Posts Tagged ‘Fred Schneider’

Fruit Cake

November 19th, 2010 No comments

Fred Schneider of the B-52’s now has three albums to his “credit,” while the rest of the band have produced a total of…none. What a world! Here’s a (half) celebration of a holiday favorite:

I was reminded to do this after reading Joe.My.God’s post on the new XMas album by Schneider and his latest side project, the Superions. He’s got a couple of videos there, but somehow missed this gem. And welcome to the onrushing Holiday Season!

These Boots Are Made for…Hiking? (Not According to Iowa Senator Bartz)

May 12th, 2010 1 comment


I thought I’d done it — avoided real, unironic, outdoor camping¬†and the gay, kitschy, outrageous “camp.”

OK, I hadn’t completely managed to skirt the tongue-in-cheek version: Too many people have witnessed (but probably not recorded) my just plain inexplicable Karaoke take on Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin….,” premiered on Long Beach Island many years ago, and then refined taken apart and put back together many times, complete with adenoidal, Fred Schneider-esque vocals and various iterations of bargain-basement drag. We will never speak of this again.

And then, this past weekend, I found myself engaged in the no-nonsense, “put up your tent before dark or die of exposure” kind of camping. This is what having kids will do to a person whose competences, such as they are, definitely do not extend to actually doing anything useful or practical beyond driving.

Of course, we went precisely because of the kids, who began counting down to the trip during the great February blizzards. Just the idea of running around in a huge tent and getting to sleep and eat in a new place is enough for five-year-olds. And then seeing a big ol’ turtle on the path…well, that’s as good as it needs to get.

The kids also stayed warm on Saturday night, the coldest May night in recorded history. With winds howling at 30 MPH (they really do howl when you’re among trees) and temperatures dipping to 40 degrees overnight, it might have been nice to have had, say, a sleeping bag instead of the pad and two thin, hotly contested blankets we’d brought. Of course, the girls had their cartoon character bags (Dora, to whom they can no longer give the time of day) and were nicely snuggled in. What little sleep I might have gotten (oh, why did I leave my Ambien at home, defying JayZ’s sage advice?) was eliminated by a series of embarrassments so profound that even I won’t disclose them. (Keywords: power outage, locked toilet, hunt, paper, man, flashlight, escape, trip.)

Did I mention that no alcohol was allowed at this state park? (Ah, the opacity of those red plastic cups!)

Now, what? The kids loved it, and so did our friends. I even kind of liked it myself, in the limited sense of “I didn’t die, lose a limb, or end up wrapped in the tent in some cartoonish way.” So we’ll probably (sigh) go again, investing thousands in tents, sleeping bags, pills, etc.


Because there are only four of us, we only need one tent. Why does that matter? In Iowa, State Senator Merlin Bartz is irate that state regulations are being changed to allow gay families to pitch more than one tent at a site, just as straight families can. Iowa, of course, allows same-sex couples to marry, so the agency in charge of camping rules has to conform regulations to this new reality. Why Bartz is so concerned about this particular rule change, I don’t know. But here’s a guess: Bartz is an outdoorsy guy — his memberships include “North Iowa Pheasants Forever” and “Worth County Ducks Unlimited” — and doesn’t like the idea that his family might be camped next to a two-tenting, gay family. But his three kids are growing up among gay families, whether he knows, or likes, it — or not. Trying to resist changing the definition to reflect reality is ultimately a futile holding action.

Maybe we should go to Iowa and confirm his worst fears. I’ll burst from the tent next to his and launch into one last chorus of “These Boots….” If he listened for a few minutes, he might actually smile. (Now I will never speak of this again.)

Twentieth Anniversary of “Cosmic Thing”

June 27th, 2009 No comments

On this date in 1989, the B-52’s burst out of their bunker, releasing Cosmic Thing.

There’s a great story that others have constructed of the mainstream success that the album brought the band, some twelve years after they’d flattened everyone in Athens, Georgia with songs like “Rock Lobster,” “Planet Claire,” and “Killer B’s” (never released). After a string of increasingly less-successful albums since their eponymous debut, the band looked finished after guitarist and musical leader Ricky Wilson died of AIDS in 1985. The group (especially sister Cindy Wilson) went into a deep, rudderless funk.

Then, led by drummer-turned-guitarist Keith Strickland, the B-52’s decided to manage their grief by returning to the studio, and somehow managed to meld their eccentric, kitschy sound and look with their previously underused pop sensibility. The result was a totally unexpected monster hit: Cosmic Thing sold four million copies, and spun off the back-to-back home runs “Love Shack” and “Roam.”¬† “Love Shack” has somehow made the ranks of wedding reception staples; more than a few unlucky folks have seen me grab the microphone from a startled (but so far, not litigious) DJ and belt out the Fred Schneider vocal.

The album, which I first owned on something called a “cassette,” was the only thing playing in my car for what seemed like forever. At first swept along by my obvious enthusiasm and by the album’s sheer greatness, people soon began going to great lengths to avoid traveling with me. I would quote parts of the album at random, scarcely needing relevant provocation to do so.

The reasons for my obsession are somewhat obscure, even to me. As I sit here typing this, I’m looking at a photo of Schneider, my friend Ray, and me, taken at an after-party sometime in the mid-90s. Ray and I and anyone foolish enough to come within our gravitational field were, as someone once told me, “one step from celebrity stalkers.” Their shows were a big reason for my behavior. I’ve seen them too many times to count, and every time I go with someone new, they’re likely to rate the show as among the best they’ve ever seen.

But there was more to it than that. The album came along at a time when I needed something…liberating. It helped me deal with some personal issues (including coming out) by providing a constant, warm reminder that different was OK. Even today, I can listen to it from end to end (although I don’t do so too often) with a big smile on my face, singing along and calling back many great memories. It still sounds great to me, all these years and life events later. It’s not for everyone; if it doesn’t work for you, get your own crack.

Tracks: Cosmic Thing; Dry County; Deadbeat Club; Love Shack; Junebug; Roam; Bushfire; Channel Z; Topaz; Follow Your Bliss