The B-52’s have been around for an incredible 35 years, which equates to at least 200 years in terms of band lifetimes. Over the last three-and-a-half decades, they’ve weathered the rise and fall of punk, disco, hair-metal, grunge, indie, outie, electronic, wooden and scores of others styles and trends, occupying their own kitschy little corner of the galaxy.
The size of their corner has ebbed and flowed over the years. After their late-’70s breakthrough with “Rock Lobster” and “Planet Claire,” the B-52’s hit a fallow stretch in the mid-’80s that bottomed out with guitarist Ricky Wilson’s death from AIDS in 1985. The group disappeared after that, seemingly for good.
Improbably, however, the surviving quartet of Keith Strickland, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson and Fred Schneider regrouped for a triumphant return with 1989’s “Cosmic Thing,” their biggest album ever. “Love Shack” and “Roam” topped the charts worldwide, carrying the B-52’s into the ’90s and beyond in style.
Nowadays, the B-52’s serve as wise elders for a generation that got old but still wants to get out and shake a tail feather. They’ve not recorded since 2008’s “Funplex,” but they’re still one of the most endearing, reliably fun live acts on the road. In advance of their headline performance at Saturday’s Band Together show in Cary, we talked by phone with guitarist Strickland from his home in Key West, Fla.
Ricky did have an amazing style. When we first met in high school, he had all these songs he’d written and recorded on a little tape recorder. They were quite amazing; very folky, almost Donovan-esque, very original. Most people think of Ricky as a guitarist, but he was also a great songwriter with quite an interesting approach to phrasing. The melody he wrote for “52 Girls” is a good example. Listen to that and it’s structured quite unconventionally, but it really works. That’s distinctly Ricky. He was so original in everything he did.