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The B-52s Announce Farewell Tour: ‘It’s Time for One Last Blowout’

"It has been a wild ride, that's for sure," said Cindy Wilson of the band's decades-long career.

By Hannah Dailey

Hannah Dailey

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B-52

Love shack or no love shack, The B-52s and their fans have just one more chance to get together in a little old place. After 45 years of performing and more than 20 million albums sold, the new-wave genre-defining group is gearing up to hit the road one last time on a farewell tour late this summer.

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Announced Tuesday (April 26), the tour will see the band’s three surviving members performing at least 15 shows across 11 venues in the United States between August and November, with more dates expected to be added in the next few weeks. Tickets for the tour go on pre-sale Wednesday (April 27) and fully on sale Friday (April 29); VIP meet-and-greet packages will be available on The B-52s’ website .

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“No one likes to throw a party more than we do, but after almost a half-century on the road, it’s time for one last blowout with our friends and family … our fans,” said 70-year-old frontman Fred Schneider in a statement.

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Though it’s The B-52s who are stepping away from the limelight, they still plan on sharing the tour with two other groups: KC and The Sunshine Band and The Tubes are set to make individual guest appearances on select dates. “It’s going to be one hell of a farewell party at these concerts,” Schneider added about the special guests.

It’s not listed on the schedule, but technically, the “Love Shack” bandmates are kicking off the tour with a performance on Hollywood Boulevard with a Wednesday (April 27) performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live . Originally made up of four members who historically formed the group after drinks in an Athens, Ga., Chinese restaurant, The B-52s became famous for their party-perfect hits such as “ Rock Lobster” before guitarist Ricky Wilson died from an AIDS-related illness in 1985.

“It has been a wild ride, that’s for sure,” said Cindy Wilson, B-52s co-founder and Wilson’s sister, in a statement. “We feel truly blessed to have had an amazing career encouraging folks to dance, sing along with us and feel they can be whomever they are with our music.”

Also on the docket for the B-52s’ retirement celebration is a documentary created by MRC Films and Fulwell 73, newly announced to be released in early 2023. Directed by Craig Johnson and executive produced by Fred Armisen, the film will examine the band’s journey and influence and will include personal, never-before-seen photos and films.

“Who knew what started as a way to have some fun and play music for our friends’ at house parties in Athens in 1977 would evolve into over 45 years of making music and touring the world,” stated co-founder Kate Pierson. “It’s been cosmic.”

See the dates for The B-52s’ farewell tour below:

THE B-52S 2022 TOUR DATES

August 22 nd                 Seattle, WA                             McCaw Hall*

September 29 th           Mashantucket, CT                  Foxwoods Casino**

September 30 th           Boston, MA                             MGM Music Hall**

October 1 st                  Washington, DC                     The Anthem**

October 7 th                 Chicago, IL                               Chicago Theatre**

October 13 th               New York, NY                          Beacon Theatre**

October 14 th                New York, NY                          Beacon Theatre**

October 15 th                Atlantic City, NJ                       Ovation Hall – Ocean Casino**

October 19 th               Las Vegas, NV                         The Venetian Theatre

October 21 st                Las Vegas, NV                         The Venetian Theatre

October 22 nd               Las Vegas, NV                         The Venetian Theatre

October 28 th               San Francisco, CA                   The Masonic Auditorium*

October 29 th               San Francisco, CA                   The Masonic Auditorium*

November 4 th              Los Angeles, CA                       YouTube Theater**

November 11 th            Atlanta, GA                             The Fox Theatre**

*with Special Guests The Tubes

**with Special Guests KC & The Sunshine Band

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The Superbly Original, Gloriously Weird B-52’s Say Farewell to the Road

Forty-three years after their first album, the band that brought the world “Rock Lobster” and “Love Shack” is starting a tour for the last time.

tour b 52

By Rob Tannenbaum

When the B-52’s played “Rock Lobster” on “Saturday Night Live” in January 1980, a few months after releasing their debut album, it was a lightning-strike moment for a generation of young misfits and oddballs.

The band’s uninhibited dancing, statuesque wigs and absurdist lyrics embraced the ecstatic, and its kinetically rhythmic guitar, precise drumming and bursts of Farfisa organ ensured a good time. Many of their campy, catchy songs celebrated people who seemed to be happily dislocated or disconnected from known dimensions (“Planet Claire,” “Private Idaho”). Several of the band’s members were queer and all five considered themselves “freaks.” Over a period of decades, as they grew from a cult band to one with Top 40 hits — most notably “Love Shack” in 1989 — they discovered how many others identified the same way.

“This eccentric, downright lovable quintet,” John Rockwell of The New York Times wrote in 1978, “provides about the most amusing, danceable experience in town.” The B-52’s sustained that vigor through seven studio albums and an EP, as well as the 1985 death of Ricky Wilson, one of rock’s most inventive guitarists. Their spirit can be heard in the work of a wide range of artists who followed, including Deee-Lite, Le Tigre, LCD Soundsystem and Dua Lipa.

Culture made by and for misfits and oddballs is now a billion-dollar industry, but it wasn’t when the B-52’s played their first gig in 1977, in their Athens, Ga., hometown. Maybe that’s why, 45 years after they first played for a small number of friends, they’ve announced a farewell tour , which starts Aug. 20 in Vancouver and wraps with a three-night stand in Atlanta in November. It took a while, but the weirdos have won.

In late July, the singers Fred Schneider, 70; Kate Pierson, 74; and Cindy Wilson, 65, gathered in a SoHo hotel suite for an 80-minute free-for-all punctuated by raucous laughter, as well as somber reflections. Schneider dispensed deadpan punch lines, Pierson spoke with hippie beneficence and Wilson talked movingly about the death of her brother, Ricky. Keith Strickland, 68, a drummer and guitarist who stopped touring with the band in 2012, added his thoughts in a phone interview later.

“I call this our Cher-well tour,” Pierson said, a reference to the singer Cher, who has staged one “farewell” tour after another. “Never say never,” she added and shrugged.

To her right, Schneider looked aghast and resolutely whispered a single word: “ Never. ”

These are edited excerpts from the conversations.

Why did the band decide to quit touring?

PIERSON We’re not quitting — we’re just moving on to the new phase of our lives, which is a documentary. We’ve worked hard on uncovering archival material, like Super 8 footage and photographs.

SCHNEIDER 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.

PIERSON All in all, the digital thing was good for us. Having videos on YouTube exposed us to a new audience of young people. On “Rock Lobster,” they go nuts, freak-flag flying, crazy dancing, tearing off their clothes.

SCHNEIDER I don’t know if I want them to tear off their clothes. Maybe just the younger ones.

PIERSON The old ones too! Let’s see it all.

If I told you in 1977, right before you played your first show, that in 45 years you’d be doing a farewell tour, would you have believed me?

WILSON I know. That’s insane.

STRICKLAND A band was just something to do, because in Athens, there was nothing else to do.

SCHNEIDER It was a hobby. We’d jammed once or twice. We didn’t even have the money to buy guitar strings.

PIERSON The miracle, to me, is that no one ever said, “Let’s start a band.” We just hung out with a group of friends who were —

SCHNEIDER Freaks!

PIERSON We’d go to a local disco, dress up and drive everyone else off the dance floors, flailing around and just being punks. People would clear away from us.

SCHNEIDER After our first show, friends started asking us to play at their house. Finally, we played at Max’s Kansas City in New York. I guess anyone can play on a Monday night in December. [Laughter] We got $17.

PIERSON Danny Beard, who put out our first 45, came to New York with us. He said, “Did you ask if they want us back?” So we ran upstairs and asked the booker, Deer France. She said, “Hell yeah.”

