The B-52s on ‘Rock Lobster’: “There’s not any songs like it!”

"Pass the tanning butter!" The making of an unlikely surf-rock hit

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STRICKLAND: When Cindy goes into the scream, that was sort of a tip of the hat to Yoko Ono. We were all big fans of her music. I think the fish sounds and Fred going “there goes a narwhal” and “here comes a bikini whale” and all that stuff, that was just from the jams, and piecing it all together.

SCHNEIDER: “Pass the tanning butter…” That was probably a ’60s reference, ’cos I lived near the shore, and there were constant ads for suntan lotion and all that stuff – I just threw everything into the mix.

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STRICKLAND: The humour came out very naturally for us. That is Fred’s genius in a way. He would just yell the stuff out… very sort of punk, you know? It was how he delivered it that made it work.

KEVIN DUNN (production): I first heard about the Bs when they were playing around at parties and they were the talk of the town, basically. I saw them when my band The Fans played with them in Atlanta – it was something to see. It was a singular sound, nothing like it, Ricky especially. He was one of a kind, a perfect, naïve genius. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that in my life.
It was like mass kinesis in the audience.

SCHNEIDER: We played New York before we ever played Athens. We’d done parties in Athens but there was no place for us to play, ’cos we were the only punk band in town. Somebody said, “You sound as good as a lot of the bands at Max’s”, so we got a gig there on December 12, 1977.

DUNN: The Fans were playing CBGB’s a lot in ’77 and we basically introduced the band to Hilly Kristal: “Here’s a cute little band from Athens, perhaps you might like to book them sometime.”

SCHNEIDER: And eventually we were one of the only bands they would allow to play both Max’s and CBGB’s, because we said, “Look, we can’t be driving 800 miles on alternate weekends.” We started just totally selling out, and record labels came to see us, we were thrilled. We met Blondie, the Talking Heads…

STRICKLAND: I remember playing Max’s the second time and The Cramps were there, and I was talking to Lux and Ivy after our set. In those days, everybody was putting out an independent single and we hadn’t recorded ours yet. I remember Lux and Ivy asking, “What’s your single gonna be?” And we were like, “Well, we haven’t decided yet.” They said, “It’s gotta be ‘Rock Lobster’!” I wasn’t really sure, but it was always the last song at closing time.

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SCHNEIDER: I guess it was the strongest, and got the most response. By that time, we had “Killer Bees”, “Planet Claire”, “52 Girls”, maybe “Dance This Mess Around”.

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