Books — May 24, 2023 at 5:14 pm

New book “Neon Side of Town” tells story of The B-52s as more than just “silly party band”

A pair of authors are promising the first critical biography of The B-52s with their just-published new book on the iconic New Wave rockers who crashed out of the gate with “Rock Lobster,” nearly didn’t survive the death of a key member and were reborn with the surprise smash album Cosmic Thing.

The 268-page “The Story of the B-52s: Neon Side of Town,” by Scott Creney and Brigette Adair Herron, was published this month by Palgrave Macmillan, and is available now in paperback and digital editions.

The authors have their own histories in the Athens, Georgia, music scene that spawned The B-52s, as well as R.E.M., Pylon and more in the early 1980s. Their book traces the band’s trajectory out of Athens to New York City, through the death of guitarist Ricky Wilson from AIDS complications to the group’s resurrection via the monster hit “Love Shack” and up through this summer’s farewell shows.

The publisher describes “Neon Side of Town” this way:

“The book argues that The B-52s are much more significant political and musical influences on American society than their reputation as a silly party band suggests, and that their ongoing commitment to values including cooperation, mutual support, and using disruptive fun as a form of social change are an antidote to the neoliberalization sweeping both Athens and the rest of the Western world. For example, the book shows how the band synthesized influences from the modern artists displayed at the University of Georgia art museum, early queer activism on campus in the 1970s, and their experiences as queer people living through the AIDS crisis to create music that continues to be artistically and politically influential today.”

“Neon Side of Town” promises a deep analysis of The B-52s’ music and insights into the musicians — Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson, Ricky Wilson and Keith Strickland — who wrote and performed some of the era’s best-loved songs, from “Planet Claire” to “Private Idaho” to “Summer of Love” to “Deadbeat Club.”





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  1. “an antidote to the neoliberalization sweeping both Athens and the rest of the Western world”. Someone at the publishers has an agenda. Fairly sure the band would not see it this way.

  2. One of my favorite bands! Always thought that their musicianship and vocal harmonies (Kate and Cindy) were flawless! More than a lot of bands (then and now), it was clear that they thoroughly enjoyed what they were doing! I’m still waiting for their (well deserved and long overdue) induction into the R&R Hall of Fame!

  3. It seems like our culture has finally caught up with alternative pioneers the B52’s.
    A breath of fresh air back in the post-punk new-wave era, their originality immediately claimed a spot uniquely theirs. A wild party band for sure, but this group also represented a new freedom in underground rock music in themes & sounds. Nobody can quite compare to the musical legacy of the B52’s.

  4. I think the only “agenda” the publisher has is to sell books and celebrate artists that would be considered radical leftists at a time when the White House refused to acknowledge the existence of AIDS – and are less concerned with the opinions of centrists that care more about the appearance of civility than actual social change.

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