It’s been the culmination of a great weekend today beginning with a 100k bike ride this morning followed up with browsing thousand’s of vinyl with HRH at the St. Catharines Record Fair. So this evening while mommy walks, HRH and I are settling down to enjoy a few of our dusty treasures beginning with this album, the self-titled debut by the B-52’s.
Yes, this is the album with ‘Rock Lobster‘ on it.
But get past that for a minute, this is seriously an album of which you don’t own you don’t have a “collection”…period. I used to own it…twice…but it’s turned up missing…twice.
Time to fill that void for a third time I suppose, since this is definitely a Desert Island album for sure!
In fact, this is an album you absolutely have to listen to LOUD!
It even says “Play Loud!” on the record itself.
This infamous “weird” band originally hails from Athens, GA believe it or not. Whether or not Rock Lobster is popular in Athens, GA, I have no idea, but what it does have going for it is tons and tons of total New Wave awesomeness. The album peaked at #59 on the Billboard 200 (with ‘Rock Lobster‘ reaching #56 on the Billboard Hot 100). In 2003, the television network VH1 named The B-52’s the 99th Greatest Album of All Time. In his 1995 book, ‘The Alternative Music Almanac’, Alan Cross placed the album at 9th on the list of ‘10 Classic Alternative Albums’. In 2003, the album was ranked #152 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Shit, shortly before his death, even John Lennon said this about the album:
“I enjoyed it.”
Seriously, what else do you require to be convinced?
It’s WTF personified.
The quintet celebrated all the silliest aspects of pre-Beatles pop culture – bad hairdos, sci-fi nightmares, dance crazes, pastels, and anything else that sprung into their minds – to a skewed fusion of pop, surf, avant-garde, amateurish punk, and white funk. On paper, it sounds like a cerebral exercise, but it played like a complete house party. The jerky, angular funk was irresistibly danceable, winning over listeners dubious of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson’s high-pitched, shrill close harmonies and Fred Schneider’s campy, flamboyant vocalizing, pitched halfway between singing and speaking.
But there’s more to the album than camp. In fact, it likely wouldn’t have resonated throughout the years nearly so well if the group hadn’t written such incredibly infectious, memorable tunes as ‘Planet Claire‘, ‘Dance This Mess Around‘ and, of course, their signature swan song, ‘Rock Lobster‘ (which, truthfully, I kind of OD-ed on back in University and wasn’t too excited to hear again but, ya know, there’s just a lot of shit going on in this song to not listen to it again with fresh ears and think to oneself: “Yeah. That’s some good shit”).
Anyway, these songs illustrated that the B-52’s’ adoration of camp culture wasn’t simply affectation – it was a world view capable of turning out brilliant pop singles and, in turn, influencing mainstream pop culture. It’s difficult to imagine the endless kitschy retro fads of the ’80s and ’90s without the B-52’s pointing the way, but this album isn’t simply an historic artifact – it’s a hell of a good time and HRH just stepped aboard.