THE B52s

The B-52's, Athens, Georgia

Formed: Athens, Georgia, USA

Athens, Georgia's second most famous band, the B-52's were practitioners of kitschy, quirky new wave pop, offering surf motifs a la The Cramps (without the sleaze), sci-fi scenarios reminiscent of The Rezillos (minus the underlying aggression and high velocities), and the nerdiness of Devo and Talking Heads (without any intellectual underpinnings).

In Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson they had three attention-grabbing vocalists with distinctive singing styles, although Schneider could get immensely annoying. One of the band members sported the gravity-defying haircut from which the band took their name. They were the acceptable face of punk (i.e. they weren't punk).

Their first two albums are sparklingly produced with silly keyboard effects, colourfully packaged and utterly unpretentious, each coughing up a couple of good tunes ('6060-842' and 'Hero Worship' on The B-52's, 'Private Idaho' on Wild Planet). But, and it's a big but, the individual songs are excessively long (there's nearly seven minutes of 'Rock Lobster', stretching a mildly engaging piece of whimsy to breaking point), the tunes are ultra-flimsy (mainly "call and response" or "list" songs), and the pace is kept to a plod. Worse, the absence of anything other than utter frivolity becomes (for this listener) actively annoying. However, it would seem I am in the minority, as these two records appear to have widespread mass appeal.

Party Mix! and Mesopotamia compound the fault of individual song overlength by making individual songs even longer. The former is a remix album overseen by a then-trendy French DJ, which drags six songs out to in excess of 30 minutes. No better is 'Mesopotamia', recorded with assistance from David Byrne, who presumably saw working with the Georgia new wavers as an excuse to test run his dratted world music infatuations. If you care, the US and UK versions are slightly different. The best you can say about Whammy! is that it's their strongest effort since 'Wild Planet', which hardly qualifies as a recommendation.

Since this point they've continued to record, become increasingly popular, and fall completely out of the scope of this site. For those who care, their studio albums since are: Bouncing Off The Satellites (1987), Cosmic Thing (1989), and Good Stuff (1992). There are also a pair of career retrospectives. The Best Of The B'52's: Dance This Mess Around (Island, 1990) and Time Capsule: Songs For A Future Generation (Reprise 1998), the latter programmed in chronological order to begin with 'Rock Lobster' and end with '(Meet) The Flintstones, the theme tune to Spielberg's godawful comedy, chucking in a couple of brand new ditties.

CLASSIC LINEUP:

Kate Pierson - vocals, organ, bass
Cindy Wilson - vocals, percussion, guitar
Ricky Wilson - guitar,(until he died of AIDS in 1985)
Fred Schneider - vocals, keyboards
Keith ‘Julian’ Strickland - drums

DISCOGRAPHY 1978-1983

Singles / Albums

The B52's - Rock Lobster The B52's - The B-52's The B52's - Rock Lobster The B52's - 6060-842 The B52's - Wild Planet
Rock Lobster
(7”, 1st version, 1978)
The B-52's
(LP, 1979)
Rock Lobster
(7", 2nd version, 1979)
6060-842 (7”, 1979)
Wild Planet (LP, 1980)
The B-52s - Planet Claire The B52's - Lava The B-52s - Give Me Back My Man The B-52s - Private Idaho The B-52s - Dirty Back Road / Strobe Light
Planet Claire
(7", 1979)
Lava (7", 1979) Give Me Back My Man (7”, 1980)
Private Idaho
(7", 1980)
Dirty Back Road / Strobe Light
(7”,1980)
The B-52s - Party Mix! The B-52s - Give Me Back My Man Party Mix The B-52s - Mesopotamia The B-52s - Mesopotamia  7" The B-52s - Deep Sleep
Party Mix! (LP, 1981) Give Me Back My Man Party Mix (7”, 1981)
Mesopotamia
(LP, 1982)
Mesopotamia
(7"/12, 1982)
Deep Sleep
(7”, 1982)
The B-52s - Whammy! The B-52s - Legal Tender The B-52s - Song For A Future Generation The B-52s - Future Generation  
Whammy! (LP, 1983) Legal Tender
(7”, 1983)
Song For A Future Generation (7", 1983) Future Generation (7"/2x7"/12", 1983)
 

Extraneous Releases

The B52's - Whammy Kiss The B-52s - Party Mix! / Mesopotamia The B-52s - Party Mix! / Mesopotamia    
Whammy Kiss
(12", 1983)
Rock Lobster
(7"/2x7"/2", 1986)
Party Mix! / Mesopotamia
(2xLP/CD, 1991)
   

Promos

       
The B-52s - Cake The B-52s - Loveland      
Cake (7", 1982) Loveland
(12", 1982)
     

Bootlegs

The B52's - Gumbo The B52's - Anola Gay The B52's - Bombs Away The B52's - Strobe Light LP The B52's - Do Somersaults
Gumbo (LP, 1979) Anola Gay
(2xLP, 1980)
Bombs Away
(2xLP, 1980)
Strobe Light
(2x12", 1981)
Do Somersaults
(LP, 1981)

 

Various Artists

The Best Punk Album In The World ... Ever! 2 UK 2xCD 1996 (Circa): Rock Lobster

Links

Official Homepage


 

You can add stuff and make comments/corrections by emailing me at:

jane@punkygibbon.co.uk

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