Which horror character appears in the video to your side-project band The Superions’ 2010 track ‘Santa’s Disco’?

“Was it a dead guy from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead?”

WRONG. It’s Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th. ‘Santa’s Disco’ is off The Superions’ album ‘Destination…Christmas!’…

“I like weird holiday albums. I’m sick of ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and ‘Ave Maria’, and prefer the Barking Dogs doing ‘Jingle Bells’ and [Gayla Peevey’s] ‘I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas’. So I always wanted to do a Christmas album and since no one has ever done a song about fruitcake – and I’m probably one of three people in the world who likes fruitcake – voila, we recorded [the track] ‘Fruitcake’! I hardly mention Christmas in my songs and I don’t mention JC.”

On the subject of horror, you used to film your own movies before you started the B-52s…

“We’re doing a B-52s documentary and they might show bits of one 8mm horror movie I did – it was more like a horrible movie! – called The Day After the Night of the Living Dead, which starred one of my brothers and two of my sisters, and was filmed in a cemetery next to my friend’s house. It’s six minutes long and is my brother and his friends just popping up from behind tombstones and attacking us while we’re having a barbecue [Laughs].”

On The B-52s 1986 album ‘Bouncing Off the Satellites’, what does the backwards message on the song ‘Detour Thru Your Mind’ say?

“It says: ‘I buried my parakeet in the backyard’. [Laughs]”


“It’s like ‘I Buried Paul’.* That was my idea. We can’t do that song anymore because it’s not funny talking about cutting someone’s head off and using it as an ashtray. One of the lyrics it had was ‘supersaver to your mind’ back when they had supersaver flights. Back in the Stone Age!”

What are your memories of ‘Bouncing Off the Satellites’?

“Even with Ricky [Wilson, original B-52s guitarist] passing [of AIDS-related illness shortly after the album’s release] being really traumatic, the single ‘Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland’ turned out to be one of my favourite videos we’ve ever done. It felt fun, back when I could fit in that outfit which I still have – now I’d look like a stuffed pork roll!”

* At the end of the Beatles’ 1967 track ‘Strawberry Fields ForeverJohn Lennon says: “I buried Paul”

‘B52/ROCK LOBSTER’ was etched on the main circuit board of which ‘80s/’90s home computer system?

“Are you kidding?! I don’t know that one!”

WRONG. It was the Commodore Amiga 500.

“Too bad they didn’t just use ‘Rock Lobster’ and pay us! [Laughs] I didn’t know that because I’m not a video game player. Back in the ‘80s, I started playing Super Mario Bros. with my six-year-old nephew. After 10 minutes, he protested: ‘Come on Uncle Fred, you gotta keep moving!”, but I didn’t know what the hell I was doing! I’m more of a Ms. Pac-Man type of person!”

Was there a moment when you realised that The B-52s music had entered the mainstream?

“That came with [1989’s] ‘Love Shack’, which I had to beg radio stations to play because they wouldn’t touch it and thought it was too weird – but I’m glad they did in the end. It saved us financially and then the next single ‘Roam’ charted at Number 3 [in the US] as well. But it was just a happy accident that ‘Love Shack’ finally became a hit, and now you have to go to every damn wedding and hear it! Whenever I hear a bad version of ‘Love Shack’ being performed, I’ll say: ‘Look, do you mind if I sing it?’ If someone’s ruining the song on karaoke, I’ll get up there! The singer is in shock – but everyone else appreciates it because the other person stank.”

In his 2020 autobiography ‘Remain In Love’, Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz claims that when you first sent The B-52s’ iconic 1979 single ‘Rock Lobster’ to New York club CGBG, their response was negative, which made him want to march down there and “kick their asses”…

“He probably would have! [Talking Heads’] Chris and Tina [Weymouth] were huge supporters of us from the very beginning, as was Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Chris Stein. CGBG was a punk club and no-one had a sense of humour until we came along. We were tongue-in-cheek. We weren’t ‘camp’, which is a label we keep getting. We weren’t telling music as jokes, although I must admit some of our songs are weird! Like ‘Rock Lobster’! People even dressed up as lobsters at our gigs – now they just wear big wigs and block peoples’ views.”

Talking Heads’ member David Byrne produced The B-52s 1982 EP ‘Mesopotamia‘. How did you find working with him – didn’t you once accuse him of stealing your ideas?

“He did a really good job. I only went in for the two songs I was on. And he did use lyrics that Ricky had written on two of his songs. Don’t share original ideas with him!”

