Tuesday, February 01, 2011

36. B-52's - Cosmic Thing (1989)

 45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
Cosmic Thing (1989)
The 1989 comeback of the B-52's was as spectacular as it was unexpected. The group had suffered the heartbreaking loss of Ricky Wilson, (Cindy Wilson's brother and major creative force within the group), who died from AIDS-related complications in 1985. Rather than replace Ricky, drummer Keith Strickland mastered Ricky's unique guitar technique and became the group's new guitarist. It was a fitting way of keeping Ricky's memory alive.

Cosmic Thing's first double-whammy of a single, "Love Shack"/"Channel Z" was a brilliant move; "Channel Z", with its political and environmentally-aware lyrics, was instantly snatched up by college radio, while the rest of the planet went apeshit over "Love Shack". The success of "Love Shack" on both radio and MTV propelled the B-52's into the mainstream. For fans such as myself it was pretty fun to watch it all happen.
Enjoying life as a record store clerk, 1989

When Cosmic Thing came out I was working for a small music and video chain called Title Wave. Life was anything but dull, since somehow I was juggling the roles of college student, record store guy, and struggling musician all at once. I was going to several rock shows a month (sometimes several a week), fully immersed in music and Jagermeister.

When the B-52's came to Minneapolis in '89 I was there.  The show was at Northrop Auditorium on the U of MN's campus (where I was a student). The band was at the absolute peak of their popularity, and it showed in the  crowd's response. The audience danced so vigorously at that show that the balcony began to physically move. At one point midway through the show Fred Schneider came onto the stage with a piece of plaster and said "We need y'all in the balcony to not bounce around quite so much, because this stuff is falling on people's heads", at which point he smashed the plaster onto the stage.  The balcony calmed down for a while, but soon it became unsafe again. The band made the difficult choice to not perform its final encore, "Rock Lobster", for the safety of us fans sitting below the balcony.

Such is the rough & tumble, living on the edge lifestyle in the fast lane of rock & roll!  Or something like that.

No comments: