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Music / The B-52s

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Left to right: Cindy, Fred, Kate and Keith.

We were at the beach
Everybody had matching towels
Somebody went under a dock
And there they saw a rock

It wasn't a rock
It was a rock lobster
— "Rock Lobster"

The B-52s are an American New Wave band based out of Athens, Georgia, which later became the same birthplace of R.E.M.. They're most well-known for their deliberately camp, colorful image, quirky SciFi-themed songs and beehive hairdos worn by the female members (hence the name - said beehive wigs resembled the nose of the Boeing B-52 bomber).

Principal members (current members are in italics, founding members are in bold):

  • Fred Schneider - vocals, cowbell, toy piano, glockenspiel (1976-present)
  • Kate Pierson - vocals, keyboards, maracas (1976-present)
  • Keith Strickland - guitar, drums, keyboards, programming, backing vocals (1976-present)
  • Cindy Wilson - vocals, tambourine, bongos (1976-1990, 1996-present)
  • Ricky Wilson - guitar (1976-1985, died 1985)


  • The B-52's (1979)
  • Wild Planet (1980)
  • Party Mix (1981)—Remix Album
  • Mesopotamia (1982)—EP produced by Talking Heads lead vocalist and guitarist David Byrne
    • Both were later released as a single album called Party Mix/Mesopotamia
  • Whammy! (1983)
  • Bouncing off the Satellites (1986)
  • Cosmic Thing (1989)
  • Good Stuff (1992)
  • Time Capsule: Songs For A Future Generation (1998)—Greatest Hits Album
  • Nude on the Moon (2002)—A 2-disc anthology of previously recorded songs from between 1979-1998
  • Funplex (2008)
  • With the Wild Crowd (2012)—Live album

Other work

"Dance These Tropes Around":