For a bonus half-point: the B-side to ‘Rock Lobster’ is ‘52 Girls’, but how many girls’ names are actually mentioned in its lyrics?

“[Fred starts singing ’52 Girls’] ‘Effie, Madge and Mabel/Biddie, see them on the beach, Or in New York City/Tina Louise/And there’s Hazel and Mavis/Can you name, name, name’…So how many was that? Eight so far? I guess 18 then?

WRONG. 25.

You provided the vocals for a Foo Fighters live cover of The B-52s ‘Planet Claire’. Which of their singles does it appear as a B-side on?

“I thought it was a just a limited edition single of a couple of thousand records?”

WRONG. It also appears as a B-side on their 2003 single ‘Times Like These‘.

“I wish they’d told me. I’d have bought a bunch! [Laughs] I was excited to do it and thought it turned out good.”

As suburban kids, Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl had their minds opened after watching The B-52s on Saturday Night Live

“Well, tell that to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! [Laughs].”

Did you know that SNL performance would be such a lightning-rod moment?

“No. We were paralysed by fear. That’s why we looked so serious, ‘cause we were nervous as hell and we weren’t camera-ready like most kids today. Kate [Pierson, B-52s member]’s keyboard was vintage, and we had to fix it every time we dragged it somewhere, and Ricky broke strings all the time back then, so we were afraid something would go wrong.”

Who’s been the most unexpected fan of The B-52s?

David Bowie came to one our shows before we signed. You could hear our jaws hit the floor!”

Which 2007 song that you co-wrote with Sophie Ellis-Bextor shares its title with a famous Oasis track?



“I didn’t know that. Mine’s better probably! [Laughs] Sophie’s a doll. I loved working with her I was hoping ‘Supersonic’ would be on her album, but it only ended up as a bonus track [on ‘Trip the Light Fantastic’]. It sounded good.”

Any favourite collaborations over the years?

“Kate and I got to sing ‘Mind Train’ with Yoko Ono at her birthday party and it wound up being 11 minutes long, because we were waiting until Yoko said ‘OK, that’s it’ – but she didn’t. At the end, she said: ‘Boy, you guys really go for it!’”

There’s a celebrated story of how ‘Rock Lobster’ prompted John Lennon to record again after his post-Beatles music career had been on hiatus for five years after hearing it in a club…

“The weirdness of ‘Rock Lobster’’s lyrics and Cindy [Wilson, B-52s member] doing the fish noises were obviously a tribute to Yoko in a way. And John and Yoko went back into the studio after hearing it and came back with a marvellous album ‘Double Fantasy’ that we loved.”

Which two B-52s videos does RuPaul appear in?

“’Love Shack’ and ‘Funplex’?”


“I met RuPaul in the ‘80s on the 15th Street bus, alongside Lady Bunny and Lahoma [Van Zandt]. I was carrying two bags of records and was no big deal back then – and I’m not that big of a deal now – but they asked if they could meet me and I was like ‘What?!’. We’ve been friends ever since. He was in ‘Love Shack’ because they were hiring people, and then I asked him to be in ‘Funplex’. I also played a rotten manager in his MTV Christmas Ball [in 1993] – I got a lot of tips from our first manager!”

Talking of drag: last year, The B-52s issued a statement denouncing the “numerous bills that promote transphobia and discrimination” against transgender people and drag artists in the US. How important was it for you to speak out?

“Very, because it affects so many [trans] children and their hormone treatments and also their parents. Even Republicans have trans kids and they’re upset. It’s just disgusting what’s going on. It’s all part of the anti-gay thing and now we have a real idiot who believes the earth is 6,000 years old as the speaker of the House [Mike Johnson] and he’s a piece of shit.”

With such a polarised subject, did you worry about any backlash?

“We don’t care. You can say whatever you want about me online – I’m not going to see it, because I don’t read any of that. I know when I’m good, and I know when I’m bad and if we’re doing something good like this, you’re not going to affect me. I just know that you’re a rotten person if you don’t like it!”

Speaking of inclusion, Noodles from The Offspring (who covered ’52 Girls’) claimed that the B-52s made him question his own prejudices, noting: ‘Where I was brought up, there was a lot of anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry. When I was still a teenager, the B-52s helped me to help grow beyond them’…

“Well, I am a sex god so I have a magic way with these people! [Laughs]”

The B-52s perform in ‘Ramones Aid’ in the New York band’s 1986 ‘Something to Believe In’ video. Name any three other artists who also appear.