SCHNEIDER Because we were like nothing they’d ever seen.

PIERSON In the beginning, we were terrified. We looked fierce because we were so scared. We were each responsible for setting up onstage. I did the patch cords between the guitars and amps.

SCHNEIDER I plugged everything in. [Laughter]

PIERSON Fred would stand there and say, “Where’s the outlet?” until someone came and helped him.

Soon after you started, a bunch of other great bands came out of Athens: R.E.M., Pylon, Love Tractor. Was it the cheap rents that allowed lots of Bohemians to flourish, as they did in New York?

PIERSON Living in Athens was free and easy. We had jobs, sort of. I lived out in the country and had goats.

SCHNEIDER I was meal delivery coordinator for the Council on Aging. You could rent an apartment in Athens for $60 a month. I think Kate paid $15 a month.

PIERSON I was a paste-up artist on the local newspaper, and Cindy worked at the Whirly Q luncheonette counter. We started getting written up in all the magazines — New York Rocker, Interview — and we couldn’t afford to buy the magazines. We’d buy one copy and share it.

At what point did you start to think, “Maybe this band is more than just a hobby”?

PIERSON I knew something was happening when we played Hurrah in New York [in March 1979]. Ricky looked out the window and said, “Why is there such a long line outside?” They said, “That line is for y’all’s show.” What?

What was so different about you?

SCHNEIDER Everyone in New York was standing against the wall in their leather jackets, smoking cigarettes. We were a blast of color. No one would dance. We wanted to entertain people, and we kept it positive and fun.

PIERSON People thought Cindy and I might be drag queens.

SCHNEIDER When we played Max’s, someone yelled, “Is this a queen band?” I misheard, and I said, “Yes, we’re a clean band.” I guess nobody wore wigs in New York.

PIERSON They thought we were from England, because they couldn’t imagine a band coming from Athens. But this was happening all over the country, in little towns. “Let’s start a band,” even if — well, we could play our instruments. People have a misconception that we couldn’t. I played keyboard and bass, and played guitar on two songs.

SCHNEIDER I played keyboard bass on two songs. But I didn’t know which keys I was supposed to hit, so they put black tape on the keys. [Laughter]

When most people start out singing, they imitate someone. I don’t think you guys did.

WILSON I was trying to be Patti Smith.

SCHNEIDER I wish I could sound like Wilson Pickett. But mostly, I was reciting. I talk-sang.

PIERSON None of us were self-conscious.

WILSON Because we were doing it for fun. It was kind of half-joking.

PIERSON And Cindy and I just locked into our harmonies. We never said, “Oh, let’s try this interval.”

STRICKLAND Cindy’s voice can be beautiful, but it has a primal quality at the same time. I used to tell Ricky she reminds me of John Lennon.

Ricky told Keith he had AIDS, and asked him not to tell anyone else. Cindy, did you have any anger toward Keith for not telling you?

WILSON Not at all. Both Keith and Ricky were in this horrible hell, you know? Ricky and I were living together, and he was away a lot. I thought, oh, he’s sick of living with his sister.

STRICKLAND Hearing that breaks my heart.

WILSON A hideous thing happened a day or two before Ricky passed. I got a phone call from a nurse in his doctor’s office. She was smacking gum, and said, “Did you know you’re living with a man that has AIDS?” It was the first time someone had said those words to me.

STRICKLAND It was very difficult. I kept telling him, “You’ve got to tell Cindy.” He was a very private person, and I don’t think he knew how to deal with it. He’d gone into a coma in the hospital, and Cindy confronted me. I knew I couldn’t hide it anymore.

WILSON After he died, I had a nervous breakdown. Keith moved up to Woodstock and became a hermit.

STRICKLAND Ricky was my best friend — we were like brothers. I thought the band was finished, but writing music was a way to console myself. I wrote on the guitar, and I imagined Ricky sitting across from me. One of the first pieces I wrote became “Deadbeat Club,” and there are two guitar parts; I played the chords, and in my head, I imagined Ricky playing the other part.

PIERSON I lived in a house across the pond from Keith, and I’d canoe over to his house. 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.

The first album you did after Ricky died, “Cosmic Thing,” had your first hit singles, “Love Shack,” “Roam” and “Deadbeat Club.” Why was that the breakthrough album?

PIERSON When we wrote “Cosmic,” it turned out to be an autobiographical album.

WILSON But how could it not, you know? And we didn’t write the album to be a hit.

PIERSON Yeah, and the 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 in Athens.

SCHNEIDER 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.

You also used two of the best producers around, Don Was and Nile Rodgers. How did you pick them?

PIERSON 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 . [Laughter]

SCHNEIDER We go on man dates, but we don’t put up with one.

PIERSON 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.

Why has the band recorded only one studio album in the last 30 years?

SCHNEIDER We wanted to wait until people finally stopped buying albums and CDs. [Laughter]

STRICKLAND 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.

Do you think the B-52’s contributed a lot to what people call the queering of American culture?

PIERSON We queered it. We done queered it.

SCHNEIDER Unintentionally, to a degree. A lot of people said seeing us on “Saturday Night Live,” they felt comfortable with themselves, finally, even though they might live in some Podunk town where tolerance is, forget it. We hear those stories all the time. Back then, it was a stigma to even say you were gay, so I would say, “I’m a try-sexual. I’ll try anything.”

PIERSON We not only had a gay sensibility, we also embodied it. We look different, our songs are different, so people identified us from the beginning as different.

SCHNEIDER Everybody’s invited to our party. We always made that one of our premises. Bring your mom. Bring grandma.

Bonus Track: Keith Strickland on Ricky Wilson

“When Ricky played guitar, he sounded like two people,” Cindy Wilson said. Guitar World named Wilson, who often removed one and sometimes two strings from his guitar, one of its 25 All-Time Weirdest Guitarists . In a phone call, Keith Strickland, the B-52’s drummer who took over guitar duties after Wilson died, explained Ricky’s unique style. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

STRICKLAND Ricky and I met in high school at 16 and bonded over music. He was writing songs on guitar, very much influenced by Donovan. He was quite skilled in fingerpicking, which he learned by watching the show “Folk Guitar With Laura Weber” on PBS. The first time all five of the B-52’s jammed, I played guitar and Ricky played congas. But he was a better guitarist and I was a better drummer, so we switched.

On some songs, like “Rock Lobster” and “Private Idaho,” Ricky played alternating parts. He’d play the rhythm on his lower strings, and a counterpoint lead line on the higher strings. It sounds like two guitars. For me, that’s the genius of Ricky’s playing. And he used real heavy-gauge strings, because he kept breaking the thinner ones and we didn’t have guitar techs to change them. [Laughs]

He removed the G string from his guitar, which eliminates some of the midrange frequencies, and he played with only five strings. That happened by accident. When I played the guitar, if I broke a string, I wouldn’t change it — I’d just retune the other strings to an open tuning. I liked how it sounded.

One day, Ricky was annoyed because I hadn’t changed a broken string on the guitar. I said, “You should play it like that.” He scoffed it off. But the next time I went to his house, he was sitting on the edge of the bed, playing and laughing. He said, “I’ve just written the most stupid guitar riff you’ve ever heard.” And it was the “Rock Lobster” riff, played on five strings in an open tuning.

He and I were aware of open tunings because we were both big fans of Joni Mitchell, who used them a lot. People always say, “ Really ? You like Joni?” because our music is nothing like hers. Some of the chords she used were so beautiful, and they sound unresolved. Open tunings offer different color palettes or voicings that might be physically impossible to play in standard tuning.

