10th Record: The B-52s “Wild Planet”

wp.jpgBoy, it always makes me happy to pull this one off the shelf… A lot of good memories packed into this slab of wax! This was my first B-52s album, so it benefits from being wrapped up in nostalgia in a way that elevates it over the rest of their work. Rationally, I know the first album is superior — the raw sound! the frenzied energy! rock lobster! 52 girls! — but this one got about 300 more plays during my crucial early teenager phase.

My memory isn’t good enough to pull how I had even heard of the band, but what I do remember is going to the record store and having to ask for help. I wanted a cassette, and this store kept the cassettes behind the counter for safekeeping.You know, kind of like this:

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I didn’t know which album I was supposed to get, so I vividly remember looking at each cassette trying to make a decision. The clerk wasn’t very helpful, he was more like this:

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I ended up picking by the cover and I guess the vivid red of “Wild Planet” stood out the most. Whatever it was, that cassette (along with the “Repo Man” soundtrack and home tapings of Jonathan L’s weekly “Virgin Vinyl” radio show) got a ton of play and scrutiny that summer. On a kinda cheesy and embarrasing note, I remember looking at the cover art and listening to all the banter and thinking “this is how cool grown-ups are. I hope I can be like this, some day” — a lot of my appreciation of camp, b-movies, mid-century kitsch, etc can be drawn back to those thoughts in specific. I, too, wanted to have a lava lamp, wild parties where pizza was consumed, and to name my dog goofy names like Quiche Lorraine. I succeeded, too!

Studying the album so closely paid off in other ways as well. I’ve always been around friends who loved to quote B-52s in some regard. In high school, a friend and I would have annoying call and response games in classrooms and hallways, where one of us would try to interject “what’s that on your head?” into conversations or while passing the other in order to elicit a boisterous “A WIG!” shout. In college, one of my dormmates would frequently lapse into Fred Schneider impressions, leading to even more embarrassing and insensitive exchanges and quoting. But mostly, a good litmus test for my friendship is your ability to recall every party element from “Party Out of Bounds,” a practice so nerdy that I won’t even get into its usage here.

Music notes! Hearing it again, as noted, the energy just isn’t quite the same from the first album. The songs are more consistent, though, and I think you can probably converge those two paths and see what the future held for the band — the more polished they got as a band, the less interesting they were overall.

Origin: No idea where this one came from. The cover looks pretty worn, but the vinyl plays super clearly — likely just a bargain addition to replace my cassette at some point.

Family Comments: My family wasn’t around when I was listening to this album, but the timing is pretty good nonetheless. My son has become a big fan of “Rock Lobster”, and will frequently request that song or other songs by “that guy”.  I’m sure he’d like hearing this whole album…

Discogs Link
Vinyl: VG++
Cover: VG-

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