we were on such a high note, I just figured "Hey, my clock is ticking, now is the time to have my family," so I did. I gave the band a year's notice to get ready, and everything worked out OK. And then of course I missed them and came back.
Were you surprised at the recent news that R.E.M. split up?
I was really surprised! What is that all about? I mean, their last album was so good! It's weird because so few bands make any sort of big formal announcement that it's over. You know, they may stop working or whatever, but an announcement? It really caught me off guard.