I first heard about the B-52s in probably tenth grade.
“They’re so fun!”, I was told. “They’re, like, a party band!”
I was directed to listen to “Rock Lobster”. They were indeed a party band.
I hated party bands. And I hated the B52s.
“But Mitch!”, you might respond, “how could you possibly hate the B-52s? They were fun!”
Music wasn’t supposed to be fun. Not to me, anyway. I was an over-tall, under-coordinated, anti-popular kid, a fish-out-of-water, sick of high school cliques and pecking orders, all hormoned-up with no place to go, already banging my head against the bars of small-town life.
Music for me was about channelling explosive adolescent rage. I listened to the Who, and the Clash and Generation X and the Sex Pistols (and the bleeding passion of Beethoven and the crusader-esque purposefulness of Händel and the over the top expressionism of Tchaikowski, for that matter), and Springsteen in my rare introspective moments. For me, music wasn’t about dancing; it was about breaking things and people, and furious adolescent angst. The sound in my imagination at age 15 was me windmilling an open A5 chord on a Les Paul Standard through four Marshall stacks cranked to 11. No wussy third tones. No subtlety. No shelter. Certainly no murtha-farging “parties”. Just pure un-subtle angry noise, blowing away the things that broke my heart and the lies that left me lost and brokenhearted…
…whatever they were. It was a song, so they weren’t so much something I “knew” as “felt”.
And I didn’t feel “party”.
But I’m digressing.
The B-52s? Yeah, they were “fun”. And I was not. I was very, very un-fun. They played intentionally cheesed-up Farfisa organs, and I was all about the teeth-clenched throb of a Hammond B3 through an overdriven Leslie speaker. They were lightweight, eggheaded college kids, and I was not. They went to parties, and God knows I was never invited to parties. Screw ’em.
Oh, yeah. Lead singer Fred Schneider’s voice annoyed the bejeebers out of me. No, it wasn’t “homophobia”; at that age, I literally didn’t know what “gay” meant (and even if I did know what it meant? I loved Freddy Mercury’s voice). I didn’t actually know that guys could dig guys until college. (Note to my 3-4 high school friends who, it turns out, were gay? Even though you were all the girls’ best friends, and you actually did sit by the piano before play practice playing show tunes? Hand to God, never figured it out until after high school. And figuring it out didn’t make me like y’all any less – or show tunes any more). So no, it wasn’t that Schneider was gay, even if I had known at the time what that meant. No, it was that his voice annoyed me like few other sounds ever have. I could literally listen to fingernails scraping on chalkboards all day long – but Schneider’s voice sent me racing for the volume knob. And it still does.
But time went on. My tastes in music broadened. I lived a little more life. Moved to the big city, started a career, ended a career, maybe mellowed out ever so slightly, knocked around, worked in bars…
…when “Love Shack” came out:
Nope. Still hated the B-52s. Part of it was residual disdain for “Party…” anything.
Part of it was that I had to play the damn song so ungodly often. I was at KDWB at the time; we’d play it every couple of hours on the air. Then I’d work my money gig, at the bars, and play it at least once a night, 4-6 nights a week, sometimes more. But then I played a lot of music way too much back then; I actually bought a car that had no radio, I was so sick of music.
But even with that context, the B52s still annoyed me half to death. That voice. That beat. That contrived retro-sixies triviality. Blech.
And they still do.
Except for anything involving Kate Pierson.
Then, all is forgiven.
That is all.