Deadbeat Club :: The B-52’s
from the album, Cosmic Thing

Deadbeat Club was the fifth and last single released from The B-52’s’ album Cosmic Thing. It peaked at # 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1990. Based on chart performance, Deadbeat Club falls behind only the singles, Love Shack, Roam and Good Stuff as their biggest hit. The song is about the band’s early days in Athens when they would hang around in cafes drinking coffee. Because they didn’t work or do anything, their parents nicknamed them “Deadbeats.” Allen’s, mentioned in the nostalgic song, is a real-life place in Athens, Georgia. Normaltown is a neighborhood of Athens.

The music video (see above) was shot on location, in Athens, and  features R.E.M. front-man Michael Stipe, who is also from Athens.

B-52’s drummer Keith Strickland wrote the music for this song shortly after B-52’s guitarist Ricky Wilson died of AIDS in 1985. His original title was There Is a River. In a 1990 Spin magazine interview, Strickland said:

In the early days, we all used to sit around like this, just hang out, drink coffee and talk. It was sort of Cafe Society in Athens. It looked like we never worked or did anything, and friends of ours would say, ‘Oh, you’re such deadbeats.’ So we’d joke about ourselves being the deadbeat club. When I played the music for Fred and Kate and Cindy, everybody just started singing about the deadbeat club. That’s what the music evoked in them, when in a lot of ways that’s what I was thinking when I wrote It. And I didn’t tell them that I was thinking a lot about Ricky. They just picked up on it. It was very spontaneous. It’s really one of the most autobiographical songs we’ve ever done.” 

Cosmic Thing was the B-52’s greatest commercial success, selling 4 million copies and propelling them from cult act to international superstars. Deadbeat Club was one of a number of songs on the album that harked back to the band’s early days in Athens, Georgia. Fred Schneider explained:
When we started writing for that album, we realized that a lot of the songs seemed to hark back to our roots, the time spent in Athens. It was a way to reassert who we were and why we got together in the first place.”

Editor’s Note: The early 90’s were my “deadbeat club” days, though not in Athens, Georgia. In Fullerton, California there was a coffee house where everyone gathered, to talk, to drink countless cups of coffee, to listen to poetry and music, and to just be together. We were an eclectic bunch made up of musicians, artists, writers, dreamers, and other misfits. We were a family, and though one may have called us “deadbeats“, so much was borne out of those days, and those people.


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