The B-52s picked producers Don Was and Nile Rodgers to work on their 1989 comeback album. cosmic thing via a medium, revealed singer Kate Pierson.
The band discussed the hit LP – which brought them together after guitarist Ricky Wilson died and became their best-selling work – in a chat with The New York Times about their upcoming final tour.
“I lived in a house across the pond from Keith [Strickland], and I was canoeing to his house,” Pierson said. “He played me a few things, then we all got together. We said, “This is for us, for our healing, and this is for Ricky.” It was kind of miraculous that we got back together.”
She noted that cosmic thing becomes an autobiographical work. “[T]he songs just came together in a kind of story. It really came straight from the collective heart of the band. And it poured out, all that innocence stuff that we had [when we started] in Athens [Ga.].”
While not concerned with writing hit singles, singer Fred Schneider recalled, “We had to beg radio stations to play ‘Love Shack’ because it didn’t sound like anything. 1 on college and alternative radio, that’s when mainstream radio picked it up. And once it happened, it’s like, ‘Oh my God! ‘”
Asked about the selection of Was and Rodgers as producers, Pierson said, “We interviewed Todd Rundgren, who said, ‘I have a warrant. I’ll tell you what to do, and you’ll do what I say. ‘ He didn’t say it that way, but he used the word ‘mandate’, and we were like, ‘No.’ She continued, “A friend’s mom, who is a psychic and knows nothing about music, through the list of producers and said, ‘Spirit Guides love Nile Rodgers and Don Was too.’ She had no idea who they were.”
Referring to the fact that the B-52s have only released one album in three decades, Strickland said, “The way we write is complex and time-consuming, because it’s so collaborative. And it would get sometimes controversial – you edit a part and someone says, ‘This is my favorite part.’ We’ve never been a group that just pumps.”
The group will begin their farewell tour on August 20, ending November 13. “We’re not giving up – we’re just moving on to the new phase of our lives, which is a documentary,” Pierson said. “We have worked hard to uncover archival material, such as Super 8 images and photographs.” Schneider added, “We’ll still be doing shows, but no more touring. I love being on stage, but I’m sick of people with cell phones not paying attention and blocking everyone behind them.”
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