  • '60s Hair: Founded in 1976, the band took their name from the beehive style hairdos worn by the group's female singers.
  • The '70s: Formed in '76, released their debut album in '79.
  • The '80s: This decade is when most of the band's noteworthy events happened: They garnered a cult following, their guitarist died, they went into seclusion, and then came back with "Love Shack."
  • Album Filler: The band have admitted that "Don't Worry" was this.
    • As were "Housework" and "Juicy Jungle".
      • In an example of this working in reverse, the only new tracks the band wrote for Wild Planet were "Party Out Of Bounds", "Dirty Back Road" and "53 Miles (West Of Venus)". The rest had been written and performed live before the first album. These three tracks turned out to hold the album together.
  • Art Shift: Due to Bouncing Off The Satellites Troubled Production, the parts of songs that Ricky Wilson was unable to play on were filled out by Keith Strickland, who uses more guitar effects and is less rhythmic. To make matters more confusing a guitarist named Tom Beckerman plays on some tracks but it's not mentioned which ones. Also the album was filled out with two solo songs, on which neither of them play. "Juicy Jungle" was a Fred Schneider solo song and features John Cote and Mark Mazur on guitar. "Housework" was a Kate Pierson solo song and features Tim Rollins and Adey Wilson on guitar. The Fairlight CMI heavy production masks the considerably different production in songs, but it is jarring to know that the album has 7 different guitarists on it.
  • Artifact Title: Time Capsule (Songs For A Future Generation) retains its subtitle in Europe where it doesn't include "Song For A Future Generation" due to a reworked tracklisting.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Invoked and Played for Laughs in "Mesopotamia". In a 2012 interview Kate Pierson even said that the group actually consulted an encyclopedia during the writing of the song, to ensure that they got everything about Mesopotamia wrong.
    • The same for "There's A Moon In The Sky (Called The Moon)" and "Lava", both of which show a skewed interpretation of outer space and volcanoes, though they took their inspiration from B-Movies and Exotica.
    • "Debbie" is about Debbie Harry despite mentioning her "all girl rock band". Whilst Debbie Harry did have an all girl rock band in the pre-Blondie days, Blondie themselves were predominantly male with her as the only woman.
  • The Band Minus the Face: Three examples:
    • The first is any of their post-1985 releases, barring "Bouncing Off the Satellites" thanks to Ricky Wilson's death. His death necessitated a Genre Shift from quirky New Wave Music to club-friendly Pop Rock, though the quirkiness never fully went away.
    • The second is Good Stuff, which was the only release by the band as a trio without Cindy Wilson.
    • The third is after Keith Strickland stopped touring with the group in 2012.
  • Beehive Hairdo: Was one of the band's calling cards in the 70s and 80s via Cindy and Kate.
  • Break-Up Song: "Ain't It A Shame" (the female perspective) and "Dancing Now" (the gay male perspective).
    • "Quiche Lorraine" is a skewed version of this - he's breaking up with his dog.
  • The Bus Came Back: In 1990, Cindy Wilson formally departed the band to focus on her family. She returned in 1994, and has stayed with the band ever since.
  • Call-and-Response Song: Pretty much most of their entire discography is this, with Kate and Cindy doing the response parts.
  • Call-Back: The line "Dirty and dusty trails" in "Roam" is one to their previous song "Dirty Back Road".
  • Camp: The band is quite a goofy one, with their thrift store aesthetic and very silly songs.
  • Camp Gay: All three men in the band are gay and had flamboyant costumes in the 70s and 80s. However, Fred stands out in particular, especially during the 80s.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Schneider, Strickland, and Ricky Wilson are all gay, and Kate Pierson is bi.
  • Clip Show: The official music video of "Rock Lobster" is a mishmash of many things, such as scenes from the "Song for a Future Generation", "Legal Tender", and "Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland" videos, stock footage from old movies, stop-motion animated clips of the band's logo, and an early live performance of the song. "Roam" features the band singing, dancing and generally goofing around superimposed over National Geographic stock footage.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: All five members have offbeat senses of humor and goofy personas on-stage, but Fred is the goofiest.
  • Compilation Re-release: Both Party Mix and Mesopotamia were reissued as a single package by Reprise Records in 1991, owed to their short lengths allowing them to fit together on one cassette and one CD without issue (tellingly, the double-LP release was exclusive to Mexico and Brazil, where CDs had yet to fully take off).
  • Cool Car:
    • Fred describes one in "Love Shack".
    I got me a car, it's as big as a whale...
    I got me a Chrysler, it seats about 20...
    • Also in "Planet Claire".
    She drove a Plymouth Satellite
    faster than the speed of light!
  • Cool Shades: Keith on the cover of the self-titled album and the video for "Private Idaho".
