It sees only appropriate that I should celebrate one year of Flashback Fridays with the B-52’s, since I posted my first blog post on February 14, 2011, because I was inspired by how the B’s played their first concert on Valentine’s Day 1977.
The B-52’s released “Love Shack,” the second single from their Cosmic Thing album, in September of 1989. MTV and radio were resistant to play the song at first, because they didn’t know how to market the B’s. However, viewers and listeners responded to the colorful, quirky video. “Love Shack” began selling over 200,000 copies per week, eventually going platinum and selling almost two million. The song charted at #3 in the U.S., #2 in the U.K., and topped the charts in Australia for eight weeks.
The success never should have happened, though. Just a few years before, many in the music business had written the B-52’s off after the death of their guitarist, Ricky Wilson (and Cindy’s brother), shortly before the release of their Bouncing Off Satellites album. The album and singles “Summer of Love” and “Girl from Impanema Goes to Greenland” were not successful, except on Billboard’s Hot Club Dance Play charts, and “Wig” charted at #79 in the U.K.
The B-52’s weren’t sure if they wanted to continue, either. Drummer Keith Strickland began to teach himself to play the guitar like his late best friend, and soon began composing music of his own. One day in 1987, vocalists Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson paid him a visit. Strickland played them a tune he called “There Is a River.” The girls began singing a parody of Morrissey to the music, yet soon began singing about memories of their younger years in Athens, Georgia, which evolved into “Deadbeat Club.” They soon attempted a formal recording session and wrote “Junebug.” After that experience, they knew they could continue as a band.
Director Julian Temple contacted them to write an upbeat song for a car chase in his new film Earth Girls Are Easy; the B-52’s recorded “Shake That Cosmic Thing” with producer Nile Rodgers.
Vocalist Fred Schneider was a big fan of the Was Not Was album at the time, so he rallied the band to record their new album with Don Was, who produced “Junebug,” “Bushfire,” “Channel Z,” and “Love Shack.” Prior commitments kept him from completing the rest of the album, so the band finished it with Nile Rodgers.
Kate Pierson lived in the actual love shack, complete with tin roof, when she lived in Athens before the B-52’s formed. “Rock Lobster” was originally written in the love shack. It burned down in 2004. “Tin roof … rusted,” was a vocal outtake by Cindy Wilson that was added to the song later.
After releasing their first compilation, Time Capsule: Songs for a Future Generation, in 1998, the record company released “Love Shack 99,” which was remixed by DJ Tonka, to promote the album.
Love Shack [Edit] 4’18
Love Shack [Remix/Edit] 4’07
Love Shack [Album Version] 5’21
Love Shack [Ben Grosse 12″ Remix] 7’58
Love Shack [12″ Mix] 6’09
Love Shack [Big Radio Mix] 5’32
Love Shack [Danny Rampling 12″ Remix] ?’?? (I’ve never heard this mix!)
Love Shack 99 [Radio Mix] 4’39
Love Shack 99 [DJ Tonka Remix] 6’28
The music video for “Love Shack” was directed by Adam Bernstein and shot at the home and studio of ceramic artists Philip Maberry and Scott Walker. The band called on friends–including future Supermodel of the World, RuPaul–to appear in the video. The clip begins with the band riding in a big-ass convertible, then transitions inside the home of Maberry and Walker. It’s a fun, exuberant, and colorful video that captures the contagious enthusiasm of a B-52’s performance.
I was already familiar with the B-52’s first album after catching their performance on Saturday Night Live in the late ‘70s. As a kid, I didn’t quite know what to make of them. However, by the time I got to college, we were dancing to “Rock Lobster” at clubs.
I was already familiar with the song “Shake That Cosmic Thing” after buying the soundtrack to Earth Girls Are Easy, so I decided to take a chance on buying the Cosmic Thing album for my birthday that year, after hearing “Love Shack” at Sound Warehouse. I told my friends, “This is going to be a big hit.” They thought it was too weird. Within a month’s time, the music video and song were all over MTV and radio. Suddenly, everyone was a B-52’s fan.
Although CD singles had already emerged in Europe, American record companies had not started to offer them until the Fall of 1989, with a handful of choices: “I Want That Man” by Deborah Harry, “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode, “Drama!” by Erasure, “Sowing the Seeds of Love” by Tears for Fears, “Sugar Daddy” by the Thompson Twins, and “Love Shack/Channel Z” by the B-52’s. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed wit the 12″ Mix or the Big Radio Mix, but I enjoyed Ben Grosse’s Remix/Edit and 12″ Remix. I would end up becoming a fan of his remixes for the B-52’s and Book of Love. I’ve never heard the Danny Rampling 12″ Remix, have you?
I talked my college roommate, Chris Pope, into going to the B-52’s concert with me on December 12 at the Bronco Bowl, which is a music venue attached to a bowling alley. The intimate space made the concert special to me; it felt more like friends playing for friends than a band playing to an audience. I remember Cindy wore a purple velveteen coat over matching hot pants and thigh-high boots with a tall hat that reminded me of the hats the female cashiers wore at Burger King in the ‘70s. They sang “Mesopotamia,” “Give Me Back My Man,” “Dance This Mess Around,” “52 Girls,” “Quiche Lorraine,” “Strobe Light,” “Rock Lobster,” and, of course, “Love Shack.” Chris became a B-52’s fan that night. The following summer, we would see the B’s again on August 3 at the Starplex Amphitheater with a larger group of converts.
What are your memories of “Love Shack” by the B-52’s?