After Ricky died, it seemed impossible to me to find someone else that could play in open tuning. So I said, “I’ll be the guitarist.” It was pragmatic, but I also knew that if we brought somebody else in, I’d hover over them and say, “You’re not doing that right.” [Laughs] I had to learn Ricky’s parts, but I never wanted to imitate him, because I knew I couldn’t. It was a good 10 years before I was comfortable playing guitar onstage. The whole Cosmic Thing Tour, I was hanging by a thread.

Around 1983, Ricky bought one of the first Macintosh home computers, and he loved it. When I’m writing music at my computer now, using Logic Pro software, I always say, “Gosh, Ricky would’ve loved this.” I often think about Ricky.

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B-52s Announce Farewell Tour Dates

By Jem Aswad

Executive Editor, Music

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B-52s

Some 45 years after their first performance, new wave icons the B-52s have announced a farewell tour that kicks off this summer.

The jaunt — billed as “Their final tour ever of planet Earth” — will hit 11 cities across the U.S., launching August 22 in Seattle and running through November 11, where it will finish at Atlanta’s legendary Fox Theatre, not far from their home base of Athens, Georgia. More shows will be added in the coming weeks; see current routing below.

The pre-sale begins tomorrow, April 27, at 12 p.m. ET. KC and the Sunshine Band and the Tubes are set to make special guest appearances on select dates.

To kick off the tour, the B-52s will perform on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” tomorrow (April 27) as well.

MRC Films and Fulwell 73 have announced that the film documentary on the band will be released in early 2023. Directed by Craig Johnson (Skeleton Twins; Wilson; Alex Strangelove) and executive-produced by Fred Armisen, the film will trace the history and influence of the band. The film has also been given generous support of all band members including many personal archival photos and films that have never been released.

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Says co-founder Kate Pierson, “Who knew what started as a way to have some fun and play music for our friends’ at house parties in Athens in 1977 would evolve into over 45 years of making music and touring the world. It’s been cosmic.”

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Cindy Wilson, who also co-founded the band with her beloved late brother, Ricky, adds, “It has been a wild ride, that’s for sure. We feel truly blessed to have had an amazing career encouraging folks to dance, sing along with us and feel they can be whomever they are with our music.”

Fred Schneider, co-founder and perhaps the most unique front man in rock, sums up the band’s decision to retire from the road, “No one likes to throw a party more than we do, but after almost a half-century on the road, it’s time for one last blow-out with our friends and family…our fans. And with KC & The Sunshine Band and The Tubes on board, it’s going to be one hell of a farewell party at these concerts.”

THE B-52S 2022 TOUR DATES

August 22 nd                 Seattle, WA                            McCaw Hall*

September 29 th           Mashantucket, CT                  Foxwoods Casino**

September 30 th           Boston, MA                            MGM Music Hall**

October 1 st                  Washington, DC                     The Anthem**

October 7 th                 Chicago, IL                              Chicago Theatre**

October 13 th               New York, NY                         Beacon Theatre**

October 14 th                New York, NY                         Beacon Theatre**

October 15 th                Atlantic City, NJ                      Ovation Hall – Ocean Casino**

October 19 th               Las Vegas, NV                         The Venetian Theatre

October 21 st                Las Vegas, NV                         The Venetian Theatre

October 22 nd               Las Vegas, NV                         The Venetian Theatre

October 28 th               San Francisco, CA                   The Masonic Auditorium*

October 29 th               San Francisco, CA                   The Masonic Auditorium*

November 4 th              Los Angeles, CA                      YouTube Theater**

November 11 th            Atlanta, GA                            The Fox Theatre**

*with Special Guests The Tubes

**with Special Guests KC & The Sunshine Band

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‘You Haven’t Heard the Last of the B-52s’: America’s Favorite Party Band Tries to Say Goodbye

  • By Kory Grow

The first time the B-52s performed onstage together after Covid lockdowns — playing “Love Shack” on Jimmy Kimmel Live! — might have been nerve-racking for any other band. They had to shave a minute out of the song to accommodate the tight TV spot. Then they had to wait in a trailer until they were called onstage —”We didn’t even get to meet him,” the perennially redheaded Kate Pierson says of Kimmel — and then it was just a matter of tapping immediately into their inborn party spirit. The performance was typically spot-on, with Pierson and Cindy Wilson harmonizing perfectly and Fred Schneider shouting a stentorian “Love Shack, baby!” while banging on a cowbell. In true B-52s fashion, it naturally became a celebration.

“It actually wasn’t stressful,” Pierson tells Rolling Stone over the phone a few weeks later. “We’ve done it before, and it was just really fun to play together again. Everyone was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ We had a couple of days of rehearsal just to get back in shape and everyone was so overjoyed to see each other again and be together. It was amazing.”

Watching the group’s instantaneous connection onstage, it’s hard to imagine that nearly 50 years after the three singers formed the band in Athens, Georgia (with multi-instrumentalist Keith Strickland and the late Ricky Wilson on guitar), they’ll embark on a farewell tour this year. The trek kicks off in August with some dates variously featuring the Tubes and KC and the Sunshine Band, before wrapping in November at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre, about 80 minutes from Athens. “It would be really nice to end in Athens, so we might add a show,” Pierson says. “It might be a surprise show.”

But even after the group locks up the Love Shack, they have plenty of other good stuff to occupy them. They’ve already begun trawling their archives for an upcoming documentary — produced by Fred Armisen and directed by Craig Johnson ( The Skeleton Twins , Alex Strangelove ) — and are even considering recording some new songs. Pierson adds that they may even play a few one-off gigs after the farewell. Here, she explains why it’s so hard to say goodbye.

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Why the farewell tour? Well, I’m calling it the “Share-well Tour” because I guess I’m in denial. I just can’t believe that it’s going to be the last gasp. We still have so much energy. Keith Strickland, who’s no longer touring with us — but who’s still an important member of the band — has been writing a lot of music so we might even write a couple of songs, but not an album. And we just did a song with Miranda Lambert. She asked the B-52s to sing on [ “Music City Queen” ]. So we may do some things like that, but I doubt we’re really going to do a big tour again; we might do private shows and festivals and stuff like that. So I think we’ll still keep the wheels greased.

But also there’s a time when you look back on your life and think, “How much time did I spend on the road?” And some people love it. I’m one of the ones in the band that really loves being on the road, but I also love being home. I think everyone enjoyed two years of not playing. To actually be home and have time to catch up on things was just a gift and I think everyone appreciated that.

How did you all keep in touch during the Covid lockdown? We have a band thread that includes the whole band — the touring band, our manager, and tour managers as well — and Fred’s always sending jokes and we’re always sending stuff back and forth, music clips and stuff. So we’re all in touch.

How did the conversation go when you all agreed, “We’re going to do this farewell tour – the party’s over”? I think we were just waiting for the end of the pandemic; it’s not ended, but it seems like it was time to crawl out of the cocoons. We’ve been talking about this for a long time: “How long are we going to go? Can we just go forever?” There’s so many parts to being in a band. There’s recording, writing, and promoting, and then there’s touring. So I think that chapter may be closing but opening up into some other things: maybe some new songs, the documentary, a book, a lot of things that we have tried to get going before, but I guess we were always on the road, and it’s hard to do anything else when you’re on the road.

I also have a solo record that I hope to come out in October. I think I’m calling it Radios and Rainbows . I didn’t want to release it during the pandemic because it seemed like there wasn’t much momentum, but we’re kind of onward and upward.

Why is now the best time for a farewell tour? It came together now because our management was really aiming towards trying to get it all at one time, the momentum of the documentary, the tour and when [Covid] was safe. We always wanted to play with KC and the Sunshine Band. Fred and I always said, “We gotta tour with them.” So I think it’s just going to be a great party.

