Musical arsenal

B-52s ready to blast off onto 'Planet Claire' and onto Hampton Beach

New Hampshire Union Leader
May 30. 2018 12:39PM
Cindy Wilson, Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson are headed back to New Hampshire for a quirky good time at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. 
If you go...
WHO: B-52s

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, 169 Ocean Blvd., Hampton

TICKETS: $47 to $52

INFO:; 929-4100

Boeing describes the B-52 as the “most combat capable bomber in the U.S. inventory.”

Like its aircraft namesake, the punky rock band that formed in Athens, Ga., more than 40 years ago has proven to be more than capable of combat, having outlasted most of their fellow new wave alumni.

In test lineup for a standing-room only show — the proper way to hear dance-floor raves like “Roam,” “Rock Lobster” and “Private Idaho.”

Cindy Wilson, who ordered a couple of new wigs for the tour, promises a show that includes the band’s biggest hits as well as some surprises.

“We’ve been getting requests for classic songs that you don’t hear any more,” she said during a recent interview.

On the band’s self-titled 1979 debut, Wilson traded vocals with Pierson and Schneider in retro-garage songs like “Dance This Mess Around” and “52 Girls.” She stepped into the spotlight for the lead vocal of “Give Me Back My Man” on the band’s follow-up, “Wild Planet.”

In the campy video for the 1980 song — which has generated more than 2.4 million views since it was posted to YouTube in 2014 — Wilson wrings pathos out of a love song with purposely oddball lyrics.

“What I always loved doing is putting in honest emotion. They used to always tease me that I was a cry baby. It sounds like I’m crying when I’m singing that,” Wilson said. “It’s so funny. It is just a release, but it’s also tongue-in-cheek. There’s a little bit of weirdness in there.”

A commenter who identified himself on YouTube as Charles Odell summed it up well.

“She’s got the moves, she’s got the words, she’s got the voice, she’s got the loose as a goose dancing, she’s even got the mascara.”

Wilson remembers that time fondly.

“Back in those days, I was like a toothpick. And I could literally fly,” she said. “Dancing was so great, and dancing to the B-52s’ music is wonderful. We had so much fun. They were amazing times.”

Those times seemed about to end in 1985 with the death of Wilson’s brother, Ricky, whose ’60s-surf band-inspired guitar work created much of the band’s original sonic blueprint. The band chose not to tour after releasing the album “Bouncing off the Satellites” the following year and stopped working for awhile. But they returned in 1989 with “Cosmic Thing,” which Cindy Wilson describes “as a bit of healing project.” Among the album’s radio hits was “Deadbeat Club,” on which Wilson and Pierson sing about dancing in the rain in torn sheets and playing “96 Tears” on the jukebox.

“A lot of the songs on ‘Cosmic Thing’ are nostalgic, looking back at the good times we had in Athens back when we first started,” Wilson said.

While it’s ironic that the ultimate party band chose as its moniker a flying war machine, the B-52s once had in their possession a potentially deadly weapon. Wilson recalled when a giant chest on wheels carrying her and Pierson’s stage wigs toppled over.

“One time the thing almost nearly killed somebody. It was so big,” Wilson said with a laugh. “Killer wigs! What a way to go.”

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