The B-52's

Music review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
The B-52's Music Poster Image
Campy debut from retro-mod punk pioneers.

Parents say

age 2+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive messages

The B-5's' fusion of '60s mod culture with surf and synth-punk styles adds up to a perfect little dance party on every album they've made since this debut in 1979. Their campy, joyful attitude is infectious and reminds listeners that music is fun -- don't take it too seriously.

Positive role models & representations

Nobody else on the radio sounded like The B-52's when "Rock Lobster" started popping up on "rock of the '80s" playlists. The group set a great example for DIY college bands everywhere -- with more musical ideas than training, they donned their thrift-store outfits, piled their hair up high, and lightened up the whole punk landscape. The B-52's also became a survivor band; guitarist Rickey Wilson -- brother of vocalist Cindy Wilson -- died of AIDS in 1986. The members put the band aside for a few years, and then coming back with Cosmic Thing, a No. 4 album that includes the No. 1 single "Love Shack."


The sexiest song on The B-52's is "Lava," in which the image of a lava lamp morphs into lava as a metaphor for desire:  "My love's mountin' / My love's eruptin' like a red hot volcano / Fire, oh volcano, over you / I gotta lotta lava love locked up inside me." But a lot of the volcano images are really tongue-in-cheek: "Oooo my body's burnin' like a lava from a Mauna Loa / My heart's crackin' like a Krakatoa." The song "6060-842" is about a phone number, written on a wall, that can be phoned "for a good time," but no one answers. Other songs on the album, such as "Dance This Mess Around," include mentions of holding hands and lots of dancing.


The term "hell's magnet" is used in the song "Hero Worship."


The B-52's' retro, thrift-store style of dress, and low-fi instruments send an anti-consumerism message.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The B-52's homemade/low-fi approach and campy attitude appealed to an irreverent punk fan base when they debuted, but The B-52's exuded none of the disgust or anger that's commonly associated with punk. This album contains very little that anyone could consider offensive, unless the imagery in "Lava" seems too sexual.

User Reviews

Adult Written bySatanicMechanic79 July 15, 2012

B-52's - maybe not quite so innocent!

Firsty, this album is absolutely fu*king fantastic. Anyways, I think the reviewer missed out of some of the more subtle (and some not so subtle) details. The ly... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byMovieDude88 December 29, 2013

Great Album! Some profanities though....

This is personally my favorite album of all time! Other than sexual references in "Lava," and some profane language in "There's A Moon in th... Continue reading

What's the story?

The B-52's were among the first groups to come out of Athens, GA, a college town that also spawned R.E.M., among others. They got their name from a slang term for the giant beehive hairdos favored by the female members. The band originally included vocalist Fred Schneider, brother and sister Rickey (guitar) and Cindy Wilson (vocals), singer Kate Pierson, and drummer Keith Strickland. They had little musical training but combined inventive, spacey (as in, from outer space) surf music with a retro mod aesthetic and a great sense of humor to create some of the most outlandish, original music to come out of the punk era. Like Devo, their use of low-fi synthesizer sounds influenced new-wave musicians. Sadly, after making a few more records, the group lost Strickland to AIDS, after which they took a three-year hiatus. They then went back into the studio to record Cosmic Thing (1989), which included the smash-hit party song "Love Shack." The B-52's still perform together; their most recent release was a live album, With the Wild Crowd (2011).

Is it any good?

In a way, The B-52's seemed to appear on the punk scene fully formed. Though their sound evolved, becoming more full and polished as they went on, their debut, The B-52's, showcases the band's wonderful futro (retro-plus future -- what people used to think the future would be like) sound in all its glory: the tight, raw guitar sounds; the soaring haywire harmonies; the surf rhythms; Fred Schneider's animated delivery. The terrific, ridiculous song "Rock Lobster" is still as much fun to listen to now as it was in 1979. The B-52's sound endures because they still sound unique, and they are a blast.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the connection between music and fashion. How does the B-52's look reflect their musical style?

  • "Rock Lobster" was The B-52's breakthrough song, but it's sort of nonsensical. Why is this track so appealing?

  • How were The B-52's different from other DIY punk-era bands?

Music details

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