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Have you decided what the band’s last song should be? Well, the problem is deciding on a set list because we are doing several nights in a row in some cities. Changing the set list is like Congress passing a bill; everybody wants their songs or their favorite songs to perform. We talked about maybe doing just the first two albums, but then we have to do certain songs. We have to do “Roam,” “Love Shack,” and “Rock Lobster.” The audience is going to be disappointed if we didn’t do that. So the question is, do we do the deep cuts? I don’t know.

But I believe the last song is going to have to be “Rock Lobster.” It’s been a tradition and people are going to be very disappointed that we don’t do that. Plus, we have a “Lobby, the Lobster” with us. Our manager came up with this lobster suit that’s very uncomfortable and skinny legs stick out the bottom. You have to be really skinny to fit into it, and it’s hot, and you can’t see, but it has antennas, and it really is fun [when it] comes out to dance. It’s a trip to watch the audience just bust loose and just do their crazy dance.

Are there deep cuts you’re dying to play? Oh, I’d like to do “Cake,” “Devil in My Car,” “Big Bird,” “Junebug,” “Dry County,” “53 Miles West of Venus.” It would be fun for fans if we did some songs that we never did because a lot of fans are coming to two shows. So we’ve got to change it up.

I’m glad you mentioned “Devil in My Car.” The recording of that on your live album from 1979 is so much fun with Fred screaming, “Heeellp!” That’s one of the early songs. I think we did it on our very first performance. When we wrote that song we were all in a car, in Athens, and this preacher came on the radio and he was saying, “There’s a devil in my car, the devil’s everywhere, he’s in my carburetor.”  So we just screamed and thought, “Well, we have to do that.” We didn’t usually say, “Well, this is a song we have to do.”

We have a lot of disaster songs that I still feel like when Cindy and I are singing and Fred is singing and we’re doing “Lava” or “Devil in My Car,” and we really get into it — we’re really, like, scared, yelling these things like, “Overflow! Hell burning up!” — I feel like we’re really still deep into it and believe it.

People ask, “Do you get tired of it?” But the beat drives you on, like “Rock Lobster,” you just can’t not dance, even if you’ve heard it a million times. That makes it so it’s never boring. Any of the songs, “Love Shack,” all our songs are pretty fast and furious, but you just have to recreate it each time. And with “Rock Lobster,” we can make different riffs on the fish sounds, so we’re always doing different sounds.

It sounds like you’re all still close friends even after all these years. That’s the miracle. It’s very much a family dynamic. We still make each other laugh, and that’s the key to how we stay together.

You mentioned Keith retired from touring, but would he consider joining you for any of the gigs? I have talked to him about it and he’s thinking about it, but I don’t know. Wouldn’t that be something if he joined in on the end of “Rock Lobster” or something? If he came onstage, people would go crazy.

In the background of prepping for this tour, you’ve also been working on a documentary about the band. How is that coming together? We had archivists that came to my studio, and we unearthed all this Super 8 footage that I had in a bin since 1978 or something. They had footage of us performing, oh, my God, it was really fun watching all the crazy dances we did. We were super energetic. And we even found in Fred’s cache of cassette tapes, the first song – the first jam — we ever did together. It was, like, spontaneous combustion, the band exploded into what it is, because we started jamming at a friend’s house and we wrote the song. It was really a partial song called “Killer Bees,” and there was only one tape. I can’t even believe we taped it. It’s really a trip to hear it.

So you hadn’t listened to this tape in more than 40 years? What struck you about it? I kind of remembered it, but what struck me about it was the spontaneity and fun that we had doing that. It was just this surprise jam after we had a “flaming volcano” drink at Hunan’s Chinese restaurant. We didn’t have money for food, so we got a flaming volcano drink and it had six straws. There were six of us there, the sixth person being Owen Scott, whose house we went to afterwards. And he went upstairs to write a paper and we started jamming in his music room. We wrote by this sort of collective jamming process … it was like automatic writing. I think a lot of musicians will say, “I don’t know where that song came from.” But I know Fred had the idea for “Killer Bees” because we’re all always reading science facts and we love science facts. So he read that the killer bees are coming. That was kind of the basis for that jam.

Was there anything else that you found in the archives that blew your mind? The archivists were really excited about the Super 8 footage because it’s mostly taken from the side of the stage, sometimes from the front. But being able to see the audience and the energy we had, and the dances are hilarious. We were nervous in the beginning, so we were very deadpan. And Fred had some of his key lines like, “Are there any questions?” Or, if Ricky broke a guitar string, we would do this sort of call-and-response thing, “Is that you, Modine?” But we were terrified when we got on stage at first and we would turn our backs to the audience. Because we were so scared, the first time we went on Saturday Night Live , we looked very robotic and kind of punk and scary, but it was really because we were scared ourselves. But I found it just amazing to uncover all the Super 8 stuff and amazing photographs too.

And we found some of the old things we used to do when we lived in the same house in New York, and we used to just play around and make funny little films, like fake TV shows and Ricky Wilson was the host and it was called The Hell Tyler Show . We did Hell Tyler on the Moon , and we’d all perform some kind of lip syncing and doing crazy stuff. So we have some of that. So maybe that will be in the documentary, too.

So you haven’t started doing interviews for the doc yet? Nope. We’re just virgins.

I was going to ask, “What does the B-52s retirement plan look like,” but it sounds like there isn’t one. Yeah, we’re not going to do another major tour, but we have a lot in the works. You haven’t heard the last of the B-52s.

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The B-52’s Announce Farewell Tour

By Allison Hussey

The B52s

The B-52’s have announced a farewell tour, which begins in Seattle on August 22. It wraps up in mid-November in Atlanta, with the Tubes and KC & The Sunshine Band taking support slots along the way. See the full schedule below.

In the fall of 2019, band member Fred Schneider told Billboard that the B-52’s wouldn’t embark on any more tours, but that they’d still make occasional festival appearances. The band’s most recent album is 2008’s Funplex , which arrived 16 years after its predecessor, 1992’s Good Stuff .

Read the Sunday Review of the B-52s’ 1979 self-titled debut and revisit Pitchfork’s feature “ The B-52s’ Kate Pierson on the Music That Made Her .”

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The B-52’s: Farewell Tour

The B-52’s:

08-22 Seattle, WA - McCaw Hall * 09-29 Mashantucket, CT - Foxwoods Casino $ 09-30 Boston, MA - MGM Music Hall $ 10-01 Washington, D.C. - The Anthem $ 10-07 Chicago, IL - Chicago Theatre $ 10-13 New York, NY - Beacon Theatre $ 10-14 New York, NY - Beacon Theatre $ 10-15 Atlantic City, NJ - Ovation Hall - Ocean Casino $ 10-19 Las Vegas, NV - The Venetian Theatre 10-21 Las Vegas, NV - The Venetian Theatre 10-22 Las Vegas, NV - The Venetian Theatre 10-28 San Francisco, CA - The Masonic Auditorium * 10-29 San Francisco, CA - The Masonic Auditorium * 11-04 Los Angeles, CA - YouTube Theater $ 11-11 Atlanta, GA - The Fox Theatre $

* with The Tubes $ with KC & The Sunshine Band

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The B-52's is currently touring across 1 country and has 5 upcoming concerts.

Their next tour date is at Ovation Hall at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, after that they'll be at Mosswood Park in Oakland.

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I missed the opening act Berlin, saw OMD, they were ok, they played most of the pop songs.They played well but that will be the last time for me. Too much sing along,clapping along to every song really felt cheesy.

I saw the b52s when I was young and they were too. they blew me away the first time I saw them at an outdoor show.

I saw an older version that managed to play well but most of the show were songs that the ladies sang and Fred left the stage for a few songs and came back and sang again. He looked very old and I thought he would sing more of the early hits everybody loves. He did not look well and he kept a low profile.

