The B-52's

The B-52's

Infobox musical artist |
Name = The B-52's

Img_capt = The B-52's at Festival Internacional de Benicàssim, July 21, 2007
Img_size = 250
Background = group_or_band
Landscape = yes
Origin = Athens, Georgia, U.S.
Genre = New wave, pop rock, rock
Years_active = 1976-present
Label = Warner Bros., Reprise, Astralwerks
Associated_acts = NiNa
URL = [ Official website]
Current_members = Fred Schneider
Kate Pierson
Cindy Wilson
Keith Strickland
Past_members = Ricky Wilson

The B-52's originated as a New Wave rock band formed in Athens, Georgia, United States, in 1976. The band's name comes from a particular beehive hairdo resembling the nose cone of the airplane of the same name. During their early years, wigs of that style were often worn by the band's female singers Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson. [ ['s LastFM - Band Biography] ] The correct name for the band has long been "The B-52's", but in 2008 they dropped the apostrophe, with their official website and "Funplex" album and single covers reading "The B-52s". However, the file tags on the digital releases of both of these retain the apostrophe. Both spellings could now be considered correct.

The B-52's' sound is marked by the vocals--the female harmonies of Wilson and Pierson, and the generally spoken-word or sprechgesang male vocal counterpoint of Fred Schneider. The resulting unique "guy vs. gals" vocals, sometimes used in call and response style (as in their songs "Private Idaho" and "Good Stuff"), are a trademark of the band. Presenting as a positive, enthusiastic, slightly wacky party band, the B-52's have focused on songs telling tall tales ("Rock Lobster", "Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland"), glorifying wild youth ("Love Shack", "Deadbeat Club"), or celebrating wild romance ("Strobe Light", "Hot Pants Explosion"), all set to a danceable New Wave beat.


Early days

Cindy Wilson, Kate Pierson, drummer Keith Strickland, guitarist Ricky Wilson (Cindy's older brother) and vocalist Fred Schneider formed the group in an impromptu jam session after sharing a tropical Flaming Volcano (sometimes reported as a Scorpion Bowl) drink at a local Chinese restaurant, and played their first gig in 1977 at a Valentine's Day party for friends. [cite journal |last=Azerrad |first=Michael |date=March 22, 1990 |title=B-52's |journal=Rolling Stone |issue=574 |pages=46] [ [ "Rolling Stone" Bio for The B-52's] ] The band's quirky take on the New Wave sound of their era was a combination of dance and surf music set apart by the unusual guitar tunings used by Ricky Wilson. Their costume thrift-store chic set them apart as well. During the "Mesopotamia" tour, the band's famous wigs were under the care of Jackie Slayton, one of Athens's leading artists and long-time friend of the band. [ [ The B52s Band Biography] ]

Their first single, "Rock Lobster", recorded for DB Records in 1978 (see 1978 in music), was an underground success that led to the B-52's performing at CBGB's and Max's Kansas City in New York City. "52 Girls" was the B-side. Two versions of the single were released in the United Kingdom that featured the B-side "Running Around". The buzz created by the record in the UK, meant their first show in London at the Lyceum in the summer of 1979 was packed in anticipation, with many U.K. popstars such as Green Gartside from Scritti Politti, Joe Jackson and others in attendance.

Their debut album, "The B-52's", contained re-recorded versions of "Rock Lobster" and "52 Girls", along with six more originals and a remake of Petula Clark's classic "Downtown". It was eventually certified platinum. The album had greater success overseas, especially in Australia, where it hit #7 on the back of three hit singles: "Planet Claire" (#43), "Rock Lobster" (#3) and "Dance This Mess Around". "Rock Lobster" gave the band its first entry on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. [ [ Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of May 17 1980] ]

The follow-up, "Wild Planet", reached the Top 20 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart in 1980 [ [ Allmusic Guide Chart Information for "Wild Planet"] ] and was certified gold. "Private Idaho" became their second Hot 100 entry. [ [ Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of Oct 18 1980] ] On January 26, 1980 the B-52's performed a breakout set on "Saturday Night Live". They also performed at the Heatwave festival (billed as the "New Wave Woodstock") in Toronto, Canada in August 1980.

"Party Mix!" was released next, a remix album that took tracks from the first two LPs and presented them in extended forms.