  • Driving a Desk: Played for laughs in the "Roam" video with the band superimposed on a variety of Stock Footage.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: Ricky was known for his duct tape guitar strap.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Keith plays some of the guitar on Bouncing Off The Satellites in order to finish the songs that the late Ricky Wilson was unable to play on. Keith later became their full guitarist from Cosmic Thing onwards. This fact is barely mentioned due to the fact that the band have not said much about Satellites. Much earlier, he played guitar on the band's first (unrecorded) jam session, "Killer Bees", whilst Ricky played bongos. Keith asked Ricky to play lead guitar for the band because he felt he was more innovative, and Keith also had learned drums. Keith also played some guitar parts on Whammy!, notably the slide parts on "Work That Skirt". His presence on that album was not as big due to the band using drum machines on the tracks.
  • Eldritch Location: Planet Claire. In the song's own words:
    "Planet Claire has pink air, all the trees are red. No one ever dies there. No one has a head.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Cake", "Housework" and "Wig".
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Fred plays a walkie talkie on "Planet Claire." Ricky plays a smoke alarm on the debut.
  • Faux Horrific: "There goes a narwhal... here comes a bikini whale! [screams]" in "Rock Lobster".
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: They started off as a 3 boys 2 girls lineup, which is as close as you can get to this trope with an odd number of people. Then Ricky Wilson died, and the lineup was 50/50 permanently.
  • Greatest Hits Album:
    • Time Capsule: Songs For A Future Generation, released in 1998. Also has two new songs exclusive to it: "Debbie" and "Hallucinating Pluto".
    • A two-disc anthology, Nude on the Moon, was released in 2002 and contains 30 tracks, including two concert recordings.
    • The band's first was Dance This Mess Around, released in 1986. It was released to cash in on the death of Ricky Wilson (which the record company thought would end the band), but also to fulfil their Island contract. Though it doesn't contain any exclusive tracks, "Rock Lobster" was reissued as a single from it, including several collectable picture discs. The included version of "Rock Lobster" on the single was a new edit.
    • Also, the compilation Planet Claire on the Spectrum label. Released without the band's involvement, it is available with two different cover designs.
  • Hummer Dinger: "Hop in my Chrysler / It's as big as a whale / And it's about to set sail!"
  • Incredibly Long Note: "Legal Tender" gives is this:
    So I fixed up the basement
    With what I was a-workin' with
    Stocked it full of jelly jars
    And heavy equipment
    We're in the basemeeeeeeeeeeeent!
  • In the Style of: The music video to "Funplex" begins with a synthesized muzak-style instrumental version of the song's chorus, before abruptly segueing into the distorted guitar riff that the proper album version starts with.
  • Intercourse with You: "Strobe Light", "Good Stuff", "Deviant Ingredient," "Dirty Back Road," "Roam," and "Love in the Year 3000."
  • Instrumentals: "Work That Skirt", "Follow Your Bliss", "The World's Green Laughter" and "Return To Dreamland".
    • They also released instrumental versions of "Running Around", "Party Out Of Bounds", "Give Me Back My Man" and "Song For A Future Generation" as B Sides. The first two are different musically from the vocal versions, "Running Around" being a demo take from the first album sessions, and "Party Out Of Bounds" having some dub elements to it.
  • Large Ham: All of the singers have their moments, but Fred Schneider especially takes the cake. Give him a mic and he will ham it up, even if the song doesn't need it.
  • Lead Bassist: Kate Pierson played keyboard bass in the early days.
  • List Song:
    • "52 Girls" is mostly a list of girl names. The song's lyricist Jeremy Ayers noted that there were never actually 52 Girls in the song, and he just named it as such to fit with the band's name.
    • "Song For A Future Generation" lists various things that the band members want to be, which go from the realistic "let's meet and have a baby now" to the ridiculous "wanna be the king of the universe". The band members then go into spoken word sections talking about who they are and what they like doing, in a manner reminiscent of loveseeking ads.
  • Long Runner: With their first live concert release in 2012, now has at least one album in five separate decades.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: Type 2 & Type 5; the current lineup of Strickland, Schneider, Pierson and Wilson has lasted since 1996, after Cindy Wilson rejoined the band (see The Bus Came Back above). The classic lineup of Strickland, Schneider, Pierson and the two Wilsons missed being a type 1 by 4 years (1979-1985).
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Legal Tender" is an upbeat, bouncy song... about counterfeiting money.
    • "Deadbeat Club" has quite an upbeat tune but the lyrics are about nostalgia for things you can't get back. "Roam" is about wanting to travel to take your mind off depression.
