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Monday, Jul 7, 2014
Is it New Wave? Is it punk? Hard to say, but what we do know about "52 Girls" is this: it just may be the greatest song the B-52's ever created.

“52 Girls” is only the second song on the B-52’s first album, and despite never being released as a single, it has gone on to become a cult pop classic of the highest order—and all they do is just list the names of girls.


One of the most remarkable things about The B-52’s as an album—and something the group was never able to fully capture in any album since then—was creating not just a distinct sound, but getting right on down to creating a distinct guitar tone. Although there are unamplified guitar rock tunes aplenty in the great rock landscape, with everyone from Blondie to Prince able to turn those ringing strings into New Wave pop hits, there was a certain grit to Chris Blackwell’s production on this album, somewhat punk in the most arguable of ways but more than anything, it’s just a great damn melody.


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Monday, Jun 30, 2014
The B-52's' opening salvo nicks Mancini, talks about aliens, and settled a bet I had with my dad on whether it was Kate Pierson's voice or a synth on that recording.

One of the first concerts I ever went to was where the Royal Crown Revue opened for the Pretenders, who opened for the B-52’s. While I was excited for the concert itself, it also served as a way to settle a bet me and my dad had: whether or not it was a synthesizer or either Kate Pierson’s/Cindy Wilson’s voice that served as the ominous opening wail to “Planet Claire”, the first track off of the B-52’s’ very first album.


We were both right, but my dad was still stunned at just how well Pierson’s warble went with the vintage synths that they used to create the B-movie atmosphere that proved so crucial to “Planet Clarie”‘s success. In Dance This Mess Around, our ongoing Between the Grooves feature tackling great albums track-by-track, we are looking at the opening salvo of one of the greatest pop albums ever made, and here taking on Athens, GA rockers the B-52’s and their eponymous debut.


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Monday, Jun 23, 2014
They cornered the genre known as "party-pop", dressed in '60s thrift store kitsch, and poured jokes and humor into all their lyrics. Oh, and their debut album is actually one of the greatest rock albums ever made. No, really.

There are a lot of iconic B-52’s one-liners. Most of them are funny. Some of them are downright surreal. Yet virtually all of them leave you feeling like you’re going down to where the love honey grows, and picking just one to sum up the entire aesthetic of these fearless Athens, Georgia New Wavers is actually harder than you’d think. Do you pick a zinger from “Love Shack”? The bizarre “Song for a Future Generation”? The wonderful guitar strut of “Private Idaho”?


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Monday, Jun 16, 2014
For the last proper song on The Beach Boys Today, Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys craft their most inventive and sublime track to date, "In the Back of My Mind".

For the last proper track on The Beach Boys Today!, Brian Wilson and the rest of the group don’t hold anything back. “In the Back of My Mind” is a huge step forward musically, lyrically, and production-wise, and even tucked away in the back of this album, the song has taken on an iconic status among fans and critics for being a true masterpiece.


It’s notable, then, that “In the Back of My Mind” was recorded in the same session as “Good to My Baby”, the Beach Boys Today! track that I discussed as sounding the most like the group’s earlier music. In contrast, “In the Back of My Mind” really sounds like nothing they’ve ever done before, even with all the experimentation and sophistication we’ve previously seen on this album. Philip Lambert comments, “The chord progressions of ‘In The Back Of My Mind’ are virtually unprecedented in Brian’s previous work”, but it’s not just the chord progressions: the masterful lyrics from Brian Wilson and Mike Love, as well as Wilson’s sublime orchestral arrangement, are innovative in their own right.


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Monday, Jun 9, 2014
Likely the first song written for The Beach Boys Today!, "She Knows Me Too Well" is surprisingly sophisticated and unique.

“She Knows Me Too Well” was technically the first song recorded for The Beach Boys Today!, before the band’s All Summer Long album had been released or recording for The Beach Boys Christmas Album had begun. But the song got re-recorded later for Today! and that initial June 8th, 1964 recorded has never been subsequently released (like so many other alternate takes from this and other Beach Boys albums). It’s safe to assume, though, that not much changed between the June and the August recording of the song, compositionally at least. If we look at other tracks from Today! for which earlier recordings that have been released, the changes between versions tend to be in the arrangement and occasionally the lyrics. So while we can’t be sure exactly what changed from the first version of “She Knows Me Too Well” to the final released version, we can imagine that they are fairly similar.


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