Songs For A Future Generation: Top 10 B-52's Deep Cuts
The B-52's at the 2009 Austin City Limits Music Festival
Photo by Mark C. Austin
The B-52's are the quintessential alternative/New Wave/jam band. They can be both metaphorical and fun at the same time. However, what makes them different from other New Wave bands is that lead singer Fred Schneider provides a unique sprechgesang style to the genre.
The band met after having a few cocktails at a Chinese restauarant in their hometown of Athens, GA in the fall of 1976. Their first gig was played on Valentines Day in 1977 for a friend's party. This led to them taking road trips up to New York City to perform at the legendary CBGB's and, eventually, the release of their 1979 self-titled debut.
Their 1979 self-titled debut was released to favorable reviews and gave them one of their most memorable hits, "Rock Lobster." "Rock Lobster" was even praised by the late legendary John Lennon who said the song inspired him to go back into the studio with his wife, Yoko Ono, and release his final album, Double Fantasy.
However, everyone has heard "Roam" (it was used in a medicine commercial sometime in the '90s) "Rock Lobster," and "Love Shack" at some point. So here's some tracks you probably have not heard from this fun, legendary band.
10. "Channel Z": When Cosmic Thing was released in 1989, it became the band's biggest album yet due to a single called "Love Shack." Cosmic Thing went 4x platinum and hit #4 on the US Billboard 200. The song talks about a fictitious station that broadcasts only static and boasts "Channel Z, all static, all day forever!"
9. "Housework": While the Bouncing Off the Satellites album abandoned the sound that made the B-52's famous, it still maintains their signature quirky lyrics. But the best thing about "Housework" is that it showcases what vocalist Kate Pierson can do as far as her craft goes. She is indeed a unique voice, which has served her and the band well.
8. "There's A Moon In the Sky (Called the Moon)": In the early days, the B-52's were a fun-loving, quirky band. Their lyrics were nonsensical but still enjoyable. This is what made them refreshingly different than other mainstream New Wave bands like Blondie and Talking Heads.
7. "Planet Claire": Ever wonder what aliens would sound like as rock stars? "Planet Claire" perfectly captures what music from Mars may sound like if there really are little Martian musicians.
6. "The Flinstones Theme": In 1994, the B-52's became the B.C.-52's and made a cameo in the hit film The Flintstones, which starred John Goodman, Rosie O'Donnell, Elizabeth Perkins and Rick Moranis. They also performed a reworked version of the Hanna Barbara show's memorable theme song. With their signature quirkiness and musical style, this is essentially a hidden gem for the band.
5. "Topaz": One of the best things about this band is that, in addition to the sprechgesang-style provided by Schneider, there are also two very strong backup singers, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson. Pierson and Wilson provide a great melody for this deep track.
4. "Song For A Future Generation": While this Whammy-era song relies on a drum track, it is rather creative in its lyrics. It features all of the band members singing lead in a call-response manner: "Wanna be the ruler of the galaxy/ Wanna be the king of the universe/Let's meet and have a baby now!" The video is as crazy as the song. It includes the band performing in a Brady Bunch-style splitscreen and includes some of Pierson and Cindy Wilson's most elaborate bouffant wigs including a bow made of wig hair and a golden tinsel wig.
3. "Summer of Love": With the recording of Bouncing Off the Satellites, the band decided to take a different musical approach. It didn't work for them. In addition to the band refusing to tour due to the death of guitarist Ricky Wilson, the album was a flop. Drummer Keith Strickland switched to playing guitar in Wilson's absence.
2. "Ain't It A Shame": During the recording of 1983 LP Whammy, guitarist Ricky Wilson received news that he had contracted AIDS. However, in 1985, while recording Bouncing Off The Satellites, his condition became dire and he passed away on Oct. 12, 1985 at age 32. His sister, Cindy Wilson, has said that "he was one of the strongest elements of the B-52s from the beginning." Following his death, the grief-stricken band did not tour to support Satellites and didn't release a new album until 1989's Cosmic Thing. The song itself deals with the aftermath of a breakup of a romantic relationship. Wilson's younger sister, Cindy, sings lead vocals on this sad song.
1. "Private Idaho": This is the B-52's at their absolute best. It's a mix of some of the surf-rock that made "Rock Lobster" popular with a slight New Wave kick. Additionally, it has been used as the title for a 1991 Gus Van Zandt film, and was even featured on the soundtrack to 1998's The Wedding Singer. The song itself was a minor success on radio, peaking at #75 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Some honorable mentions include "6060 842," "The Deadbeat Club" (anytime Pierson and Cindy Wilson harmonize is amazing), and "She Breaks For Rainbows."
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