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The B-52s originated as a New Wave rock band formed in Athens, Georgiamarker, United Statesmarker, in 1976. The B-52s' sound is marked by the vocals — the female harmonies of Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson, and the generally spoken-word or sprechgesang male vocal counterpoint of Fred Schneider, Ricky Wilson's surf style guitar and Keith Strickland's go go beat drumming. 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-52s 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.

The band's name comes from a particular beehive hairdo resembling the nose cone of the aircraft of the same name. Keith Strickland suggested the name after a dream he had one night, of a band performing in a hotel lounge. In the dream he heard someone whisper in his ear that the name of the band was "The B-52s." During their early years, wigs of that style were often worn by the band's female singers Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson. The correct name for the band had 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". In a June 2009 interview with the Arizona Daily Star Schneider said that band will hereafter be known without its apostrophe.

History

Early days

Cindy Wilson (vocals), her older brother Ricky Wilson (guitar), Kate Pierson (organ, vocals), Keith Strickland (drummer), and Fred Schneider (cowbell, vocals) 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. 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.

Their first single, "Rock Lobster", recorded for DB Records in 1978 (see 1978 in music), was an underground success that led to the B-52s performing at CBGBmarker's and Max's Kansas Citymarker in New York Citymarker. "52 Girls" was the B-side. 2 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 Lyceummarker 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 internationally, 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.

The follow-up, Wild Planet, reached the Top 20 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart in 1980 and was certified gold. "Private Idaho" became their second Hot 100 entry. On January 26, 1980 the B-52s performed 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.

In interviews before his death, John Lennon cited Rock Lobster as an inspiration for his comeback.

Mid-point

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). According to The B-52s fan club newsletter, c. 1982, "Song for a Future Generation" took a full 24 hours straight to record at A&M Records (at the time Herb Alpert's company and site of the former Charlie Chaplin Studios in Los Angelesmarker).

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, while the album broke the Billboard 200. 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, 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-52s re-formed 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. Nevertheless, Bouncing Off the Satellites eventually reached 85 on the Billboard 200. Cindy went into a deep depression after her brother's passing, while Keith retreated to Woodstock, New Yorkmarker, and Kate and Fred stayed in New York Citymarker. The band felt that it would be impossible to continue without Ricky.

Cosmic Thing and mainstream success

During the 2-year hiatus that followed Wilson's death, Strickland switched from drums to guitar and began writing music. After Strickland played some of his new music for the other band members, they all agreed to try writing together again, with Pierson, Wilson and Schneider contributing the lyrics and melodies. Their song " Cosmic Thing" was a centerpiece of the soundtrack to the movie Earth Girls Are Easy.

In 1989, the band released Cosmic Thing, 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, receiving significant airplay on MTV's modern rock show 120 Minutes.

The next single, "Love Shack", would become the band's signature tune. 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 went on to peak at number three. That peak was matched in early 1990 when "Roam" also hit number 3. In Australia, the country that had most embraced the band a decade earlier, "Love Shack" stayed at number one for eight weeks.

A 4th 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. The Cosmic Thing album climbed into the U.S. top 5 and earned multi-platinum certification. The group had a hugely successful world tour to support the record, and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in March, 1990.

Pierson lent her vocals to Iggy Pop's song "Candy", which gave him a 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, 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 late 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-52s released Good Stuff in 1992, which gave them another top 40 hit with the title track. 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. 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. and number three in the UK. In 1994, the B-52s 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, who had recorded and toured with the band during the Cosmic Thing era.

A career retrospective, Time Capsule: Songs For a Future Generation, appeared in 1998 along with 2 remix maxi singles ("Summer of Love 98" and "Hallucinating Pluto"). Cindy Wilson rejoined the group on 2 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. 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.

A more extensive anthology, Nude on the Moon: The B-52s Anthology, appeared in 2002.The B-52s 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, the band opened for Cher on a few dates of 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

Funplex, the band's first original album in sixteen years (since 1992's Good Stuff), was released on March 25, 2008 by Astralwerks. Talking about the record's sound, Keith Strickland noted, "It’s loud, sexy rock & roll with the beat turned up to hot pink." 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. With this album, the band dropped the apostrophe from their name and became The B-52s.

The album debuted at #11 on the Billboard charts in the U.S., immediately making it the second-highest charting B-52s 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 first single from the album was "Funplex", which was released digitally on January 29 to the iTunes Store in the U.S. The second single lifted from the album was "Juliet of the Spirits".

2009 CMT Awards

The B-52s recently performed their hit track "Love Shack" with Sugarland at the 2009 CMT Music Awards.