  • Man in a Bikini: "Rock Lobster" mentions "Boys in bikinis, girls in surfboards".
  • Mind Screw: "Detour Thru Your Mind"
  • New Wave: One of the greats!
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Legal Tender", "Moon '83". And by definition, all their instrumental songs count.
  • Non-Indicative Name: "Dry County", despite the title, is not about alcohol. It's actually about depression after losing Ricky, and the change in lifestyle that came from his loss. Keith in particular spent every day with him for over 15 years, well before the band formed, hence the 'nothing to do'.
    • A more light-hearted example with "52 Girls", which only features 24 such names in the song.
  • The Not-Remix: Summer Of Love '98, also known as "David Kahne Mix", follows the structure of the Original Unreleased Mix but has some of the synths from the Bouncing Off The Satellites album version, effectively making it like the version the band plays live.
    • The 12" version of "Song For A Future Generation", which appears on UK and German singles, has what initially seems to be the album version, except that the end is mixed to segue into the instrumental. On the 7", the instrumental actually has some additional whooshing noises at the start (as the group used it this way as a backing track when performing live) but these were removed from the 12".
  • Older Than They Look: All the current members are over sixty years old, but none of them look it. Special mention going to Kate who's in her seventies but looks like she's in her mid-forties.
  • Patter Song: The band get pretty close to it on "The Chosen One", their contribution to the Pokemon 2000: The Power Of One soundtrack. Whilst they were able to write the music themselves, they had to sing the lyrics that the movie's producer wanted. This results in very clunky lines like "Lest these titans wreak destruction upon the world in which they clash".
  • Power Ballad: The band comes closest to this with "Revolution Earth".
  • Power Hair: Cindy's "normal" look since the mid-2010s, throw she does throw on the wig for performances.
  • Precious Puppies: "Quiche Lorraine" is actually about a poodle who runs away from Fred Schneider, dumping him for a Great Dane. Fred gets his revenge by throwing away the key to her kennel.
  • Protest Song: "Juicy Jungle" and "Channel Z". Almost all of the tracks on Good Stuff, in fact (it is their most explicitly political album).
    • While it's not as obvious, "Big Bird" is a protest song about the military-industrial complex.
    • "Funplex" satirizes consumerism and "mall culture" in general, with one verse referencing a news story from a few years prior, wherein a customer at Crossgates Mall in Albany, New York, was detained and arrested for wearing a t-shirt reading "give peace a chance". Thus: "private property, hippy be quiet / your peace sign t-shirt could cause a riot".
  • The Quiet One: Keith can come across as one in music videos due to his main focus being in playing his instruments and never taking up a mic to sing along.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "Legal Tender" puts a humorous spin on the fact that the group were very broke at the time, due to having lost money on producing "Mesopotamia" and due to their manager embezzling a fair amount of money for himself.
  • Rearrange the Song: The version of "Quiche Lorraine" that appears on the Nude on the Moon compilation is a 1990 live recording that features a much heavier, alternative rock-influenced sound rather than the straight New Wave inspired original studio version.
  • Repurposed Pop Song:
    • "Junebug" was used in a Target commercial. They also used the intro to "52 Girls".
    • "Rock Lobster" was used in Australia for an Optus ad in 2020.
    • "Glove Slap" in the Simpsons episode "E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)", a section from "Love Shack" which the band rerecorded for the occasion, and is included on The Simpsons' Testify compilation.
    • "Roam" was used for a British vehicle insurance advert in 2022. Transformers are involved somehow.
  • Self-Titled Album: Like many bands, their debut was this.
    • Except in Germany, where it was titled Play Loud. The logo 'High Fidelity' on the front is sometimes mistaken for the title, but was meant to evoke older albums.
  • Shaped Like Itself: "There's A Moon in the Sky (Called the Moon)"
    • Fred's frequent live quip "This song is also a song".
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Song For a Future Generation" includes the line "Want to be the daughter of Dracula"
    • "Funplex" includes a shoutout to "Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill!", both a movie and a band, though it is phrased as "Faster Pussycat!, Thrill Thrill".
    • Received one on the April 26, 2013 episode of Jeopardy!, as one of the categories was called "Rome, If You Want To."
    • Word of God is that the weird ululating noises the girls make towards the end of "Rock Lobster" are an homage to Yoko Ono. John Lennon recognized this when he heard the song, felt the world was "ready" for him and Yoko's music, and it helped inspire them to return to recording together by 1980.