Although recording sessions with David Byrne (of Talking Heads) were aborted before a full album had been produced, the recordings were released as the "Mesopotamia" EP in 1982 ("Party Mix!" and "Mesopotamia" would later be combined and released together on a single CD). [ [ Mesopotamia Press Release] ] According to The B-52's fan club newsletter, c. 1982, "Song for a Future Generation" took a full 24 hours straight to record at A&M Records (Herb Alpert's then-company and site of the former Charlie Chaplin Studios in Los Angeles).

The "Whammy!" album in 1983 brought the band into electronic and drum machine experimentation, much to the chagrin of some of their early fans. "Legal Tender" became their third chart single, [ [ Billboard Hot 100 Chart Entry for the Week of Jul 16, 1983] ] while the album broke the Billboard 200. [ [ Billboard 200 Chart Listing For The Week Of Nov 05, 1983] ] After the initial pressings of "Whammy!" were released, copyright issues with Yoko Ono led to the song "Don't Worry" being pulled and replaced on future copies of the album with a new track called "Moon 83", a variation on "There's a Moon in the Sky (Called the Moon)" from their debut album.

1984 brought a solo album from Fred Schneider ("Fred Schneider & the Shake Society") with contributions from bandmates Kate Pierson and Ricky Wilson. Tina Weymouth from Talking Heads, Keith Haring and RuPaul appeared on the video clip for "Monster", a song about the "monster" in Fred's pants.

That year, the B-52's reformed to record "Bouncing Off the Satellites". But on October 12, 1985, Ricky Wilson died at age 32 of what was originally reported as cancer but was later revealed to be AIDS-related illness. Devastated, the band went into seclusion and did not tour to promote the album. [ [ Allmusic Guide Bio for The B-52's] ] Nevertheless, "Bouncing Off the Satellites" eventually reached 85 on the Billboard 200. [ [ Allmusic Guide Chart Information for "Bouncing Off the Satellites"] ] Cindy went into a deep depression after her brother's passing, while Keith retreated to Woodstock, and Kate and Fred stayed in New York City. There was no discussion about making music.

Mainstream success

During the two-year hiatus that followed Wilson's death, Strickland switched from drums to guitar, and the B-52's emerged in 1988 with a backing rhythm section which included Sara Lee, a former member of post-punk band Gang of Four. Their song "(Shake That) Cosmic Thing" was a centerpiece of the soundtrack to the movie "Earth Girls Are Easy". In 1989 the band released the album "Cosmic Thing", which became their long-anticipated mainstream breakthrough. "Channel Z", a single from the new album, became an alternative and college radio hit, hitting number one on the U.S. Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart, [ [ Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks Chart Listing For The Week Of Aug 26, 1989] ] receiving significant airplay on MTV's modern rock show "120 Minutes".

"Love Shack" came next. With its party vibe and colorful music video (featuring a cameo by a then-unknown RuPaul), "Love Shack" not only became their first song to hit the U.S. top 40, but it went on to peak at number three. [ [ Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of Dec 09, 1989] ] That peak was matched in early 1990 when "Roam" also hit number three. [ [ Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of Feb 24, 1990] ] In Australia, the country that had most embraced the band a decade earlier, "Love Shack" stayed at number one for eight weeks.

A fourth single, "Deadbeat Club", which reminisced about the band's early days in Athens and whose video was shot on location and featured a cameo by fellow Athens artist R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, became a U.S. top 30 hit. [ [ Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of Jun 02, 1990] ] The "Cosmic Thing" album climbed into the U.S. top five and earned multi-platinum certification. [ [ RIAA Gold and Platinum Album Database] ] The group had a hugely successful world tour to support the record, and they appeared on the cover of "Rolling Stone" in March, 1990. [cite web |url= |title=Cover Photo for March 22, 1990 |accessdate=2008-05-11 |work=Rolling Stone]

Continuing to be busy through 1990, Pierson lent her vocals to Iggy Pop's song "Candy", which gave him his first (and only) Hot 100/top 40 hit. 1991 saw the repackaging and re-release of Schneider's solo record and gave him his first Hot 100 entry when "Monster" climbed to number 85, [ [ Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of Jul 20, 1991] ] and Pierson again guest-starred on a popular track, this time it being fellow Athens, Georgia, band R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People", which hit the U.S. top 10. Pierson appeared on another song from the band's chart-topping album "Out of Time", "Me in Honey".