I enjoyed the show but missed Fred on the stage.

Glad I went but again I knew this is the last b52 show for me.

They are a great band and brought a smile to my face every time I heard them.

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When they were playing their classic hits the crowd was involved and dancing, but they played a lot of stuff that most of the crowd didn't know, and the crowd would sit down and get on their phones. I was more impressed by the other groups on the tour with them. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark was fantastic, and Berlin was as well. OMD and Berlin were more engaged with the crowd, and the lead singer of Berlin even came out into the crowd for one song. The B-52s just never quite seemed to sync with the crowd. Overall I would rate this as a great concert experience, but was slightly disappointed with the B-52's. They did, however, eventually get around to most of the classic hits that everyone wanted to hear.

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Wednesday, 8/14 -- Berlin, OMD, & B-52s!! The 1st two bands were very impressive... the B-52s, unfortunately, kept losing steam throughout their set and their performance was pretty underwhelming. The 1st song, Private Idaho, was probably the best. People got bored and restless -- we were all kind of disappointed, I've been a huge fan for years. If you have a choice of two different groups to see, pick the other one, lol.

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Encore: New wave icons The B-52s are on the road for their last tour

Everyone knows that "love rules at the love shack." From October, NPR's Scott Simon speaks to The B-52s, the new wave icons out of Athens, Ga., about being on the road for their farewell tour.

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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The B-52s' Cindy Wilson Says Their Farewell Tour Won't Be the End of the Band: 'Not 100% Gone' (Exclusive)

The legendary party band's co-singer is also releasing 'Realms,' her new solo album

Gina Wetzler/Redferns

Considered the “ world's greatest party band ,” the B-52s have been known for their buoyant party music in a long career that included such beloved hits as “Rock Lobster,” “Private Idaho,” “Love Shack” and “Roam.” However, their days as a live act are gradually coming to an end as the group from Athens, Georgia — whose touring lineup consists of founding singers Cindy Wilson, Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider —has been on the road in the last year for their farewell tour .

“We love our fans, and I think people were really happy at our shows,” Wilson, 66, says. “But there was an element of sadness you could feel. Every time we do a show, we try to be in the moment and have a good time until eventually the B's will be over.”

The B-52s are kicking off their residency in Las Vegas on Friday, which is the same day Wilson is releasing her second solo album, Realms — a collection of both dreamy and uptempo electronic pop music that has a spiritual vibe. “The record flows really well,” she says. “You could put it on and it seems like a whole work in itself, not just 10 songs. It is very interior but also kind of screaming out to the world.”

Wilson cites her singing on Realms as a difference from her 2017 solo record Change . “I got to really concentrate on my vocal technique. On Change , [I] was singing a lot lighter. And with Realms , we made sure that I was injecting my stronger Cindy voice in there too. So it had a nice energy, Realms does.”

There are moments on Realms that hearken back to Wilson’s work with the B-52s such as the track “Delirious.” And yet at the same time, with songs like “Midnight” and “Overboard,” Realms is also eclectic-sounding and more aligned with today’s alternative rock. “I love the dissonance [in] some of the notes,” she says of “Wait,” a love song. “It's kind of jazzy, too. I love how it makes you feel emotionally.”

The ethereal ballad “Not Goodbye,” whose lyrics read in part, ‘Fold your face into a smile/And hold it back inside,’ concludes Realms on a spiritual and hopeful note. It was also the last song written for the record, says Wilson. “I didn't know how I was going to turn out. I didn't have much hope for the song really. It was so difficult to sing because it was so slow. But it really turned out lovely. And I love what it says.”

Wilson attributes Realms ’ sound to Suny Lyons, who produced the album in a way that paid homage to the music of the late 1970s, such as disco and New Wave, that the B-52s emerged from. She also credits the sound to the young musicians who previously worked on Change . "It's like playing with kids in your neighborhood," she says. "You're playing with these new kids and new things come out of you that way.”

With her new album, Wilson has come a long way from when the B-52s — whose original lineup consisted of herself, her guitarist brother Ricky Wilson, Pierson, Schneider, and drummer Keith Strickland — formed in 1976 from an impromptu jam after having drinks at a local Chinese restaurant.

“Ricky and I moved in together out of my parents' house,” Wilson recalls. “So I started hanging out with Ricky and Keith more, and then we met Fred and Kate and went out to eat with them. And that's how the famous night happened where we jammed and came up with these amazing songs.”

The B-52s built up a local following in Athens that also grew when they started performing in New York City during the punk and New Wave eras. The band’s moniker and Wilson and Pierson’s beehive hairdos from the early years are interconnected. “We were trying to pick out a name for the band,” recalls Wilson. “It went on for days. Keith Strickland came up with ‘the B-52s.’ And he explained he had a dream that there was this woman with a big bouffant on stage and playing the keyboard, and their name was B-52s. He says it was slang for a bouffant, but it was actually from a dream, too.”

The band's 1979 self-titled debut record contained their beloved signature song, the eccentric “ Rock Lobster .” Says Wilson: “Ricky came up with this guitar lick that was just amazing. We were jamming with the music. And Fred had this poem about a rock lobster, and so we all just jammed on these elements. Kate and I were doing the fish sounds and harmonies and melodies. It’s one of my favorites.”

The B-52s released more albums, including Wild Planet and Bouncing Off the Satellites , and toured until tragedy struck: Ricky Wilson, who played a major role in their distinct sound, died of AIDS in 1985.

“My kids never got to meet Ricky, their uncle,” says Wilson, a mother of two children. “But they're so proud of him. And his legend still goes on. He was such a unique guitar player and [had] an incredible focus and drive. So that was wonderful. And I will always have Ricky in my heart. After Ricky died, I was so sad. I couldn't even look at a photo of Rick because I would just die inside. But I've come back around and it just feels great that Ricky's influence is still in the fans' minds and hearts.”

The surviving members regrouped and released 1989’s Cosmic Thing , their comeback and biggest-selling album to date. “It was more of a healing record and trying to go back to the old days where we were happy because it was during AIDS and we lost Ricky,” says Wilson. “And Cosmic was nostalgic, looking back at happier days when we were first started in Athens and the joyfulness of that. It was embraced by all of our fans and made new fans all over the world.”

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Although they will be done with touring (they’re returning to Las Vegas in April of next year for more shows), the B-52s are not calling it quits as a band: a new documentary about them is on the way. “There's going to be other little things happening,” she says. “So we're not 100 percent gone. And you know it's more of an ending season. It's not going to be a hard date, but it's coming. There’ll still be things that come up. You'll hear about us.”

She explains the B-52s’ longevity as being in the right place at the right time. "We keep our playfulness. It's not like we're just dragging and doing shows. A lot of the music is alive in us. And so that makes it where we can keep doing it.”

Meanwhile, Wilson is keen on doing more of her own music as well as collaborating with her musician son Nolan Bennett. "It wasn’t really for commercial [reasons]," she says about her going solo. "It was more just doing it for myself, and to prove to myself what I could do. It's so healthy to be creative and work on music and work with other people in music. I just find it to be a way to get happy is working on music.”

For more from Cindy Wilson, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere now.

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The B-52s

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Wednesday, November 13, 2024 Friday, November 15, 2024 Saturday, November 16, 2024

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The B-52s Las Vegas Residency

Concert, event, performance, music.