    • "Juliet of the Spirits" is the title of a 1965 film, which also served as the inspiration for the song.
    • "Love Shack" features a musical shout out to the classic rock song "Born to be Wild".
    • Kate Pierson has said that one working name for the band was "Fellini's Children."
    • Compilation album Nude on the Moon takes its title from a very silly 1960s nudist film, Nude on the Moon.
    • "Detour Thru Your Mind": Fred's lyrics at the beginning contain references to the (in)famous song, "MacArthur Park", right down to almost name-dropping it. ("Is your name MacArthur Parker?")
  • Sixth Ranger:
    • Keith Bennett (Cindy's boyfriend and eventual husband), was also Ricky's guitar tech and toured with the group throughout their early years, as well as being their lead archivist.
    • The group hasn't had an official bassist since Ricky Wilson died, but they do have a long-serving unofficial one in Tracy Wormworth who has filled the role since the early 1990s. Averting Nobody Loves the Bassist, she's very popular with the fans.
  • The Something Song: "Song For a Future Generation", "Theme For a Nude Beach" also qualifies, since a song is also a theme.
    • Live, Fred is fond of saying "This song is also a song" before a song starts.
  • Spoken Word in Music: The band members' fake dating advertisement speeches in "Song For A Future Generation".
    Hey, I'm Fred the Cancerian from New Jersey
    I like collecting records and exploring the cave of the unknown!
    Hello, I'm Cindy, I'm a Pisces
    and I like Chihuahuas and Chinese noodles!
    Hi, my name is Ricky and I'm a Pisces
    I love computers and hot tamales!
    Hey, I'm Kate and I'm a Taurus
    I love tomatoes and black-capped chickadees!
    Hey, my name is Keith and I'm a Scorpio from Athens, GA
    And I like to find the essence from within!
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Keith Strickland sings prominent backing vocals on "Dry County".
    • Ricky Wilson sings and speaks some parts in "Song For A Future Generation". His spoken line "Hi my name is Ricky and I'm a Pisces, I love computers and hot tamales" has become iconic amongst fans.
  • Stock Footage: Used extensively in the "Roam" video.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Rock Lobster"
    "Rock Lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-obster! Rock Lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-obster!..."
    • "53 Miles (West of Venus)" is a title-only song, as the only lyrics are the title repeated at various intervals.
  • Title Track: Present on Mesopotamia, Cosmic Thing, Good Stuff and Funplex. Subverted with Whammy!'s "Whammy Kiss".
  • Unreplaced Departed: Famously, original guitarist Ricky Wilson was replaced by his best friend Keith Strickland, who had previously been the drummer and played occasional guitar on recordings. Only the original band members are official band members, being the only ones appearing in photos. However, certain members such as drummers Zachary Alford and Sterling Campbell, bassists Sara Lee and Tracy Wormworth and guitarist Greg Suran (when Keith retired from touring) have been relative constants over the years.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    • "Strobe Light".
    Then I'm gonna kiss your tummy
    Then I'm gonna kiss your pineapple!
    • The band have said that "Dirty Back Road" is about doing it doggy style. Now make a note of its aforementioned Call-Back in "Roam"
    • This is the premise of the song "Cake", where the whole act of baking a cake is used as a euphemism for sex "let it drip right down the sides! who cares?". It's strongly implied that it's lesbian sex as well.
    • "There's A Moon In The Sky (Called The Moon)" is about accepting your homosexuality - 'if you're in outer space, don't feel out of place, cause there are thousands of others like you'. The genius of the lyric remaining metaphorical is that it can apply to anyone who might be different in some way.
    • The famous line "Tin roof... rusted" from "Love Shack" is often purported to be one of these. The most common theory is that it refers to pregnancy, but the band has always denied this (they claim it's a nonsense phrase).
  • Vocal Evolution: Although Fred's and Kate's singing voices have remained mostly the same since the 1980s, Cindy's singing voice has become noticeably deeper and less nasal since the 1990s. And her post-2016 solo music, most prominently her 2017 album Change, allows her to show off her hushed whisper vocals.
  • Vocal Tag Team: Fred, Kate, and Cindy.
  • Walking the Earth: "Roam" is all about this, at least at face value anyway.
    Roam if you want to, roam around the world.
    Roam if you want to, without wings without wheels.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: The band had a somewhat notorious issue with a former manager and label so have had to change their name on a couple of occasions. They were credited as "The BC-52's" for their recordings of "Meet The Flintstones" and "The Bedrock Twitch" that they did for The Flintstones movie soundtrack note , as the band and their name were held by Warner, but the soundtrack was recorded for MCA. Years later, they removed the apostrophe from their name so that they could release "Funplex" on Astralwerks.

Alternative Title(s): B52s