In 1990 Cindy Wilson took time off from the band, with Julee Cruise filling in for her parts on the eventual tour. As a trio, The B-52's released "Good Stuff" in 1992, which gave them another top 40 hit with the title track. [ [ Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of Aug 01, 1992] ] The album made it to number 18 in the U.S. It is also the group's most overtly political album, though they had been activists and fund-raisers for environmental, AIDS and animal rights causes for many years. [ [ Dela Font Agency] ] Subsequent singles were not as successful and the album did not sell as well as "Cosmic Thing".

The band had its next chart entry in 1994 when, as "The BC-52's" they appeared in "The Flintstones" live-action movie and sang the title song. When released as a single, it reached number thirty-three in the U.S. [ [ Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of June 25, 1994] ] and number three in the UK. In 1994 the B-52's also performed the theme song for the Nickelodeon series Rocko's Modern Life from the 2nd season on. In the 1990s, ex-Duran Duran drummer Sterling Campbell joined the band, but left in 2000 to tour with David Bowie and was replaced that year by Zachary Alford.

A career retrospective, "", appeared in 1998 along with 2 remix maxi singles ("Summer of Love 98" and "Hallucinating Pluto"). Cindy Wilson rejoined the group on two of the new songs and a major tour (with co-headliners the Pretenders) to promote the collection. "Debbie", another single from the album (a tribute to Blondie's Debbie Harry), placed 35 on Billboard's Hot Modern Rock Tracks. [ [ Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks Chart Listing For The Week Of Jun 27, 1998] ] In 1999 they recorded a parody of "Love Shack" called "Glove Slap" for an episode of "The Simpsons". They co-headlined another major tour in 2000 with the Go-Go's. Also in 2000 they recorded the song "The Chosen One" for the movie "Pokemon 2000". [ [ Allmusic Guide Entry for "The Chosen One"] ]

A more extensive anthology, "", appeared in 2002. The B-52's recorded the song "Orange You Glad It's Summer" for a Target commercial that aired in spring/summer 2002. Target also used the song "Junebug" in a TV spot in 2007.

In late 2004 they opened for Cher a couple of times on her Farewell Tour. In March 2006 they opened for the Rolling Stones at a benefit for the Robin Hood Foundation. They had three remix EPs released by Planet Clique: "Whammy!" in 2005, "Mesopotamia" in 2006 and "Wild Planet" in 2007. During this time span they appeared on many television shows including "The L Word", "V.I.P.", "The Rosie O'Donnell Show", "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno", "Late Night with David Letterman", "The Arsenio Hall Show", "Saturday Night Live", "Live with Regis and Kelly", "The Today Show", "Good Morning America" and numerous times on VH1.


"Funplex", the band's first original album in sixteen years (since 1992's "Good Stuff"), was released on March 25 2008 [ [ Anticipated Funplex Release Date] ] by Astralwerks. [ [ B-52's Getting The Party Started Again] "Billboard", 30 October 2007] [ [ B-52's Ready First Album in 16 Years] Digital Spy, 25 October 2007] Talking about the record's sound, Keith Strickland noted, "It’s loud, sexy rock & roll with the beat pumped up to hot pink." [ [ "Rolling Stone" First B-52's Album in 16 Years] October 24, 2007] The album is produced by Steve Osborne, who was asked to work on the album based on his work with New Order on the album "Get Ready". The first single from the album was "Funplex", which was released digitally on January 29 to the iTunes Store in the U.S.

The album debuted at #11 on the Billboard charts in the U.S., immediately making it the second-highest charting B-52's album ever. The band toured in support of the album as well as making television appearances on talk shows, including "The Tonight Show" , "The Ellen DeGeneres Show", and performing on "The Today Show" on Memorial Day 2008. They also participated in the True Colors Tour 2008 with Cyndi Lauper and embarked on a European tour in July.

