Kate Pierson & Cindy Wilson – Voicing the Beehive

B52In 1976, and looking like they’d just walked out of a Formica showroom or an episode of Adam West era Batman, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson became founder members of a band based in their hometown of Athens, Georgia. Combining the looks of trashy science fiction and the sound of Stepford surf music, they called themselves the B-52s, a name inspired by the beehive hairstyle, which itself had been inspired by the domed front end of a B-52 bomber.

b52RL1Releasing their first version of “Rock Lobster” on the independent DB records in 1978, they travelled to NYC playing at both of punk’s favourite boltholes, Max’s and CBGBs, where, despite the wigs, the eyeliner, and harmonies – some not heard since the Mamas and the Papas – they somehow fitted right in.
Taking their cues from thrift stores, B-Movies and a certain retro view of the future, the band dressed in the same way they played music; clever, playful, danceable, and with a great attention to detail. In might not have looked, or even sounded very punk rock, but the energy and the skewed fashion sarcasm were all there.

“Those were the thrift store days. Kate and I were being playful on the photo shoot, so we switched wigs,” said Wilson. “She wore the blonde one and I wore the golden-brown helmet hair. In the beginning, we weren’t really polished, but to me, those were some of the best days. We were just starting out and having fun in thrift stores. We were very playful with fashion, kind of on the arty side.” “We just did what we wanted. There were never any rules,” said Wilson – from Vice.com

Their punk sensibility translated their chosen, decade old glamour into such an exaggerated version of traditional femininity, that it was practically drag. Their look was a zillion miles away from the leather clad boy/girls like Joan Jett, or the black massive of  proto-goths, but by updating the past into the present, Kate and Cindy somehow promised to take New Wave into a gleaming bright, technicolor future.

One day all bands will dress like this.

B52 RLcol

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