Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: The B-52s

How one feels about the B-52s depends in large part on how large of a context you know them from.  I tend to be what the cognoscenti of the music world call a “pop stan” and thus I tend to know them best for their hit songs.  There are plenty of people who like this band for their quirky and campy songs that were released from the late 1970’s through the 1980’s, but for those of us whose taste in music is largely tied to what appears on the charts, this band is best known for a short period of intense popular success in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  Nevertheless, they have a career that is far longer than that peak and an importance that is far greater than the somewhat silly and kitsch nature of their most popular songs would indicate.  Indeed, I would argue personally that the significance of the B-52s lies not only in their hit singles and their general camp aesthetic (which is, as it may be guessed, very much a result of the personal lives of the members of the band themselves), but also in their importance in the Athens, Georgia musical scene that also produced REM.

The Influence Of The B-52s

The B-52s as a group were definitely one that wore their own influences on their sleeves.  They simultaneously managed to exploit their southern background while also acting in ways that were clearly outside of the mainstream for that region.  Their music often points back to previous decades as an influence, especially the 1960’s, and they are frequently also knowledgeable referential in their songs to previous ages.  Nevertheless, it is also not hard to see that they have proven to be an influence on others.  Their band naming convention certainly inspired later groups like SR-71 to think that such an approach would work for them.  For example, whether or not he was trolling, in 1980 John Lennon said that the B-52s “Rock Lobster” inspired him to comeback with Double Fantasy [1].  Likewise, not only did the band inspire the Athens scene that they shared with REM but they also influenced the scenes of other cities, from the New York Clubs they toured in the mid-to-late 1970’s before getting their big break to San Antonio [2], where artists like The Big Dippers and the #2 Dinners.  When artists are able to admit that such a group inspired them to be creative, that says a lot about their worth as an influence.

Why The B-52s Belong In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

What is perhaps most impressive about the B-52s is that even though they are best known in pop audiences for their twin #3 hits off of their comeback Cosmic Thing album (“Love Shack” and “Roam”), they had successful albums and well-beloved songs going back more than a decade before their pop mainstream success.  With three Hot 100 entries before Cosmic Thing (namely “Rock Lobster,” “Private Idaho,” and “Legal Tender), the band managed to have three more top 40’s after their biggest hits with “Deadbeat Club,” “Good Stuff,” and a campy remake of “(Meet The) Flintstones.”  It is in their album success where the band has shown a great deal of success.  Cosmic Thing is their best selling album with a 4x platinum certification, but their eponymous debut went platinum and they had three additional gold certified albums so far (Wild Planet, Whammy!, and Good Stuff) [3].  That shows a consistent pattern of success, and given the way that their music is generally critically beloved they have a solid career that is well worthy of recognition.

Why The B-52s Aren’t Inducted Into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

It’s unclear why this hasn’t happened yet.  Given the high degree of critical regard for the B-52s and their generally appreciated aesthetic among other musicians, and the fact that they have been both a critical and commercial darling since the late 1970’s, one would think that they would have drawn attention long before now.  But they haven’t, obviously.

Verdict:  Put them in, obviously.

[1] https://audiovisualrepository.squarespace.com/blog/rockhallcontendersb52s

[2] https://www.expressnews.com/entertainment/music-stage/article/How-the-B-52s-impacted-San-Antonio-s-music-14303580.php

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_B-52%27s_discography

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: The B-52s

  1. mothfire says:

    The B52s have also shown growth in their craft, even with Ricky Wilson as the lead songwriter and force for the band. Sometimes you see band leaders go two directions: they stay in their comfort zone and never change or they change so much that they alienate the rest of the band. This band held together like no other up to the death of Ricky Wilson, who died of AIDS after completing Bouncing off the Satellites. And after his death and a couple of years of grieving, they were able to come back together and still be able to put together really good albums and remain true to themselves, which was, under all of the styles they used, a really good, quirky dance band.
    There are some albums that you buy to get the hit songs and much of the album was filler. For me, their first two album I could listen all the way through, and have, several times. I would say, on the basis of the first two albums alone, they should be in the RRHOF.

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