Monday, February 8, 2016

The B-52's - Private Idaho

New wave and surf rock might seem like an odd combination (ok, it is an odd combination), but somehow the B-52's hit on a sound that was pure campy fun.  Sounding simultaneously  modern and vintage, the band sported an odd look that included the high beehives that gave the band its name.  Combine that with some seriously catchy material, and it is not surprising that the group made a name for itself in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

The B-52's emerged out of the growing Athens, Georgia music scene, and would soon be joined by fellow Athenians R.E.M.  However, the group's sound was more Devo or Talking Heads than southern rock.  After forming in 1976 with little musical training, the band had progressed enough to make a demo of "Rock Lobster" in 1978.  That song would go on to become an independent hit, and would lead to recording contracts with Warner Bros. and Island Records.

"Private Idaho" was off the B-52's second LP, 1980's Wild Planet.  The single hit #74 on the charts (the group's second charting single, after "Rock Lobster"), while the album hit #18.  From there, things became more challenging -- the next few albums did not do as well, and founding guitarist Ricky Wilson (whose sister Cindy was also in the band) died of an AIDS-related illness in 1985.

As many readers will know, that wasn't the end of the story.  The B-52's 1989 comeback album, Cosmic Thing, became a huge surprise hit and led to a second period of success.  The group remains active as of this writing, though there have been some personnel changes and periods of inactivity through the years.

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