Number Ones: #75


  • The B-52’s Rock Lobster / Planet Claire (Island)
  • Week Ending 14th June 1986
  • 1 Week At #1


Those single-week chart toppers keep on coming, in all shapes and sizes. The 75th record to reach the summit of my personal Top 40 was a re-release of two old tracks from a cult US band who had enjoyed precious little mainstream success in the UK. Seemingly apropos of nothing in particular, Island Records decided to pair up the 1979 #35 chart smash Rock Lobster with the spooky retro Sci-Fi goof of Planet Claire (also from their seminal debut LP), and unleash it onto the market in May 1986.

And so my love affair with The B-52’s began, although it would be more than three years before they appeared in the upper regions of my chart again with the Cosmic Thing album and attendant singles. The band had never really vanished from the scene, the double whammy of their eponymous debut and Wild Planet being followed by the David Byrne-produced mini-LP Mesopotamia in 1981 and then Whammy! in 1983 (home to the fabulous hit-that-should-have-been Song For A Future Generation, not that I even knew of it at the time, mind you).

As previously alluded to in the write-ups for other early 1986 #1s, there was a theme emerging where a certain kind of retro culture began to appeal to me, be it books, television, films or music. (Actually, you can add an appreciation of the Sixties’ styles, looks and fashions for women; Emma Peel in The Avengers , Cinnamon Carter in Mission:Impossible, Jill St. John’s Molly in Batman: The TV Series).

Which neatly brings us, in a way, to The B-52’s and their party mix of loony tunes, crazy hair and wacky lyrics. If Duane Eddy had ever teamed up with the Scooby Doo gang for the TV soundtrack of Star Trek, they would probably have made records like this.

Rock Lobster revolves around a killer guitar riff and Fred Schneider’s typically surreal monologue, embellished with Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson’s trademark trilling. Towards the end, it does descend into silliness and overstays its welcome just a touch, but Rock Lobster remains a classic. More enduring, tucked away on the flipside (though given equal billing on the sleeve) was Planet Claire, coming on all ’50s Science Fiction with its bleeps and quivering mellotrons before delivering the deathly punchline of why the planet has no air. I’d end up playing the latter more regularly and it’s still one of my all-time favourite B-52’s moments.

Strangely, there was no compilation released to capitalise on the #12 peak achieved by the single in Britain (the first B-52’s retrospective didn’t even arrive in Britain until 1990). My interest in back-catalogues was non-existent back then, too, so I never even thought about buying the original 1979 self-titled album, which would have been the case had it occurred a few years later.

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