Trivia / The B-52s

  • Author Existence Failure: Ricky Wilson - the band's original guitarist - died of AIDS in 1985. He was quite integral to the songwriting and used a unique rhythmic style, with strange tunings he came up with himself. Keith Strickland, who always worked on the basic song sketches with Ricky before the rest of the band improvised the vocals, became the band's guitarist and main songwriter afterwards, and had serious writer's block for a period in the 90s because of the lack of Ricky's input.
    • Which meant that Bouncing was padded out with Keith Strickland on guitar on some tracks, keyboards, session musicians, solo tracks from Fred and Kate.
  • Creator Breakdown: Though you really can't tell due to the generally happy feel of the album, "Cosmic Thing" features several songs that came out of their depression after losing Ricky, these being "Dry County", "Deadbeat Club", "Roam", "Topaz" and "Follow Your Bliss" just to name a few.
  • Cut Song: The first pressing of Whammy included a song called "Don't Worry". The band credited the song to Yoko Ono out of tribute to her song "Don't Worry Kyoko", though it was not a cover. The band did not realise however, that doing this they would have to pay royalties to Yoko. When Yoko's lawyers found out, they demanded so much money in songwriting royalties that the band nearly went broke. They agreed to replace the track with "Moon '83" on later pressings. "Moon '83" is a remix of "There's A Moon In The Sky (Called The Moon)" which had previously been released as the B-Side of "Legal Tender". Yoko was already a fan of the band and remains good friends with them. It has been noted that the real trouble came from not asking her lawyers first, had they done so, it would have been easier to keep it in print. Interestingly enough it stayed in print in Sweden, and there was never a later pressing - possibly because the band credited the song to themselves the whole time on this pressing.
  • Fan Nickname: The self-titled album is often known as 'the yellow album'.
  • He Also Did:
    • Kate Pierson has guest vocals on two R.E.M. songs: "Me In Honey" and "Shiny Happy People", both on the Out of Time album. She also guest starred on Iggy Pop's "Candy" from his Brick By Brick album.
    • John Lennon was reportedly a fan of the band's debut album. He told Rolling Stone that "Rock Lobster" reminded him of Yoko's music, citing it as his inspiration to "'get out the old axe and wake the wife up!'"
      • Yoko also became a fan of the band and later a friend - and the band were inspired by her for their song "Don't Worry", to the point where her lawyers thought it was a cover of Yoko's song "Don't Worry, Kyoko" (it wasn't).
    • Performed the more widely recognized second theme song for Rocko's Modern Life.
    • Ricky played guitar in Breaking In My Heart on Tom Verlaine's debut album. He's also rumoured to have played on Xtc's album Drums and Wires though the album credits never listed him as someone who played on the record so it's unlikely that it's true.
    • This also applies behind the scenes as well. David Byrne, who produced Mesopotamia, was previously lead vocalist and guitarist for the Talking Heads, while Nile Rodgers and Don Was, who produced Cosmic Thing and co-produced Good Stuff, were, respectively, lead guitarist for Chic and bassist for Was (Not Was).
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: The original single versions of "Rock Lobster" and "52 Girls" have never appeared on CD despite their historical significance. It is said that they were going to be on the box set that became Time Capsule. Also, the song "Don't Worry" which was on the first version of Whammy is a literal example of this trope, as copyright issues mean it is unlikely to ever be released on CD or digitally.
    • Almost every remix and B-Side they put out before the Cosmic Thing period is still vinyl exclusive. This includes the remixes of "Loveland", "Cake" and "Throw That Beat In The Garbage Can" that were on the original Island release of Mesopotamia, something which annoyed people who bought the CD to replace their LP version.
      • According to the band, no longer being with Warner means that Warner rarely listen to the band's requests for reissues, and can only reissue things if they see fit and don't see The B-52's as profitable enough.
      • It is also rumoured that the master tapes of the albums released on Island are in bad condition.
  • No Export for You: The band's video compilation Time Capsule has only appeared on DVD in Australia, as part of a special edition of the CD of the same name. The band deliberately had it pressed in Region 0 so those who wanted to import it could play it.
    • The original mix of Mesopotamia is only available on Island CDs from Europe. In countries where Warner released it, it was released in a 1990 remixed and overdubbed version as part of a compilation with Party Mix!. It's not hard to find it but would have been back in the day.
      • For a while the band would only tour the US, but they have since returned to touring Europe.
  • Troubled Production: Bouncing Off The Satellites was this. Going into the sessions, Ricky Wilson (guitar) found out he had AIDS and told Keith Strickland (drums) about it. Ricky was nervous and didn't want anyone else to know, and only told Keith because he was his best friend (in particular, Ricky knew it would ruin his sister Cindy). To discuss the matter, Ricky and Keith took several trips to New York together, away from the rest of the band. It was agreed that the band should work on another album. First, they recorded Detour Thru Your Mind, Wig, Communicate and a jam called Creature In A Black Bikini. A short time later, they recorded Summer Of Love and Girl From Ipanema Goes To Greenland, and intended to release them as pre-album singles whilst they were getting the rest of the album ready. However, the record company wanted them to record new versions with more synthier arrangements, so they reluctantly agreed. They spent some time recording these new versions, and recorded three more songs for the album - Theme For A Nude Beach, Ain't It A Shame and She Brakes For Rainbows. These tracks have a notably downbeat sound and are more synth based although still feature guitar. The band played Rock In Rio in 1985 but otherwise did not tour. With Ricky's obviously deteriorating health, he and Keith told Fred and Kate they could contribute some solo material recorded with different bands, so they used one track apiece, Juicy Jungle and Housework respectively. Cindy found out about Ricky's condition three days before he died, when he was in hospital and a nurse called her and told her. The band were distraught, but still wanted to finish the album as it was Ricky's wish. Keith and session musicians helped add overdubs to the album in the final mixing process (Keith playing some of the guitar), but the rest of the band were not involved. This final process made the album even more synthier than planned, because they just wanted to see the album out. The band took a hiatus and nearly broke up with only minimal promotional appearances for the singles and no touring, but reformed for the album Cosmic Thing, which contained several tributes to Ricky.
    • Mesopotamia, Good Stuff and Funplex also had troubled production. In the case of Mesopotamia, producer David Byrne produced the tracks in a subdued fashion that the band felt was lacking life, Chris Blackwell didn't like the tracks that much, and the record company rushed the band so much that they gave up making the album and just released six tracks as as an EP, rerecording three planned tracks for Whammy and not releasing the fourth one. Good Stuff was difficult because Keith had to arrange and mix the entire album himself and their usual jamming sessions were not going as planned due to the absence of Cindy who was normally involved in the creative process. Keith mainly went ahead with the album because didn't think he would get the chance again. Funplex was troubled because the band's contract with Warner Bros was not going well and they had to wait for the contract to end before they could put out the album on another label. During this interim the band had an album planned that was never finished due to Warner refusing to think it had commercial potential.
  • What Could Have Been: Had Ricky Wilson not died, what would have happened to the band?
    • Keith has suggested that The B-52's might have broken up.
    • The band's 1998 compilation album, Time Capsule, was originally planned as a box set featuring rarities from across the band's career and several new tracks, as well as remastered older tracks. The record company didn't think such a set would sell, so they had the band condense it into one set. Had it been released, it would have included the original single versions of "Rock Lobster" and "52 Girls", which have never appeared on CD, a whole host of demos and outtakes that Cindy Wilson had prepared, and a number of new songs that the band had been working on.

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