In 1989 the B-52s returned from a hiatus of several years with their most successful album ever, Cosmic Thing, which spawned two immortal singles “Roam” and “Love Shack.” It was a major turning point for the band: after the death of Ricky Wilson from AIDS in 1985, few observers could say for sure that the B-52s would even continue to exist, especially considering that Wilson was regarded as the most musically talented member of the outfit. Obviously, the surviving members persevered and are a popular touring band to this day.
As part of the promotional efforts for Cosmic Thing, the now-quartet made themselves available to MTV’s Tim Sommer for a tour of their hometown of Athens, Georgia, which, with the exploding popularity of REM, was rapidly becoming a well-known trope even for casual music fans.
Sommer refers to a “homecoming gig” with REM but I have not been able to pin down the barest information about this show. Does anyone remember anything about it? [Update: My friend Annie Zaleski astutely points out that the impression of REM playing at the show is the product of an awkward phrasing on Sommer’s part. This surely refers to the October 14, 1989, show at Legion Field.]
Anyway, the gang start out at the “Hot Corner,” the intersection of Hull and Washington where the Bluebird Café stood at that time but had previously been the location of a “natural foods” restaurant called the Eldorado where Fred Schneider had once worked as a waiter. I’ve always wondered why the B-52s included a tribute to third base on 2007’s Funplex, and now I know what “Hot Corner” is a reference to. Thanks, MTV!
Touring the college town in (what else?) a convertible, the band passes the Georgia Theatre, where the B-52s played on May 20, 1978, and February 2, 1979. Interestingly, they also pass a courthouse, which prompts a comment from Kate Pierson that that was where she got divorced….
In addition, the band points out the “original” location of the 40 Watt, at which site they apparently never played, and also visit a funeral parlor, where Kate and Fred Schneider seem to say they recorded “Planet Claire” and “Rock Lobster” in, ahem, “the bloodletting room”—yuck—but the liner notes of their first album list Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas as the location of those sessions. Perhaps that’s just where they wrote those songs. Hmmm.
They also tout the virtues of thrift stores at a groovy local place with the fabulous name of Spend Money Here.