The second single lifted from the album will be "Juliet of the Spirits". [ [ New Single Juliet of the Spirits] ]


ide projects, solo albums and collaborations

*1979 : Guitarist Ricky Wilson features on the track "Breakin' in My Heart" from Tom Verlaine's self-titled debut solo album.
*1984 : Fred Schneider's first solo album, "Fred Schneider & the Shake Society", was released. It was re-released 1990 in a repackaged form.
*1985 : Kate Pierson contributed vocals in the song "Apache Dancing" on The Bongos album "Beat Hotel".
*1988 Pierson and Cindy Wilson both appeared on the album "Holy Cow" by the short-lived college rock band Martini Ranch, led by actor Bill Paxton. The album also featured an appearance by Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh.
*1990 : Schneider contributed vocals to the title track of Bongwater's album "The Power of Pussy".
*1990 : Schneider contributed vocals to Richard Barone's album "Primal Dream", appearing on the song "Mr. Used to Be."
*1990 : Pierson contributed vocals to Iggy Pop's hit single "Candy" from his album "Brick by Brick".
*1991 : Pierson contributed vocals on three tracks from R.E.M.'s chart topping album "Out of Time" – "Shiny Happy People," "Me in Honey," and "Country Feedback," while another song called "Fretless" recorded during those sessions was used on the soundtrack for the film "Until the End of the World".
*1992 : Wilson contributed vocals on "Appalachee Shoals", a track of fellow Athenian alternative band Dreams So Real, which ended up on the outtakes album Nocturnal Omissions.
*1992-1993 : Singer Julee Cruise filled in for Cindy Wilson on the 1992–1993 Interdimensional Tourgasm, as well as the band's summer 1999 tour, when Wilson went on sabbatical.
*1994 : Wilson contributed backing vocals to Kristen Hall's "Too Long Running" on the CD "Fact or Fiction".
*1994-1996 : The B-52's performed the titular theme song that plays during the opening sequence of "Rocko's Modern Life" during seasons 2 through 4.
*1994 : Schneider contributed vocals to Elvira's Halloween album "Elvira Presents, Monster Hits" on the track "Bride of Frankenstein".
*1996 : Schneider released a second solo album, "Just Fred", produced by Steve Albini, who is famous for having worked with bands such as Nirvana.
*1999 : Pierson has been an occasional member of the successful Japanese pop group NiNa.
*2003 : Wilson performed solo and released several MP3s under the name "The Cindy Wilson Band".
*2003 : Pierson collaborated with Graham Parker and Bill Janovitz to record the tribute album [ "From a Window: Lost Songs of Lennon & McCartney"] .
*2005 : Schneider performed the track "Angry Inch" together with Sleater-Kinney for the compilation album "Wig in a Box".
*2005 : Pierson and Wilson contributed vocals to Junior Senior's "Take My Time" on their album "Hey Hey My My Yo Yo".
*2005-2006 : Fred Schneider has been involved in the making of British singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor's 3rd album. His vocals appear on the bonus track "Supersonic", on her third album "Trip the Light Fantastic".
*2008 : Schneider is working on a new side project. The debut single "Totally Nude Island" will be available as a digital download in late 2008, with an EP to follow in 2009.


Television and film:
* 1980: The band appeared briefly in the film "One Trick Pony", starring Paul Simon.
* 1980: The band performed "Rock Lobster" and "Dance This Mess Around" on an episode of "Saturday Night Live" that was hosted by Teri Garr on January 26, 1980. [ [ SNL Season 5, Episode 9] ]
* 1990: The band performed "Cosmic Thing" and "Channel Z" on an episode of "Saturday Night Live" that was hosted by Alec Baldwin on April 21, 1990. [ [ SNL Season 15, Episode 18] ]
* 1991: Kate Pierson performed the song "Shiny Happy People" with the band R.E.M. on an episode of "Saturday Night Live" that was hosted by Catherine O'Hara on April 13, 1991. [ [ SNL Season 16, Episode 17] ]
* 1993: On Nickelodeon, Kate Pierson made a cameo appearance on "The Adventures of Pete & Pete" as Ms. Vandavere, the Blind Millionaire.
* 1994: The B-52's appeared in the "Flintstones" movie, performing "The Bedrock Twitch" as the "BC-52's". They also performed a cover version of the famous Flintstones theme tune.
* 1999: Appeared as guest stars on "The Simpsons" episode "E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)" to sing "Glove Slap," another parody of "Love Shack."
* 2005: In the "Family Guy" episode "The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire" that aired on June 12, 2005, the character Peter Griffin sings "Rock Lobster" in an attempt to cheer up Cleveland Brown. [ [ "Family Guy" episode "The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire"] ]
* 2006: The B-52's made a guest appearance on "The L Word" and performed a new song called "Pump" in the episode "Lonestar" [ [ "The L Word" episode "Lonestar" cast & credits] ] The new song was released on the 2008 album "Funplex".
* 2007: The TV series "Journeyman" used "Roam" in episode "Game Three".
* 2008: "The L Word" features "Juliet of the Spirits" in the episode aired February 10, 2008. As with their previous appearance, the song is featured before its commercial release on the album "Funplex".
* 2008: Kate Pierson appeared as a guest on the music variety kids t.v. show, "Pancake Mountain".
* 2008: The band performed "Funplex" on "The Tonight Show".
* 2008: The band debuted "Juliet of the Spirits," their second single off of "Funplex" on the June 3 episode of "Live With Regis & Kelly."