It is well known that The B-52s are The World’s Greatest Party Band. 45 years and over 20 million albums into their career, there can be no doubt as to why they remain one of rock music’s most beloved and enduring bands. Any mystery concerning the band’s longevity and ongoing appeal is immediately solved when exposed to a B-52s concert experience. From groundbreaking songs like “Rock Lobster,” “Dance This Mess Around,” “Private Idaho,” “Roam” and “Deadbeat Club” to chart-topping hits like “Love Shack,” to their thrilling reemergence on the pop scene with their 2008 CD  Funplex , which bowed at #11 on the Top 200 . The B-52s’ unforgettable dance-rock tunes start a party every time their music begins.

Formed on an October night in 1976 following drinks at an Athens, GA, Chinese restaurant, the band played their first gig at a friend’s house on Valentine’s Day 1977. Naming themselves after Southern slang for exaggerated 'bouffant’ hairdos, the newly-christened B-52s (Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland, Cindy Wilson and Ricky Wilson) began weekend road trips to New York City for gigs at CBGB's and a handful of other venues. Before long, their thrift store aesthetic and genre-defying songs were the talk of the post-punk underground.

A record deal soon followed and their self-titled debut disc, produced by Chris Blackwell, sold more than 500,000 copies on the strength of their first singles, the garage rock party classic “Rock Lobster,” and “52 Girls.” The album placed at #152 on Rolling Stone ’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” and #99 on VH1 ’s “Greatest Albums of All Time.” The B-52s began to attract fans far beyond the punk clubs of the Lower East Side — galvanizing the pop world with their 'stream-of-consciousness' approach to songwriting and outrageous performance. They had clearly tapped into a growing audience for new music that was much larger than anyone could have anticipated. 

The B-52s tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at The Venetian Resort Box office or by calling 702.414.9000 or 866.641.7469.

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RAF Fairford Draws Spectators With Breathtaking B-52 Bomber Display

B-52 RAF Fairford

Spectators thrill to the sight of B-52 bombers launching and recovering at RAF Fairford.

On Monday, May 20, 2024, two U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, touched down at RAF Fairford in the U.K. for a routine bomber task force deployment.

Later in the week, two more B-52 bombers arrived, one on Wednesday and another on Thursday, bringing the total number of Stratofortress bombers assigned to the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, under Bomber Task Force Europe 24-3, to four.

As usual, U.S. Air Force personnel and aircraft of the BTF are working with NATO Allies and other international partners to synchronize capabilities and reinforce security commitments within the U.S. European Command’s area of responsibility. The B-52s have already conducted missions in the Baltics, Eastern Europe, and North Africa, similar to previous deployments.

Some of these missions could be tracked online using flight tracking websites.

A pair of B-52’s are up from RAF Fairford and tracking well this morning. Tuesday’s flight was a wave the flag day around Kaliningrad. pic.twitter.com/LbgYUKER4q — MeNMyRC (@MeNMyRC1) May 31, 2024
USAF B-52 Stratofortress… pic.twitter.com/twFXaxuQ7V — Jamming (@balticjam) May 28, 2024

One of the missions brought the bombers over North Africa for ex. African Lion 2024, during which the B-52s integrated with the RMAF (Royal Moroccan Air Force) aircraft.

Moroccan Royal Air Force fighter jets escort a US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress during Exercise African Lion 2024 over Morocco on May 31. Images provided by Royal Moroccan Armed Forces https://t.co/mVF5fVN2ac https://t.co/KZTISVnlf3 pic.twitter.com/EEENpBRtX8 — Ryan Chan 陳家翹 (@ryankakiuchan) June 3, 2024

Spectators regularly gather outside RAF Fairford to watch the B-52 operations as they take off and land. The following outstanding footage shows what aviation enthusiasts can see spotting at the base located in Gloucestershire, half an hour north of Swindon, home of the world famous RIAT airshow .

We have already reported about the unusual event happened on May 20, when the first B-52H, airframe 61-0018, flying as GROAT 11 was on final for landing at RAF Fairford: the Stratofortress was configured for landing after a U-2 had just landed and was still on the runway.

The B-52 performed a go-around and landed a few minutes later, a scene caught on camera in the video that we posted here .

These BTF deployments regularly demonstrate the U.S. commitment to NATO Allies and partners through deterrence missions, often integrating with allied assets.

BTF 24-3 is also part of the Large Scale Global Exercise 2024, a comprehensive initiative that links military operations across various combatant commands. LSGE24 enables U.S. Joint Forces to train with Allies and partners, fostering shared understanding, trust, and interoperability in addressing global security challenges.

The Air Force might the B-52 until 2060

The BUFF (Big Ugly Fat Fellow) is about to undergo the largest modification program in its history. The U.S. Air Force plans to finalize integration activities and deliver the first lot of modified Stratofortress bomber, designated B-52J, in the 2026-2027 timeframe, with initial operational capability expected in 2030. Thanks to new RR F130 engines, selected in 2021 to replace the bomber’s Pratt & Whitney TF33-PW-103s used on the Stratofortress fleet since the 1960s, the Air Force will be able to fly the iconic bomber through at least 2050, possibly 2060, increasing fuel efficiency and range, reducing emissions in unburned hydrocarbons, and significantly reducing maintenance costs.

Another interesting upgrade to the B-52 is the new radar, a modified valiant of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet’s APG-79 AESA radar. This will give the B-52s greatly improved radar range and situational awareness, while taking less space then the older mechanically scanned radar, thus leaving room for electronic warfare functions .

Thanks to the APG-79, the B-52s will feature greatly improved radar range and situational awareness along with the capability to slave the targeting pod to the radar and vice versa, for target acquisition and identification.

One major external difference is the presence of two large humps over the fuselage, near the wing roots. A Boeing spokesperson said the humps are not new and not part of their upgrade program, however, when pressed, hinted that they could host classified equipment. Based on shape and position, it is being reported that they could be associated with wideband satellite communications systems .

Externally, the B-52 will also have a cleaner look, as the blisters that currently house the AN/ASQ-151 Electro-Optical Viewing System (EVS) will be removed: the EVS was used to help crews fly safely at very low altitudes, but it was largely supplanted by  the Litening and Sniper targeting pods  installed on pylons under the bomber’s left wing.

Inside the cockpit,  the BUFF is also getting an upgrade , with new MFDs (multifunction digital displays), hybrid mechanical-to-digital throttle system, new data concentrators units new engine fault maintenance recorder, new engine air data system and all the related updates in panels, consoles and wirings. It won’t be a full glass cockpit though, as some of the analogue instruments are going to remain. What’s also going to disappear is one of the crew member stations, as the total crew is reduced to four members, instead of the current five.

The mostly analog cockpit of the B-52H doesn’t make me feel too old after all. Love it. pic.twitter.com/06Bkg2c8QU — David Cenciotti (@cencio4) May 28, 2024

Initially, the B-52J was supposed to be able to use the hypersonic  AGM-183 Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) , the U.S. Air Force is planning to abandon the ARRW hypersonic weapon program after the last two test flights of the prototyping phase and focus instead on the Hypersonic Attack Cruise Missile (HACM).

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  • Boeing B-52 Stratofortress
  • RAF Fairford

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Riding the Tour de France — in Italy

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Duncan Craig

Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.

The old boy limps determinedly towards us, intent etched across his weathered face. “Here we go,” we think, struggling to finish our mouthfuls of cheese and bresaola rolls and sticky jam crostata. Had we parked our support vehicle in a restricted spot? Perhaps strayed on to the wrong cycle path on our approach?

As he arrives, his face softens. His bald head is creosoted by the sun, and he bears the distinctive tan lines around elbows and neck of the career cyclist. Ninety-three years young, he wants to talk bikes — surveying our super-light, carbon-fibre numbers like he might an old friend who’s had a facelift. His daughter keeps pestering him to sell his own aluminium racer, he tells us, but he’s resisting. “I like to go out to the garage in the evening and just stare at it,” he explains. “It makes me happy.”

