Sunday, September 11, 2016

B Is For...

Songs A to Z

My 26-day challenge to myself -- write about a different band every day, working from A to Z. I could have written today about the Beatles or the Beach Boys -- but why, when it's so much fun just to think about the B-52s?

The B-52s / "Love Shack"

I've always felt somehow that the B-52s were personal friends of mine, kindred spirits, like so many of us outsiders who came to New York to have fun as much as to make good. Those early albums -- The B-52s (1979), Wild Planet (1980), and Whammy! (1983) -- were definitely part of the soundtrack of my first years in NYC.  But it's Cosmic Thing (1989) that ultimately is my favorite B-52s LP. That's where they eased up on the New Wave high-concept quirkiness and allowed themselves to relax into an infectious Southern dance groove. And as luck would have it, it produced this, their one big mainstream hit. 

So when they jump into Fred's big ol' Chrysler to head for the "Love Shack," I'm squeezing myself into the back seat for sure.  It makes me feel like I'm back in college, on some crazy late-night road trip, hunting for a backroads bar that we probably had no business going to. . . .  

There's no story, just impressionistic details flung around (if this were a film, it'd be shot with a handheld camera) -- there's a line outside, a secret knock at the door, and everybody inside is peeling off their clothes and dancing with total abandon. A tinny surf guitar jangles, and there's party glitter everywhere -- mattress, highway, front porch, hallway. 

Fred, Kate, and Cindy hand the vocal duties back and forth, their overlapping phrases really more percussion than anything. "The whole shack shimmies!" Fred exclaims; "Everybody's movin', everybody's groovin' baby," Kate and Cindy croon in harmony; "funky little shack, FUNK-y little shack," Fred raps out. They begin to tap quietly on the door, but the tom-toms build and build, and they're knocking louder and louder ("bang, bang, bang, on the door baby"), until Fred cries, "You're WHAT?" and Cindy sasses back, "Tin RROOOFF, rusted!" 

Rumors have it that that phrase meant she was pregnant, but Cindy claims she just blurted it out, picturing the rusty roof of the original cabin. Because of course it was a real place -- could you ever doubt that?

"I got me a Chrysler and it seats about twenty," Fred entices us. "So c'mon, and bring your jukebox money!"  And I'm clutching those quarters in my hot little hand, ready to head down the Atlanta highway all over again. 

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