This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #336: Rock Lobster by The B-52s.
Today we take a look at one of the most unusual yet, most fun songs ever recorded……”Rock Lobster” by “The B-52s”. “Rock Lobster” was a song on the “B-52s” self-titled debut album in 1979. The song was written by the two men in the band, singer, Fred Schneider and guitarist, Ricky Wilson and, has gone on to be the band’s biggest selling single of all-time.
For all of the fun surrounding this song, the origin of how it came to be is based upon something of a personal nature for lead singer, Schneider. As a young boy, he and his family went to a seafood restaurant and Schneider recalls being horrified that live lobsters were being boiled alive for them to eat. The suffering seemed cruel to Schneider who ended up growing up and joining P.E.T.A. (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), as a result. So, what does this have to do with the song, “Rock Lobster”?
A decade or so later, as a young man, Schneider found himself at a nightclub that played rock music while, at the same time, showing slide shows of animals on the screens that filled the walls of the club. One of the images that came on screen was of lobsters being barbecued. This enraged Schneider who was heard to shout, “Rock this! Rock that! Rock lobsters, too!” Despite being whipped up into a frenzy, as soon as words “Rock lobsters” rolled off of his tongue, everyone stopped and commented on what a funny phrase it was. That phrase helped inspire Schneider and Wilson to come up with a stream-of-consciousness-type string of words, phrases, invented animals, laid over top of a stinging guitar track. But then, they reached for one last idea to help push the song over the top……Yoko Ono!
When you listen to “Rock Lobster”, you will notice that singer Kate Pierson contributes a steady array of high-pitched squealy sounds…..almost, dolphin-like, in nature. It was the band’s obsession with singer, Yoko Ono, that inspired Pierson to incorporate the high-pitched noises during the stretch where Schneider is listing off all of the strange creatures they can see, such as a “bikini whale” and a “narwhal”. For those unfamiliar, Yoko Ono released several albums upon which she “experimented” with sounds that often were recorded as squeals and squeaks. Ironically enough, once “Rock Lobster” was released and became a hit, one of the people most impacted by it was, none other than, John Lennon! By 1979, John Lennon had long since left The Beatles and had produced several solo albums. But, he had grown disillusioned with the music business and had been in “retirement” for almost five years when “Rock Lobster” hit the airwaves. But, upon listening to the song, John immediately noticed to the ode to his wife, Yoko Ono, that the “B-52s” had incorporated into the backing track of “Rock Lobster” and took that as a sign that young musicians still thought that he and Ono were relevant. This jolt of renewed self-confidence caused Lennon to return to the studio and produce one final album before his death. That album was called, “Double Fantasy”. Even after his death, the connection between the band and Yoko Ono continued, with her joining them on stage for “Rock Lobster”, contributing her own, unique animal-like sounds as the song goes on.
“Rock Lobster” is one of the most original and unique songs ever recorded. Arising from a wave of anti-cruelty outrage at the plight of lobsters in restaurants, forming on a foundation of adulation for a legendary singer and then, acting as inspiration for a legend to have one, last surge of creativity, is all very impressive for a song, whose title is about a crayfish…..which is what a “rock lobster” is called, in case you didn’t know. Here is “Rock Lobster” by “The B-52s”. Enjoy!
The link to the video for the song, “Rock Lobster” by The B-52s, can be found here.
The link to the official website for The B-52s, can be found here.
Thanks to KEXP for supporting all genres of music. The link to their website can be found here.