Combining B movie zaniness with some powerful punk and surf rock licks, the B-52s broke out with 1979’s Rock Lobster, a quirky hit playing on the emerging mainstream interest in new wave music.
The band formed in 1976, allegedly after the new bandmates shared a flaming volcano drink at a Chinese restaurant in Athens, Georgia. Named for the beehive hairstyles Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson wore on stage, the band first played publicly in 1977.
Rock Lobster was their first release winning fans and landing the band gigs at CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City. Rock Lobster traveled the world, gaining the band shows in Europe and reaching #1 in Canada.
The band saved most of their concert staples for release on their second album with the intention of carrying the success of Rock Lobster through at least two albums. It worked, with their second release Wild Planet generally regarded as their best album.
The B-52’s had their most productive years in the early 80s, playing at the inaugural US Festival alongside Talking Heads, Oingo Boingo and the Police. In 1984 the band took a year off before returning to play in Brazil and work on a new album. In 1985 band member Ricky Wilson died from AIDs, an illness that had not previously been disclosed to most of his bandmates.
It was a devastating loss for the band and they chose not to tour with their new album – but the band recovered to release their first top 10 hit, the party anthem Love Shack.
In 2008 the B52s released their first new album in 16 years. Funplex became the bands second highest charting album. Still touring today, the band may have received its greatest honor last year when it was announced that they would be featured in a comic book – Archie Meets the B-52s.