B-52’s Chose ‘Cosmic Thing’ Producers Via a Psychic
The band discussed the hit LP – which brought them back together following the death of guitarist Ricky Wilson and became their biggest-selling work – in a conversation with The New York Times about their upcoming final tour.
"I lived in a house across the pond from Keith [Strickland], and I’d canoe over to his house," Pierson said. "He played me a couple of things, and 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 came back together."
She noted that Cosmic Thing became an autobiographical work. "[T]he songs just came together in a sort of story. It came really directly from the collective heart of the band. And it just poured out, all this stuff about the innocence we had [when we started] in Athens [Ga.]."
While they weren’t concerned with writing hit singles, vocalist Fred Schneider recalled: "We had to beg radio stations to play 'Love Shack' because it was unlike anything. Once it went to No. 1 on college and alternative radio, that’s when mainstream radio picked it up. And once that happened, it's like, 'Oh my God!'"
When asked about selecting Was and Rodgers as producers, Pierson reported: "We interviewed Todd Rundgren, who said, 'I have a mandate. I’m going to tell you what to do, and you’re going to do what I say.' He didn’t say it in that way, but he used the word 'mandate,' and we were like, 'No.'" She continued: "A friend’s mother, who's a psychic and doesn’t know anything about music, went through the list of producers and said, 'The spirit guides love Nile Rodgers and Don Was too.' She had no idea who they were."
Referring to the fact that the B-52's 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 contentious at times – you edit out a part and someone says, 'That’s my favorite part.' We’ve never been a band that just pumps it out."
The group will commence their farewell tour on Aug. 20, closing on Nov. 13. "We’re not quitting – we’re just moving on to the new phase of our lives, which is a documentary," Pierson said. "We’ve worked hard on uncovering archival material, like Super 8 footage and photographs." Schneider added: "We’ll still do shows, but no more touring. I love being onstage, but I got tired of people with cellphones not paying attention and blocking everyone behind them."