Discography

Side 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.
  • 1985 : Kate Pierson contributed vocals in the song Apache Dancing on The Bongos album Beat Hotel.
  • 1988 : Cindy Wilson 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.
  • 1993 : Schneider collaborated with and contributed vocals to RuPaul's 1993 Supermodel of the World album on the song "Stinky Dinky."
  • 1994 : Wilson contributed backing vocals to Kristen Hall's "Too Long Running" on the CD Fact or Fiction.
  • 1994-1996: The B-52s 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 currently working on a new side project called The Superions.


Media

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 1993: On Nickelodeon, Kate Pierson made a cameo appearance on The Adventures of Pete & Pete as Ms. Vandavere, the Blind Millionaire.
  • 1994: The B-52s 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.
  • 1994: The song "Good Stuff" appeared in D2: The Mighty Ducks as some of the characters went shopping on Rodeo Drive.
  • 1999: Appeared as guest stars on The Simpsons episode "E-I-E-I-" 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.
  • 2006: The B-52s made a guest appearance on The L Word and performed a new song called "Pump" in the episode "Lonestar" The new song was released on the 2008 album Funplex.
  • 2007: The TV series Journeyman used "Roam" in episode "Game 3".
  • 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."
  • 2009: The band performed "Love Shack" with Sugarland on the CMT Video Music Awards.


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.
  • 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.
  • 2000: the song "The Chosen One" was recorded by The B-52s and is featured in the movie Pokémon the Movie 2000: The Power of One and appears on the soundtrack by the same name.
  • 2001: The B-52s 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 music 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.
  • 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. The Wii version of Rock Band has "Roam" included with the game. Another B-52s track has been confirmed on the Rock Band.com news page, though a song was not specified. The song has been rumored to be either "Love Shack" or "Rock Lobster", though no official word has been given yet.
  • 2008-2009: The song "Pump" is used as the background music to the advert for BBC radio 5 lives 2008-2009 season football coverage.
  • 2009: DreamWorks Animation's "Monsters Vs. Aliens" released in 2009 contains a version of the song "Planet Claire" covered by Les Deux Love Orchestra. This version is noteworthy as Les Deux Love Orchestra contains members of the Henry Mancini's original "Peter Gunn" orchestra. Mancini is listed as co-writer on the track. The credits of the film also include the original B-52s version.
  • 2009: The Sketch Comedy Show "Saturday Night Live" had a sketch featuring Andy Samburg doing an impression of band member Fred Schneider.
  • 2009: On the primetime soap opera "Gossip Girl" the song "52 Girls" was played.
  • 2009: The Maryland Ensemble Theatre of Frederick, MD announced it will be reviving "Planet Claire" for a third time in May 2010.
  • 2009 - HBO Series "True Blood" Season 2 - Episode 2 is named after the band's song "Keep This Party Going" from the album Funplex, and features the song in a club scene.


References

  1. LastFM - Band Biography
  2. Rolling Stone Bio for The B-52s
  3. The B52s Band Biography
  4. Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of May 17 1980
  5. Allmusic Guide Chart Information for Wild Planet
  6. Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of Oct 18 1980
  7. Mesopotamia Press Release
  8. Billboard Hot 100 Chart Entry for the Week of Jul 16, 1983
  9. Billboard 200 Chart Listing For The Week Of Nov 05, 1983
  10. Allmusic Guide Bio for The B-52s
  11. Allmusic Guide Chart Information for Bouncing Off the Satellites
  12. Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks Chart Listing For The Week Of Aug 26, 1989
  13. Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of Dec 09, 1989
  14. Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of Feb 24, 1990
  15. Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of Jun 02, 1990
  16. RIAA Gold and Platinum Album Database
  17. Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of Jul 20, 1991
  18. Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of Aug 01, 1992
  19. Dela Font Agency
  20. Billboard Hot 100 Chart Listing For The Week Of June 25, 1994
  21. Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks Chart Listing For The Week Of Jun 27, 1998
  22. Allmusic Guide Entry for "The Chosen One"
  23. Anticipated Funplex Release Date
  24. B-52s Getting The Party Started Again Billboard, 30 October 2007
  25. B-52s Ready First Album in 16 Years Digital Spy, 25 October 2007
  26. Rolling Stone First B-52s Album in 16 Years October 24, 2007
  27. New Single Juliet of the Spirits
  28. SNL Season 5, Episode 9
  29. SNL Season 15, Episode 18
  30. SNL Season 16, Episode 17
  31. Family Guy episode "The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire"
  32. "The L Word" episode "Lonestar" cast & credits
  33. Earth Girls Are Easy Soundtrack Listing
  34. The Associate Soundtrack Listing
  35. "CKY3" Soundtrack Listing
  36. [1] Meet Fred Schneider: B-52’s Frontman, New Wave Legend, and Lousy Rock-Band Player!: Rock Band.com 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-52s song.


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