August 1980: the B-52's Release WILD PLANET

Tuesday, February 28, 2023
(Photo by Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

How does a band follow a debut album that's essentially an instant classic? For the B-52's, the answer was simple: let's keep this party going.

The B-52's blasted out of Athens, GA, in the summer of 1979 with the band's self-titled debut album. Wrapped in a shockingly bright yellow cover, the infectious blend of future-retro kitsch, surf-rock guitars, beach-blanket beats and signature vocal melodies knocked the music world for a loop. Boasting instant anthems like "Rock Lobster" and "Dance This Mess Around," the B-52's dance-crazy party tunes and fresh, quirky style really made an impression in concert.

The group's sweat-inducing live shows quickly made them fan favorites on the road. The B-52's were so hot that they were invited to serve as musical guests on Saturday Night Live in January 1980. The band's performances ("Rock Lobster" and "Dance This Mess Around") introduced them to a whole new--and much wider--audience. 

When it came time for Cindy Wilson, Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Ricky Wilson, and Keith Strickland to come together to make a second album, they figured what wasn't broken didn't need fixing. They returned to Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, where they recorded the debut. They did switch things up a little; they brought in Brian Eno protege Rhett Davies to produce, instead of Chris Blackwell, who oversaw the first album.

With a clutch of unreleased songs that the band had already been playing on tour, the B-52's were more than ready to make another record. Laying down the new tracks over the month of April 1980, they returned with second studio effort Wild Planet on August 27, 1980. Wrapped in a bright red cover and jumping off the turntable with opening tune "Party Out of Bounds," the LP was packed with another selection of classic dance tracks.

Lead single "Private Idaho" was an exercise in controlled chaos, a simmering dance track that skipped all the way to #5 on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play chart. The album's second single, "Give Me Back My Man," was a stunning vocal showcase for Cindy Wilson, who poured a well of emotions into the slow-burning plea for a lost love. It, along with "Private Idaho" and "Party Out of Bounds," were all clocked at #5 on the Dance Club Play chart (chart rules at the time allowed multiple album tracks to occupy the same position together). Loaded with classic album cuts including "Devil in My Car" and the rapid-fire passion plea "Strobe Light," Wild Planet was another slam-dunk from the Athens, GA, squad.

The B-52's trajectory launched by the band's debut album continued with Wild Planet, which was wildly popular with American record buyers. The LP danced up the charts to crash the top 20 and peak at #18 on the Billboard 200 for the week of October 18, 1980. The #1 album in the country that week: Queen with The Game.