I was about 16 when I first heard a song from The B-52’s on the radio. The song stood out and attracted my attention, because it was very upbeat and energetic. The song, of course, was Love Shack, which was plastered all over radio that year. I had recently bought my first CD player, so Cosmic Thing became one of the first CD’s in my collection.
Love Shack was a great song, of course, but it had one particularly redeeming value that made it so much better: my sister hated it.
This is something I took great advantage of. At the time, my sister and I were both in high school, and shared a bathroom. My morning bathroom routine consisted of: (a) take shower. (b) brush hair. (c) brush teeth. I could accomplish this in about 15 minutes, even though I often could not find the sink, due to a dense array of beauty products (my sister’s, not mine) spread across every square inch of flat surface area. My sister’s routine, however, required at least 90 minutes, on a good day.
This led to daily conflict.
Logically, it seemed to me that I should be able to use the bathroom first, since I took the least amount of time. Otherwise I would have to wait 90 minutes while God-knows-what happened behind the locked bathroom door. From my perspective, my sister looked little changed between the time she entered the bathroom and exited, a cloud of chemicals from hairspray, perfume, and makeup trailing behind her and suffocating me as I entered and attempted to take a shower.
But no, my sister always wanted to use the bathroom first. So each morning, one of us would hear the other rising from bed, and we would each leap out of our bedrooms and make a beeline for the bathroom. She normally won, sometimes spraying hairspray in my face.
This went on for years, and led my sister and I not to like each other much. (We became great friends once we each had our own bathrooms as adults.)
But, I finally had a way to get even. She was so sick of hearing Love Shack on the radio and M-TV that she was none too delighted when I bought the CD. After school, I would put Love Shack on repeat, crank my boom box up, and play it loudly over and over, sometimes for a couple hours. Sometimes I would jam along (poorly) on my keyboard. Oh, how she hated this.
But in between this, I explored the other tracks on Cosmic Thing and found that I liked all of them. (I also had a bit of a crush on Kate and Cindy.) I learned that The B-52’s were not a new band, and that Cosmic Thing was their “comeback” album. With an empty CD case, I began to slowly purchase their older albums, and became a bona fide fan of the band and their eclectic, up-tempo music. When The B-52’s came to town during their Cosmic Thing tour, I asked a girl from high school to go with me to the concert, and we had a great time. It was my first rock concert.
Over the years, whenever I’ve been feeling down, blasting a B-52’s song usually does the trick and lifts my spirits. And hey, they’re unapolegtically and authentically zany — I like zany. Who wouldn’t want them to play at a party?
The band has had a number of personal setbacks, but they have managed to stay strong and stick together as a group. I was thrilled to learn that they will soon be coming out with a new album — their first new original album in 16 years. The first single, Funplex (also the name of the album), recently came out, and is available on iTunes. It’s a great, fun, upbeat song — classic B-52’s. Kate and Cindy’s voices are as strong as ever (and Fred’s as weird as ever), with great guitar riffs and fun lyrics. (“I’m your daytime waitress as the Taco Tiki Hut. I’m you daytime waitress, here’s your stupid 7-Up.”)
They’ve been performing some of the new songs in recent appearances, and thanks to YouTube, it’s possible to hear very poor quality versions of these new songs. I think “Juliet of the Spirits” may well be my favorite so far. The quality of this recording sure isn’t great, but here’s a YouTube version:
I can’t wait for The B-52’s to go on tour to support this album. It’s been over 15 years since I last saw them. When I hear Love Shack again, though, I might suddenly smell hair spray.
The new album drops on March 25, 2008.