“I haven’t seen that video since it came out. We’re talking ancient history!”

WRONG. Among many others, you could have had: Afrika Bambaataa, Sparks, Spinal Tap and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic.

“It was great because I hung around Downtown a lot. I didn’t wanna live up in Mahopac [where he shared a house with The B-52s] which was like The Shining, so I got an apartment in the city early on, and there’s some crazy pictures of me and Joey Ramone in clubs. The Ramones opened for The B-52s, and I was a huge fan. I loved Joey, who was a hoot, and all the others except for Johnny – I’d see him at the post office and he always looked like he was about to beat somebody up!”

You provided the vocals for ‘90s cartoon Captain Planet and the Planeteers ‘Eco Rap’ theme tune. Can you complete the following lyrics: ‘But when Eco-Villains run amok/Plundering and pillaging, Yuck!/ Cap’s here to level the playing field…?

“I didn’t write those lyrics, but it was great to do.”

WRONG. The rest is: ‘With a Ph. D in sustainable yield!’

“It’s pretty wordy! [Laughs] I think I could have written a better tune, but that’s what they wanted and I was gonna do my best.”

What’s been the most unusual offer you’ve ever turned down?

“They wanted us to play for the 60th anniversary of the B-52 Bomber, and we said: no, we’re not really about bombers! [Laughs]”

Note: the band’s name refers to the beehive hairdo favoured in the early days of the band by Kate and Cindy. 

Name anything that’s contained within The B-52s boxset that Fred Armisen opens in a 2017 episode of US comedy Portlandia.

“Rare albums? And Kate, Cindy and I are in a miniature Love Shack.”

CORRECT. Any B-52s pop culture references stand out to you?

“It was great being in [1994’s] The Flintstones movie, and I thought we did a pretty good job of the theme song. We did loads of takes, but they didn’t pick our most exciting one because the dancers couldn’t keep up with how wild we got. Being in The Simpsons singing ‘Glove Slap’ was another ‘oh boy’ moment.”

What do you list as your hobbies in The B-52s’ ‘Song For a Future Generation’?

“Collecting records and exploring the cave of the unknown.”

CORRECT. It’s the one song in your catalogue that features all the B-52s on vocals. After Ricky Wilson passed away, you never performed it live again – did you ever discuss it or was it just implicitly understood that you couldn’t sing it?

“We never put it back in the song-list. It would have been impossible to do, even more so now that Keith [Strickland] is no longer touring with us, though he’s still involved in the band.”

After Ricky passed away, your record label allegedly told you to ‘just get someone else in and carry on’. Was nobody suggesting taking time off or helping you deal with your grief?

“Nobody could replace Ricky, except [original drummer] Keith, who had his own style, but he used Ricky’s tunings and was true to his spirit. They had worked closely together, and it was so lucky for us to get back together. For Cindy, it was losing a brother and Keith was best friends with Ricky since high school, but to the label, it was a business and whatever keeps the business going. The label treated us like poor cousins the whole time anyway. When we got our first gold record for [1989 album] ‘Cosmic Thing’, the record president was there but they just got one of the housekeepers and the janitor there to watch. We thought: why don’t we help just sweep the place too?!”

Are you working on any new music?

“I’ve written a song for the forthcoming tribute album to Bernie Worrell, who co-produced my first solo album [1984’s Fred Schneider and the Shake Society’] and I’ve been working on songs with Hardgroove from Public Enemy, and also Ursula 1000.”

The B-52s are on a farewell Las Vegas residency but is there any chance of new material from the group?

“We might do a song together. It’s not that there’s any ill-will or anything. It’s just that I was ready to retire from touring, and then the girls said: ‘Fred please, come on, let’s keep doing it’ And I’m glad I did. And we’re working on a book. They wanted us to do a biography and I said: ‘We’re not going to tell the truth about a lot of things! We’ll wind up wanting to choke each other!’ I want a picture book with captions like ‘Fred chases everybody with an axe around in a drug-crazed frenzy’, rather than just: ‘And then they walked into the studio…blah blah blah’.”

The verdict: 5/10

“Well, that’s an F! [Laughs]”

Fred Schneider & The Superions ‘Destination…Christmas!’ has been re-released. The B-52s continue their Las Vegas residency in April. Fred hosts the Weekly World News online newscast.


The post The B-52s: “If someone’s ruining ‘Love Shack’ on karaoke, I’ll get up there and save it!” appeared first on NME.


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