The B-52's



The B-52's are a New Wave rock band formed in Athens, Georgia, an important center of alternative rock. The band's name is a pun; Boeing B-52's are eight-engine strategic bombers used by the United States Air Force during the cold war, and the beehive hairdo (bouffant wigs) is nicknamed the B-52. During the band's first years beehive wigs were often worn by the band's female singers Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson. Wilson and Pierson formed the band with drummer Keith Strickland, guitarist Ricky Wilson (Cindy's older brother) and vocalist Fred Schneider after a drunken night at a Chinese restaurant and played their first gig in 1977 at a St. Valentine's Day party for friends. The B-52's sound is marked by the vocals and lush harmonies of Wilson and Pierson, and the generally monotone or spoken-word vocals of Schneider. The band's quirky take on the New Wave sound of their era was an ironic combination of dance and surf music set apart by the unusual guitar tunings Ricky Wilson used. Their costume thrift-store chic set them apart as well.

Their first single, "Rock Lobster", recorded for DB Records in 1978, 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 UK that featured the B-side "Running Around".

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."

The album had greater success overseas, especially in Australia; it was eventually certified platinum. "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 200 in 1980 and was certified gold. "Private Idaho" became their second Hot 100 entry; around this time the B-52's performed a breakout set on Saturday Night Live.

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) failed, 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).

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. 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 about an eponymous solo album from Fred Schneider (Fred Schneider & the Shake Society) with contributions from bandmates Kate Pierson and Ricky Wilson. Tina Weymouth from the Talking Heads 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. 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. Devastated, the band went into immediate seclusion and the album sank without any tour or promotion behind it.

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 a former member of post-punk band, Gang of Four. Their song "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, 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 US Top 40, but it went on to peak at #3. That peak was matched in early 1990 when "Roam" also hit #3.

A third 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 R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, became a Top 30 hit. The Cosmic Thing album climbed into the Top 5 and earned multi-platinum certification. The group also had a hugely successful tour to support the record.

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 #85, and Pierson again guest-starred on a popular track, this time it being R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People," which hit the Top 10. Pierson appeared on several other songs from the band's chart-topping album, Out of Time.

In 1990 Cindy Wilson took time off from the band. As a trio, The B-52's released Good Stuff in 1992, which gave them another top 40 hit. Subsequent singles were not as successful and the album sold nowhere near as much as Cosmic Thing.

The band had its most recent chart entry in 1994 when, as "The BC-52's" they appeared in The Flintstones live-action movie and sang the title song. In the 1990s, ex-Duran Duran drummer, and Falun Gong activist, 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, Time Capsule: Songs For a Future Generation, appeared in 1998 and Cindy Wilson rejoined the group on two new songs and a tour to promote the collection. A more extensive anthology, Nude on the Moon: The B-52's Anthology appeared in 2002.

As of 2006 the B-52's continue to perform, electrifing audiences with their quirky, innovative style and lush vocals. Recently, the band announced they are working on a new album and a compilation of new remixes of their earlier work. On the band's official website Fred Schneider recently commented that the band is "working away" and looking forward to "another productive session... there is still plenty of work to do".

* Prior to the formation of The B-52s, Kate Pierson was the lead singer of a folk band called the Sun Donuts.

* Guitarist Ricky Wilson features on the track "Breakin' In My Heart" from Tom Verlaine's self-titled 1979 debut solo album.

* Fred Schneider's solo album, Fred Schneider & The Shake Society, was released in 1984, and again in 1990 in a repackaged form.

* Kate and Cindy both appeared on the 1988 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.

* Fred Schneider contributed vocals to the title track of Bongwater's 1990 album The Power of Pussy.

* Fred contributed vocals to Richard Barone's 1990 allbum Primal Dream, appearing on Mr. Used To Be.

* Kate contributed vocals to Iggy Pop's hit single "Candy" from his 1990 album Brick by Brick.

* Kate appears on The Bongos album Beat Hotel, contributing vocals to Apache Dancing.

* Kate appears on three tracks from R.E.M.'s chart topping album Out of Time – "Shiny Happy People", "Me In Honey", and "Country Feedback."

* In 1996, Fred Schneider released a second solo album, Just Fred, produced by Steve Albini, who is famous for having worked with bands such as Nirvana.

* Since 1999, Kate has been an occasional member of the successful Japanese pop group NiNa.

* In 2003, Cindy Wilson performed solo and released several MP3s under the name The Cindy Wilson Band.

* In 2005/2006 Fred has been involved in the making of British singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor's 3rd album.

* The B-52's performed the titular theme song that plays during the opening sequence of Rocko's Modern Life during seasons 2 and later.

* Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson contributed vocals to Junior Senior's "Take My Time" on their 2005 album Hey Hey My My Yo Yo.

* In the 1970s and 1980s, Billboard's Dance Chart policy allowed multiple songs (or in some cases all songs) from an album or an EP to occupy the same position if more than one track was receiving significant play in dance clubs.

* "The Chosen One" recorded by The B-52's is featured in the movie "Pokemon 2000: The Power Of One" and appears on the soundtrack by the same name.

* Some models of the Amiga computer had the name of a B-52's song written on their motherboard. For example, the Amiga 500 had "B-52's Rock Lobster" written on it.

* Drag artist RuPaul appeared in the videos for "Love Shack" and "Good Stuff".

* According to The B-52's Fan Club Newsletter, circa 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 band appears briefly in the 1980 movie One Trick Pony, starring Paul Simon.

* Singer Julee Cruise filled in for Cindy Wilson on the 1992–1993 Interdimensional Tourgasm, as well as the band's summer 1999 tour, when Cindy went on sabbatical.

* The band also performed the theme song for Nickelodeon's Rocko's Modern Life from the second season onward.

* In another link to Nickelodeon, Kate Pierson made a cameo appearance on The Adventures of Pete and Pete as the Blind Millionaire.

* The band also recorded an alternate version of their hit "Love Shack" (entitled "Glove Slap") for TV show "The Simpsons".

* The B-52's made a guest appearance and performed a new song called "Pump" in episode 7 of the third season of the TV series The L Word, which is broadcast on the cable TV channel Showtime. The new song entitled "Pump" is one of the songs to be released on The B-52's upcoming new album that is expected to be released in 2006.

* R.E.M.'s song "Shiny Happy People" song features guest backing vocals by Kate Pierson, who also appears in the music video.

* In Family Guy, Peter sings a part of "Rock Lobster" to cheer up his friend Cleveland in episode "The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire".

* In an episode of The Muppets which featured Pierce Brosnan, after the lobsters took over the studio they sang "Rock Lobster."

* The Guttermouth album, Musical Monkey, includes a track titled What If? that recalls an apocryphal story of Fred Schneider auditioning as a replacement singer for the Doors after Jim Morrison's death.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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