With the announcement that this latest tour by the B-52’s is destined to be their last time out on the road, it’s a perfect time to take a look at the back catalog of the iconic band from Athens, Georgia. In particular, we’re dancing our way through 8 of the best songs from their ‘80s output, and while it’s tough to pare things down to that few tunes, we’re happy with the list we’ve curated.
1. “Private Idaho” (1980): This track climbed to #5 on the Billboard Dance chart, but in case you were wondering, it’s not really about Idaho. As Fred Schneider told the Idaho Statesman in advance of the band’s first ever show in the state, “Idaho is pretty mysterious to all of us. I know it’s a beautiful state, but then I know there’s also a lot of crazy right-wingers and all that stuff. The song’s about all different things. It’s not like a parody of Idaho or anything.”
2. "Give Me Back My Man” (1980): Funnily enough, this Cindy Wilson-sung track also climbed to #5 on the dance club chart, owing to a rule at the time which allowed multiple album tracks to sit in the same spot together.
3. “Mesopotamia”(1982): This was the title track to the band’s ’82 EP, which took them in a slightly different sonic direction. This was undoubtedly thanks to the production by David Byrne, who expanded their instrumentation considerably.
4. “Legal Tender”(1983): The first single from the band’s third studio album, this song actually spins a story about illegal tender, describing an idea for counterfeiting money because prices are rising. (In other words, it’s still relevant today.) The song kicked off the Whammy! and gave listeners an idea straight out of the gate of how the band’s sound had changed since their last full-length LP.
5. “Song for a Future Generation”(1983): One of the most fun and goofy tracks in the band’s catalog, it’s probably best known for its dating-profile recitations and the repeating of the phrase, “Let’s meet and have a baby now!”
6. “Summer of Love”(1986): This track from the B-52’s final album with Ricky should be bright and shiny with a title like that, but it’s actually rather melancholy in tone, which probably matches the mood of most people when they learned of Ricky’s passing.
7."Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland”(1986): In a 2002 interview with The Advocate, Keith Strickland remarked of this tune that it was one of the last songs he wrote with Ricky before his death, adding, “I felt we had reached a new level in our writing – we were trying new things, and there was a maturity there.” Ah, what might’ve been...
8. “Love Shack”(1989): How could we possibly close with any other song? It’s the track that proved that – even in the absence of the late Ricky Wilson – the B-52’s could still pen a party anthem with the best of them. The single proved to be the biggest hit of the band’s career, giving them a summer anthem for basically every summer from here on out, a track that will last well beyond the band itself.