Album #431 – The B-52’s

Album #431

The B-52’s first album was better than I thought it was going to be. How can anybody not know this band? Their songs Love Shack and Roam are huge hits and still heavily played on radio today. Plus, who could forget their version of the Flinstones’ theme song, used in the 1994 film, which they also appeared in or the theme to the cartoon Rocko’s Modern Life, which they wrote and performed around the same time. Those two things actually where I first remember hearing this band.  Pearson, Schneider and Cindy Wilson even sang on a song that was in the Rugrats Movie. Ahhh…memories. I guess you could say I grew up with this band. They come from Athens, Georgia and would be the first of many from that music scene to hit it big (the same scene would later launch R.E.M.). The B-52’s are known for their 60’s party-influenced sound. The 60’s influence even stretches to the group’s name and appearance on stage and the album cover. It  is ever present on their debut. The greatest example  is the song, Rock Lobster. It was their first “hit” and fuses 60’s surf rock and go-go music with their eccentric and kitchy lyrics. But, unlike the subsequent years in their career, their self -titled debut is less cheesy and more fun. Fronting the group is Fred Schneider, who actually talks instead of singing. This adds to their unique 60’s sound, supplemented by guitarist Ricky Wilson, who was clearly influenced by surf rockers The Ventures and Dick Dale. Keyboardist Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson (Ricky’s sister) share lead vocals with Schneider, using a unique style of singing to set themselves apart from other bands of the New Wave era. Keith Strickland rounds out the group on drums. The B-52’s are not only notable for their unique sound but also for the fact that four out of the five original members are gay. They became (and still are) gay culture icons, paving the way for other artists in that realm. Sadly, Ricky Wilson died of aids in 1985 but, the group has carried on over the years and become more popular. The B-52’s continue to stay true to the sound on their first album and have remained together despite Ricky Wilson’s death and changes in popular music. Now, that is staying power. Other highlights include: Planet Claire, 52 Girls, Dance This Mess Around, Hero Worship, 6060-842 and a unique cover of Petula Clark’s Downtown (similar in tone to covers done by UK New Wavers The Flying Lizards). Overall, I give the B-52’s, 4.5 out of 5.

Next: Movies by Holger Czukay

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