Other media:
* "Private Idaho" has been used for a number of years as the entrance song for Boise's ECHL hockey team, the Idaho Steelheads.
* 1988: the songs "Summer of Love" and "Cosmic Thing" were used in the soundtrack for the film "Earth Girls Are Easy". [ [ "Earth Girls Are Easy" Soundtrack Listing] ]
* 1991 Houston, Texas thrash metal band Dead Horse records "Rock Lobster" for their album "Peaceful Death and Pretty Flowers"
* 1994-1996: the band performed the theme song for Nickelodeon's "Rocko's Modern Life" from the second through the fourth seasons.
* 1996: the song "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" was recorded by Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson for the film "The Associate" that starred Whoopi Goldberg. [ [ "The Associate" Soundtrack Listing] ]
* 2000: the song "The Chosen One" was recorded by The B-52's and is featured in the movie "" and appears on the soundtrack by the same name.
* 2001: The B-52's performed the theme for "Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase".
* 2001: the Maryland Ensemble Theatre of Frederick, MD, began to work on a musical based on the musical of the B-52s entitled "Planet Claire". Through a "Wizard of Oz" sort of situation, a girl named Claire, who is a waitress at the Love Shack, is transported to Planet Topaz, where she meets aliens surprisingly similar to the people she knows back home. It premiered in 2002 at the Maryland Ensemble Theatre, where it was extremely popular. It played again at the Baltimore Theatre Project in 2004, with a slightly different cast. The book was written by Tad Janes, Gene Fouche and Timothy King and the original production was directed by Tad Janes, with costumes and choreography by Julie Herber.
* 2001: The song "Rock Lobster" was played in the third CKY video when Raab Himself is running and excreting at the same time. [ [ "CKY3" Soundtrack Listing] ]
* 2004: Subaru of New Zealand used "Roam" for a television advertising campaign.
* 2007: Target Department Stores used "Junebug" from the "Cosmic Thing" album in a television commercial.
* 2008: The Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Rock Band has "Roam" as a downloadable master track. Another B-52's track has been confirmed on the Rock news page, though a song was not specified. [ [] Meet Fred Schneider: B-52’s Frontman, New Wave Legend, and Lousy Rock-Band Player!: Rock news article. The line, "Also, psst: It wouldn’t be too farfetched to expect another B52’s classic to show up as DLC in the not-too-distant future." confirms another B-52's song.] The song has been rumored to be either "Love Shack" or "Rock Lobster", though no official word has been given yet.


Further reading

* Citation
last = Martini
first = Della
year = 1990
title = The B-52's
publication-place = New York City, NY
publisher = Wise Publications
pages = 32
isbn = 0-7119-2376-0

* Citation
last = Brown
first = Rodger Lyle
year = 1991 and reprint 2003
title = Party Out of Bounds
publisher = Penguin Books
pages = 221
isbn = 0-452-26631-9

External links

* [ Official Home Page]
* [ Photos: The B52s play a sold-out show at SF's Independent on 5/9/2008]
* [ Concert video: Full B-52's concert video recorded in Paradiso Amsterdam on 7/19/2008]

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