Our nostalgic Florentine friend is in for quite some treat later this month. For not only is cycling’s biggest race starting in his nation for the first time in its 121-year history, it’s practically passing his front door. Le Grand Départ, the nomadic, gospel-spreading Tour de France curtain-raiser, will feature three Italian stages, the tastiest of which is the opener, Florence to Rimini: 206km from the cradle of the Renaissance to the Romagna Riviera via the unforgiving slopes of the Apennines. And we’ve come to ride it.

A man in a red top cycles along a road that looks down over a green valley

A half-hour earlier we’d set off from beneath the crenellated walls of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence’s tourist-thronged Piazza della Signoria, as the Tour riders will do on June 29, and threaded our way across the Ponte Vecchio — dodging the selfie-snapping pedestrians who’ll be safely stowed away come race day. Then, through the haze of a late-spring Tuscan afternoon, we’d glided along the south bank of the Arno to the suburb of Bagno a Ripoli, our nominated fuelling spot and the place where, for the professionals, the opening procession will give way to the proper racing.

I’m riding with Jaron, an old friend with a strong cycling pedigree and an even stronger cycling wardrobe. He looks every inch the Tour pro; I look like a rugby player with a driving ban. But our appreciation for this dangerously compulsive pastime runs equally deep, as it does for the third member of our makeshift team: Alessandro Piazzi. The 62-year-old is on support duty, driving a high-spec Elnagh camper van packed to its retractable roof with tempting victuals. A veteran employee of bike tour specialist Via Panoramica, Alessandro has the quiet self-assurance of someone who could incinerate you on a climb and be two cappuccinos deep by the time you reach the summit café.

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tour b 52

The opening 30km or so flies by, the Tuscan capital reduced to a distant smudge and the dense green Apennines massing around us like waves in a gathering storm. This, as we’re well aware, is just the loosener. As we head off to bed in the rustic retreat of Poggio Marino, set in the serene foothills above the town of Dicomano, Alessandro has some calmly ominous words. “I always say, it’s not a ride without a climb,” he tells us. “In the morning, you climb.”

And so it proves. Ten minutes in, we’re sweating heavily and I’m regretting that second breakfast brioche. Up and up we go, our pace matching that of life in the hamlets through which we intermittently pass. An ironmonger taps away lethargically in his roadside workshop. A farmer on a noisily underpowered tractor does battle with a steeply undulating field. Florence feels a long way off.

A man cycles past some buildings with yellow balconies. Behind them emerges a rocky hillside

As I climb I think about the giants of Italian cycling in whose tyre tracks we’re following: Ottavio Bottecchia, who returned from a Great War spent pedalling his military-issue foldable Bianchi bike deep behind enemy lines with a machine gun strapped to his back, to become the first Italian winner of the Tour de France. Gino Bartali, to which this opening stage is dedicated: a ferocious climber who won two Tours, bookending the second world war, and whose clandestine work for the Italian Resistance under the pretext of training rides was said to have saved the lives of as many as 800 Jews.

In their eras, Grand Tours such as the Tour de France were even more sadistic affairs, with daily stages of up to 480km. What they would have given for an Alessandro waiting, as we find him, at the top of the 930-metre Col de Valico Tre Faggi, with awning extended and little fold-out table laid with cubes of crumbly Parmigiano Reggiano (“good protein”), fruit juices, dates, figs and custard treccia (braided bread).

A cyclist sits at a table outside a cafe, his bike leaning against the wall

Tuscany may be the more celebrated region, but it’s Emilia-Romagna, into which we pass shortly afterwards, that is to provide the scenic high points of the trip. The Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi, a dense swath of beech, silver fir and ash trees from which the timber for the Duomo in Florence was drawn. The canyon-edge town of Premilcuore, as thickly enveloped by nature as a Mayan citadel. The rolling, poppy-strewn hills around San Leo, a fortified medieval hamlet that glows from its huge sandstone-spur perch like an ancient Acropolis.

Fuelled by frequent café stops for thick, tarry ristretti (an espresso without all that surplus liquid), we make good progress and by midday on the third day just one climb remains: eight kilometres of switchbacks to the very top of the microstate of San Marino.

On a clear day, you can see the Istrian peninsula across the Adriatic from the ramparts of the 11th-century castle that crowns its lofty capital. The weather is in indecisive mood as we reach the top: the peaks we’ve conquered to the west bathed in sunshine; to the east, an impenetrable blanket of cloud which cowers at the threshold of the summit as if constrained by a giant pane of glass. I look down into the soupy morass, feeling a wave of vertigo. Somewhere, 700 metres below, lie the plains of Romagna and — 25km or so away — our destination, Rimini.

A man stands smiling, holding his bike on a beach, the sea behind him

Truth be told I’ve been braced for an anticlimactic finish. Dipping our toes in the Adriatic, toasting our accomplishment and then departing. Because, as everyone knows, Rimini has had its day: an overrun beach resort, a victim of its own excess. Las Vegas on sea.

It takes scant minutes on arrival to recognise my misjudgment. We swing on to Lungomare Giuseppe di Vittorio, the revitalised beachfront stretch where the Tour riders will summon whatever reserves they have left to sprint for the first yellow jersey of the race, and pedal on towards the glistening new marina.

Over the subsequent 24 hours we’ll stroll broad, elegant avenues, shaded by poplars and lime trees, and hang out on Rimini’s gargantuan beach — forested by parasols and segmented into private beach clubs, sure, but also wondrously clean and efficient. We’ll treat ourselves to an indulgent breakfast at the Grand Hotel — beloved of the city’s most famous son, auteur Federico Fellini — and spend an evening amid the buzzing enoteche and osterie of Borgo San Giuliano. This mural-adorned former fishing neighbourhood is connected to the city’s old town by the Tiberius Bridge — 13 centuries more venerable than Florence’s Ponte Vecchio.

The facade of a grand white hotel

But first we must bid farewell to Alessandro, and — to our quads’ almost audible relief — hand back our bikes. He drops us and our bags at our digs, a stylish houseboat hotel on a secluded arm of the marina. Only once we’ve peeled off our Lycra and showered do we realise how far out of town we actually are. It’s a good half-kilometre walk just to get back to the marina entrance, another couple to the centre.

I call the office/reception. “What’s the best way for guests to get around?” I ask.

“Ah, yes,” says the lady, excitedly. “Now, if you look outside your houseboat . . . over to the left. Can you see them?”

Yes. Yes, I can. Bloody bikes.

Duncan Craig was a guest of Emilia-Romagna Region tourist board ( emiliaromagnaturismo.it/en ). Via Panoramica offers a three-night Florence-to-Rimini cycling experience, with premium bike hire, support vehicle, luggage transfer, B&B accommodation en route and two dinners, from £1,110pp (based on a group of at least four; viapanoramica.it ).

Poggio Marino ( casavacanzepoggiomarino.com ), near Dicomano, has two-bedroom apartments from £81 a night. House Boat Rimini Resort ( marinadirimini.com ) has four-berth self-catering houseboats from €150 for two adults, or €250 for four, per night.

Two-hour walking tours of Rimini cost from £136 ( discoverrimini.com ). For more on the city, see riminiturismo.it/en .

Vueling flies direct to Florence from London Gatwick from £60 ( vueling.com ). Ryanair operates a seasonal service from Rimini to London Stansted from £13 ( ryanair.com ). 

The Tour de France starts on June 29; see letour.fr .

