The B-52's are an American rock band whose original line-up consisted of Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson, Ricky Wilson, and Keith Strickland. Following Ricky Wilson's death in 1985 Strickland switched to guitar. Rooted in New Wave and 1960s rock and roll, the group later covered many genres ranging from post-punk to pop rock. The "guy vs. gals" vocals of Schneider, Pierson, and Wilson, sometimes used in call and response style are a trademark. Presenting themselves as a positive, enthusiastic, slightly oddball party band, the B-52's tell tall tales, glorify wild youth, and celebrate wild romance.
Their first single, "Rock Lobster", recorded for DB Records in 1978, was an underground success, selling over 2,000 copies in total that led to The B-52's performing at CBGB and Max's Kansas City in New York City. The buzz created by the record in the UK meant their first show in London at the Electric Ballroom, London. In Canada, the single went from cult hit to bonafide smash, eventually going on to reach the number one position in the RPM-compiled national chart on May 24, 1980.
In 1979, The B-52's recorded at Compass Point Studios in The Bahamas, and released their first album, The B-52's contained re-recorded versions of "Rock Lobster" and "52 Girls", six originals recorded solely for the album, and a remake of the Petula Clark single "Downtown". It was a major success for the band, especially in Australia where it reached number three on the charts alongside its three singles "Planet Claire", "Rock Lobster", and "Dance This Mess Around". In the United States, the single "Rock Lobster" reached the Billboard Hot 100 chart, while the album itself was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
The follow-up, Wild Planet, reached number eighteen on the Billboard 200 chart in 1980 and was certified gold. "Private Idaho" became their second Hot 100 entry.The B-52's performed on Saturday Night Live and at the Heatwave festival in Toronto, Canada, and appeared in the Paul Simon film One Trick Pony. Their third album Party Mix! was released next, a remix album that took tracks from the first two LPs and presented them in extended forms.
In 1982, the band released the album, Mesopotamia, as an extended play and, in 1983, the band released Whammy! which brought the band into synthesizer and drum machine experimentation. The album entered the Billboard 200 chart in 1983, reaching number twenty-nine during the year. "Legal Tender" reached the Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Singles chart alongside "Whammy Kiss" and "Song for a Future Generation".
After taking a one year absence from their musical careers in 1984 The B-52's regrouped in 1985 to record Bouncing off the Satellites, their fifth studio record, and in January of that year they performed in Brazil, at Rock in Rio, and that was their largest crowd ever. During the recording, guitarist Wilson had been suffering from AIDS/HIV-related health complications. On October 12, 1985 Wilson died from the illness, at the age of 32. The band went into seclusion and did not tour to promote the album, prompting a hiatus from their musical careers.
In 1989, the band released Cosmic Thing, their mainstream breakthrough. The single "Channel Z", a single from the new album, became an alternative and college radio hit, hitting number one on the U.S. Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart, receiving significant airplay on MTV's modern rock show 120 Minutes.
The next single, "Love Shack", with its party vibe and colorful music video, became their first top-40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, ultimately reaching #3 in November 1989. That peak was matched in March 1990 when their follow-up single, "Roam", also reached #3.
In Australia, the country that had most embraced the band a decade earlier, "Love Shack" stayed at number one for eight weeks. A fourth single, "Deadbeat Club", which reminisced about the band's early days in Athens and whose video was shot on location and featured a cameo by fellow Athens artist R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, reached #30. The Cosmic Thing album climbed into the U.S. top five and earned multi-platinum certification. The group had a hugely successful world tour to support the record, and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in March, 1990.
In 1990, the B-52's were nominated for 4 MTV Video Music Awards including Video of the Year. They won two awards, Best Group Video and Best Art Direction. Pierson sang on Iggy Pop's song "Candy (Iggy Pop)", which gave him a top-40 hit. In 1991, Schneider's single was released and resulting in his first Hot 100 single and Pierson again guest-starred on a popular track, this time it being fellow Athens, GA, band R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People", which reached #10 in September 1991. Pierson also appeared on two other songs from R.E.M.'s chart-topping album Out of Time, "Near Wild Heaven" and "Me in Honey".
In late 1990, Cindy Wilson took time off from the band, with Julee Cruise filling in for her parts on the eventual tour. As a trio, the B-52's released Good Stuff in 1992. It is also the group's most overtly political album, though they had been activists and fund-raisers for environmental, AIDS and animal rights causes for many years.
Time Capsule: Songs for a Future Generation, appeared in 1998 along with two remixed maxi-singles "Summer of Love '98" and "Hallucinating Pluto". Cindy Wilson rejoined the group on two of the new songs and a major tour to promote the collection. "Debbie", another single from the album, placed 35 on Billboard's Hot Modern Rock Tracks. In 1999 ,they recorded a parody of "Love Shack" called "Glove Slap" for an episode of The Simpsons. They co-headlined another major tour in 2000 with the Go-Go's. In 2000, the band recorded the song "The Chosen One" for the movie Pokemon: The Movie 2000.
Funplex, the band's first original album in sixteen years, was released in March 2008. With this album, the band dropped the apostrophe from their name and became The B-52s. The album debuted at #11 on the Billboard charts in the U.S., immediately making it their second-highest charting album ever.
The first single from the album was "Funplex", which was released digitally on January 29 to the iTunes Store in the U.S. The second single lifted from the album was "Juliet of the Spirits". The B-52's performed their hit track "Love Shack" with Sugarland at the 2009 CMT Music Awards.