“Whammy Kiss” by the B-52’s from the album WHAMMY!
4th week in May, 1983
“I need your kiss”
I must have been eight or nine the first time I heard the B-52’s. I think it was “Rock Lobster.” I was so confused. All I could think was, “why do these guys want to suck so much?” I didn’t understand. I thought music was supposed to sound pleasant like Billy Joel or the Beatles or the Banana Splits. But even though I didn’t understand, I did get one thing right: they were trying to suck. No one embraces mediocrity like the B-52’s. And I’m not talking about embracing a Coldplay-middle-of-the-road-pleasant mediocrity. I mean flaunting your limitations. The B-52’s are a guy with a two-inch prick dropping his pants in front of Madonna and proclaiming, “Look out, Momma. I’ll rock your world.” I own no B-52’s albums and I don’t think I ever will because how often can one feel like listening to a leather-bar maître d’ speak/sing over the sound of tortured chipmunks? Ironically though, I confess, if nothing else but for heir sheer audacity, I love, love, love the B52s. By not caring if they were cool or straight or even particularly talented, the B-52’s created some of the coolest, gutsiest and most brilliant pop in the history of instantly disposable music.
“Whammy Kiss” is a good example. If you cruise the internet you’ll see many folks hailing “Whammy Kiss” as a bold move into electronica. They proclaim the B-52’s as visionaries, way ahead of their time. The bold experimentation and rebellious spirit of these misfits from down south. True, but isn’t it obvious that the B-52’s would embrace computer loops and keyboard programming? They can’t play their instruments. When they saw this technology they didn’t say, “we must honor our commitment to experimentation and apply this new tool to create groundbreaking pop.” They said, “cool, now we don’t have to worry about keeping time or learning chords. Hey, Fred, do you think you could sing something catchy and vaguely gay over this two chord progression I programmed?” And he did. And it was good. Because he is Fred Schneider.
As much as we love the harmonies and the hair, the B-52’s is Fred Schneider. No one has come up with more wonderful lyrics that say nothing. It’s the delivery. The man is a genius. Don’t believe me? Try these lyrics on for size:
“Come on mammy and throw me that whammy.” That’s right. He rhymed mammy with whammy. You try that. On second thought, you better not. That’s too much kitsch for a mere mortal. Genius.
Best Part: “Come on mammy and throw me that whammy.”