Great Tour moments — and how to recreate them

A man rides on his bike while people look on

Pantani tames Alpe d’Huez: The greatest climber of his generation — some would argue in the history of cycling — was at his pomp in the 1997 Tour. And Stage 13, a 203km slog from Saint-Étienne up into the Grandes Rousses Massif of south-eastern France, culminating in the Tour’s most iconic ascent, was when he truly unleashed. Clutching his drop handlebars like a sprinter, in trademark fashion, Marco Pantani obliterated the field over the 21 hairpin bends of Alpe d’Huez, riding the 14.5km climb in an astonishing 37 minutes and 35 seconds — a record that still stands. Today, the peak is one of the most sought-after scalps in recreational cycling, and you won’t be alone as you tackle its famous switchbacks. The Grandes Rousses Hotel & Spa, at the summit, makes for a suitably plush carrot (doubles from £110; hotelgrandesrousses.com ). Or join Saddle Skedaddle’s eight-day Mont Ventoux to Alpe d’Huez itinerary, a guided group trip that takes in classic Tour climbs every day, and multiple scenes of Pantani’s gravity-taunting exploits (next departure on June 8, from £2,295; skedaddle.com ).

Froome’s lakeside time trial: On July 14 2013, Chris Froome showed guile and grit to win a stage on the “Giant of Provence”, 1,910m Mont Ventoux. But it was three days later, on the picturesque banks of Lac de Serre-Ponçon, in the Hautes-Alpes department of south-eastern France, that the Kenyan-born prodigy showed his true class, triumphing in a 32km time trial between Embrun and Chorges billed as the toughest in Tour history, with two Category 2 climbs and some clavicle-imperilling descents. Just a few days later, he had the first of his four Tour de France victories in the bag. Cycle this enchanting region from Château de Picomtal, a family-run medieval retreat at the eastern end of the lake (doubles from £128, picomtal.fr ). Alternatively, join one of Undiscovered Mountains’ seven-night “Legendary Alpine Routes on Reserved Roads” self-guided trips, and you can combine the time-trial stretch with a host of emblematic Tour climbs, including Col d’Izoard and Col du Noyer. The “Reserved” part refers to the periodic closure (to non-cyclists) of classic routes in the southern French Alps to which Undiscovered Mountains aligns its Tour de France-themed trips (departures until October, from £1,577, undiscoveredmountains.com ).

A black and white photo of a man looking at the camera while riding his bicycle

Christophe wields his welding: Suffer a mechanical problem during the Tour these days and a support team can have you back in the saddle in seconds. It wasn’t always thus. In the 1913 race, Eugène Christophe was leading after the Col du Tourmalet — one of the highest passes in the Pyrenees — when his forks broke. With riders not permitted to receive assistance, the Frenchman traipsed 10 miles to the mountain village of Ste-Marie-de-Campan with his bike on his shoulder. There he found a blacksmith who talked him through how to weld it back together — though a small boy operating the bellows as he did so was to cost him a further 10-minute penalty. There’s no welding on GPM10’s six-day “Trans Pyrenees Tour”, but it’s got just about everything else, including ascents of the Tourmalet, Peyresourde and Aubisque, on a ride from Biarritz to Collioure (October 4, £5,200, gpm10.com ). Prefer to go it alone? Set up camp in Pau, a couple of hours’ ride north of the central Pyrenees peaks, and pick off your targets in a series of day rides. Boutique, central, Hôtel Bristol makes an excellent base (doubles from £105, hotelbristol-pau.com ).

LeMond’s Paris comeback: The elm-lined, seatpost-straight Champs-Élysées in the French capital has provided a fittingly grand setting for the final stage of the Tour since 1975. Tradition usually dictates that the denouement is a bubbly-sipping procession in which the Yellow Jersey remains uncontested. But not in 1989, when a 24.5km time trial lay in wait on the last day. Race leader Laurent Fignon was said to have approached rival Greg LeMond the day before and congratulated him on his second-place finish. Infuriated, the American rode like a man possessed to overturn a 50-second deficit and win the three-week race by a mere eight seconds. It’s entirely possible to cycle the full 2km stretch between Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe, but with cars, fumes and traffic lights, it can be a joyless affair. So, instead, how about joining the man himself — now 62 and very much at his raconteurial, if not quite athletic, peak — for a weekend “joyriding” around the nearby Champagne region? The three-day LeBlanq trip features menus curated by a Michelin-star chef and accommodation in a five-star retreat overlooking Épernay (departs June 20, from £2,950, leblanq.com ). 

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International Edition

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U.S. Air Force B-52 Bombers Just Flew Right to Russia's Doorstep

Summary: Two U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers from the 5th Bomb Wing, deployed to RAF Fairford in the UK, conducted an aerial sortie over the Baltic Sea, encircling the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

-This maneuver, part of Bomber Task Force Europe 24-3, was a clear message to Moscow amid heightened tensions following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

-Kaliningrad, historically known as Krolewiec and Koeningsberg, is strategically important to Russia for its ice-free port and potential nuclear capabilities.

-The exclave, ceded from Germany to the Soviet Union post-WWII, also has a contentious history due to the Soviet-ordered Katyn massacre.

U.S. B-52 Bombers Send Strong Message to Russia with Baltic Sortie

A pair of United States Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers deployed to Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford in the UK took part in an aerial sortie – flying over the Baltic Sea and then literally around the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad . The deployment of the bombers over the Russian-controlled territory – the home of the headquarters of the Russian Navy's Baltic Fleet – was clearly meant to send a strong message to Moscow.

The two B-52s are from the Air Force Global Strike Command's 5th Bomb Wing, based out of Minot Air Force Base (AFB), North Dakota, and had been deployed to the UK as part of a four-aircraft Bomber Task Force (BTF) mission . During BTF Europe 24-3, the long-range strategic bombers, which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, have been training with allied and partner aircraft throughout Europe. The United States Air Force has increased the BTF deployments following Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

According to open source public flight track data , the bombers reported department from RAF Fairford, flew across the North Sea, the Netherlands, and Germany, and then across the Baltic Sea, before flying over NATO and EU member states Lithuania and Poland – literally flying a circle over Kaliningrad as the bombers then returned to the UK.

From Krolewice to Koenigsberg to Kaliningrad

This week's flight of the B-52s comes just weeks after Poland began to revert to the traditional Polish name for the city of Kaliningrad, which was never historically Russian territory. For centuries, the coastal city and surrounding land on the Baltic Sea was known as Krolewiec , but under Prussian/German control it became known as Koeningsberg.

It was ceded from Germany to the Soviet Union following the end of the Second World War – and named to honor Mikhail Kalinin, a leader of the Bolshevik Revolution. The German and Polish populations were forcibly evicted from the territory and ethnic Russians moved in, despite never previously living there in large numbers. At the time, Moscow also controlled the now three independent Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and had direct land access to Kaliningrad.

Despite only having access by air and sea today, the exclave is strategically important for the Kremlin as it is home to Russia's only ice-free port on the Baltic Sea. Though Moscow has never confirmed it, Kaliningrad is also believed to host Iskander missiles armed with nuclear warheads.

Moreover, the name also remains contentious as Mikhail Kalinin was one of the Soviet officials who ordered the execution of more than 21,000 Polish prisoners after the Soviet Red Army invaded Poland at the start of World War II. Known as the Katyn massacre , it was carried out to deprive the future Polish military of a large portion of capable officers and intelligentsia.

Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin denied that the Soviet Union was responsible, pinning the slaughter on the Nazis. While the Soviet government officially accepted blame for the Katyn Massacre at the end of the Cold War, many in Moscow still maintain that the Red Army played no part in the execution of the Polish POWs.

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs . You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu .

You can email the author: [email protected] .

All images are Creative Commons. 

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IMAGES

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  2. The B-52’s are calling it a day with a UK summer farewell tour

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  4. The B-52’s Announce 40th Anniversary World Tour

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VIDEO

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