It has been said that the B-52s are as quintessentially American as the Beach Boys. Over 40 years into their career, the B-52s remain the among the most beloved rock stars ever. Any mystery concerning the longevity and ongoing appeal of the B-52s is immediately solved when exposed to the B-52s unique concert experience.
From the timeless gems of "Rock Lobster," "Planet Claire" and "Private Idaho" to the more recent classics of "Channel Z," "Love Shack" and "Roam", the B-52s unforgettable dance-rock tunes start a party every time the music begins.
Formed on an October night in 1976 following drinks at an Athens, GA, Chinese restaurant, the band played their first gig at a friend's house on Valentine's Day 1977. Naming themselves after Southern slang for exaggerated 'bouffant" hairdos, the newly-christened B-52s (Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland, Cindy Wilson and Ricky Wilson) began weekend road trips to New York City for gigs at CBGB's and a handful of other venues.
Before long, their thrift store aesthetic and genre-defying songs were the talk of the post-punk underground. A record deal soon followed and their self-titled debut disc, produced by Chris Blackwell, sold more than 500,000 copies on the strength of their first singles, the garage rock party classic "Rock Lobster," and "52 Girls".
The B-52s began to attract fans far beyond the punk clubs of the Lower East Side — galvanizing the pop world with their 'stream-of-consciousness' approach to songwriting and outrageous performance. They had clearly tapped into a growing audience for new music that was much larger than anyone could have anticipated.
With the release of their second studio effort, Wild Planet (1980), the B-52s and coproducer Rhett Davies proved their success was no fluke with hits with "Private Idaho," "Give Me Back My Man" and "Strobe Light".
In just two albums, the B-52s created a lexicon of songs, styles, phrases and images which would set the standard for the development of the 'alternative music scene' for the next decade. The success of Mesopotamia, produced by David Byrne (1982), and Whammy! (1983) positioned the B- 52s as MTV regulars as well as alternative radio staples.
At the time of their greatest achievements, however, they suffered their greatest tragedy — the death of guitarist Ricky Wilson from AIDS. His passing in 1985 came just after the sessions for Bouncing Off The Satellites (1986).
The album, dedicated to Wilson, had taken nearly three years to complete but was worth the wait, serving up the fan favorites "Summer of Love" and "Wig". After a period of mourning, Keith, switching from drums to guitar, gradually resumed writing music for a new album.
Working together on vocal melodies, lyrics and arrangements for the new tracks, Keith, Kate, Fred and Cindy re-emerged with the Don Was/Nile Rodgers co-produced Cosmic Thing (1989). The album proved to be the greatest commercial achievement for the group, and its success propelled the band to become international superstars.
Cosmic Thing soared to the top of the Billboard Album chart, sold five million copies and yielded their first-ever Hot 10 hits — "Love Shack" and "Roam" and a Top 40 hit with "Deadbeat Club." In 2008 the B-52s released their first new album in 16 years, the aptly titled Funplex.
With its primal guitar hooks, driving drums and the B-52s' unmistakable vocal style, Funplex is instantly recognizable as quintessential and contemporary B-52s. Newsweek Magazine declared, “Like a sonic shot of vitamin B12, the dance floor beats, fuzzy guitar riffs and happy, shiny lyrics keep the energy going".
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