The B-52's in the 80s

By Mark Nobes

Think back to The B-52's in the 80s, and the first song that will spring to mind for the majority of people is their groovy fun-time classic "Love Shack". Of course, the band have released many other singles, including their debut song "Rock Lobster", which they released in 1978, but didn't become a major hit in the UK until 1986, when it was released as a double-A side with "Planet Claire" and reached No.12 in the UK singles chart. The initial release reached No.37, and also No.56 in the U.S., where this was its highest chart position.

The third track by the band to become a hit was "Roam", on which the vocals are left to the two girls, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson, with frontman Fred Schneider taking a back seat for a change. The single reached No.17 in the UK and No.3 in the U.S. during 1990, and featured on the band's most successful studio album, Cosmic Thing.

The B-52's Debut Album (1979)

The band's debut self-titled album reached No.22 in the UK, No.14 in Canada and No.59 in the U.S. Following the success of "Rock Lobster", two more singles were released from the album; "Planet Claire" (which was a minor hit in Australia and New Zealand) and "Dance This Mess Around", both failed to chart in many countries, including the UK and U.S.

"Rock Lobster"

As previously mentioned, "Rock Lobster" was the debut single from The B-52's and was taken from their debut self-titled album. 

The B-52's album was once named as the 99th greatest album of all time by VH1 and listed as 152 out of 500 greatest albums in 2003 by Rolling Stone magazine.

"Rock Lobster" is one of the band's signature tunes, and was generally very well-received by the critics.

The B-52's

Wild Planet (1980)

The band's second album (released in August 1980) was Wild Planet, and it reached No.18 in both the UK and U.S. There singles from the album were "Private Idaho", "Give me Back My Man" and "Party Out Of Bounds",  which was a No.5 hit on the Billboard Dance Chart. The video featured the band performing live in Rio De Janeito.

Whammy! (1983)

The B-52's third studio album reached No.29 in the U.S. and No.33 in the UK. It included the singles "Legal Tender", "Whammy Kiss" and "Song For A Future Generation", none of which were Top 40 hits anywhere in the world.

Bouncing Off The Satellites (1986)

The band's fourth studio album was their least successful, and the first not to receive any sales certificate. It reached No.85 in the U.S. and No.74 in the UK. Singles were "Summer Of Love", "Girl From Ipanema Goes To Greenland" and "Wig".

Cosmic Thing (1989)

Following the disappointing sales of their previous album, and desperate for some chart success, Cosmic Thing featured a more polished sound. It was the band's fifth studio album and was released as a comeback album following the death of co-founder and guitarist Ricky Wilson (Cindy Wilson's older brother) in 1986 aged just 32. He died from an Aids-related illness.

I actually bought the album on cassette and, unfortunately, have nothing to play it on right now. However, it's probably faded now anyway, so thank goodness we have Youtube and Spotify these days! I now have in my mind those happy days when I used to play the album on my car stereo at the end of the 80s. It has such energy, and I enjoyed every song.

As well as producing "Love Shack", Don Was also produced many tracks on the Cosmic Thing album, alongside Nile Rodgers. They managed to tighten-up the band's sound and make them more commercially viable. Released in the summer of 1989, the album reached #8 in the UK album charts, #4 in the Billboard 200 and #1 in the Australian ARIA album charts. It was the band's most successful album gaining Platinum status in the UK and 4x Platinum in the U.S.
The B-52's - Cosmic Thing album sleeve

"Love Shack"

This was the first single to be released from Cosmic Thing, and it became the B-52s biggest-selling single, reaching #2 in the UK, #3 on the Billboard Top 40 in the U.S. and #1 in Australia for 8 weeks. 

The song was produced by Don Was from Was Not Was, who had hits in 1987 and 1988 with Walk The Dinosaur and Spy in the House of Love. Apparently, the song's inspiration was a cabin around Athens, Georgia complete with tin roof. 
The only other UK chart hit from the album was Roam reaching #17 (#3 U.S), which was one of two tracks not to feature the vocals of Fred Schneider. The other was "Follow Your Bliss" which was an instrumental track. Channel Z and Deadbeat Club failed to hit the UK Top 40, although the latter reached No.30 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The B-52s second biggest hit single was Meet the Flintstones which was  the soundtrack to 1994 movie and reached #3 in the UK singles chart.
Love Shack 7 inch vinyl yellow sleeve (UK) 1979


                    Official Website      B-52s at Myspace         Discography

The B52's formed in Athens, Georgia, USA in 1976.

Original Line-up:

Kate Pierson (b. 27 April 1948, Weehawken, New Jersey, USA; organ/vocals)
Cindy Wilson (b. 28 February 1957, Athens, Georgia, USA; guitar/vocals)
Ricky Wilson (b. 19 March 1953, Athens, Georgia, USA d. 1986; guitar)
Fred Schneider (b. 1 July 1951, Newark, Georgia, USA; keyboards/vocals)
Keith Strickland (b. 26 October 1953, Athens, Georgia, USA; drums)
Julie Cruise (backing vocals).
B-52's Studio Album Discography

1979  The B-52's  #59  #22
1980  Wild Planet  #18  #18
1983  Whammy!  #29  #33
1986  Bouncing Off The Satellites  #95  #74
1989  Cosmic Thing  #4  #8
1992  Good Stuff  #16  #8
2008  Funplex  #11  #73

#Numbers are the highest chart positions for the US (left) and UK (right)

The B-52's - Party Mix

Party Mix was the first compilation album by The B-52's and the only one to be released in the 1980s. Released in July 1981, the album features remixes of songs from the first album Wild Planet and the Mesopotamia EP.

The B-52's on the cover of Creem music magazine in July 1982

A smashing photo of The B-52's on the cover of U.S. music magazine Creem in July 1982. 

Roam - The B-52's - 5 Inch CD Single

Good Stuff (1992)

Although the Good Stuff album wasn't quite as commercially successful as Cosmic Thing, the band still retained their more commercial pop style, and it was every bit as energetic. In fact, this was a cassette that spent rather a lot of time in my car stereo during the 90s.
Released in 1992, Good Stuff was also the lead single and title track from the B-52's sixth studio album and reached #21 in the UK, #28 in the U.S. and #1 on the U.S. Modern Rock Charts. The video features an appearance by drag queen, model and singer Ru-Paul. The song was written by the band members Kate Pierson, Fred Schneider and Keith Strickland.

Four further singles were released from the same album; Is That You Mo-Dean?, Tell It Like It T-I-Is, Revolution Earth and Hot Pants Explosion. Although the songs received airplay here in Britain, they failed to reach the Top 40, and I find that quite remarkable as they were such decent, catchy tunes.

The album was released on Reprise Records (WMG) and was produced by Nile Rodgers, Russ Titelman and Don Was. Although most of the singles weren't successful, the album performed well in the charts, peaking at #16 on the Billboard 200 and #8 on the UK Albums Chart. Vocalist Cindy Williams didn't feature on the album as she left the B-52's in 1990, but returned in 1998
The B-52's - Goos Stuff (album sleeve)
The B-52's Rolling Stone Magazine March 22 1990
The B-52's debut album
The B-52's Anthology - Nude On The Moon

Released in January 2002, Nude On The Moon was the fifth compilation album by The B-52's and includes a whopping 35 tracks. However, it was not commercially successful, peaking at #136 in the U.S.

The B-52's - Wild Planet
The B-52s - Whammy!
The B-52s Bouncing Off The Satellites


The B-52's 2008.07.09 014
The B-52's performing live in 2008 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons