It seems to me that the B-52’s have never really gotten the respect that they are entitled. More than just a kitsch band of singles, they were, and remain a beacon in a fog of mediocrity. This world where tired old themes are constantly rehashed for rock ‘n’ roll consumption; the B-52’s could tell insane stories while making even the most ‘two left feet’ amongst us dance and have a great time. There music was simultaneously accessible and other-worldly, mixing a 60’s surf vibe with what would later be called new wave. It was the perfect soundtrack for not only dancing, but strapping on some roller skates and praying the next wipe-out wouldn’t be slowed by your face being dragged along the cement.
So imagine my surprise to see a perfect little live document arrive in my hands this Black Friday / Record Store Day… a way over due example of the band in their prime. It’s a small piece of gold coloured vinyl now spinning on my turntable of an era that is timeless, and so very long ago. Before the flash and colour of “Love Shack” this is the B-52’s out supporting their debut album with the incredible Ricky Wilson still rocking the guitar in a frenetic fashion as Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson pull off their insane version of the call and answer.
Listening to it I find myself wondering why this record is only seeing the light of day in 2015. Full of energy, Live! 8.24.1979 literally had my seven year old dancing and rolling on the floor trying to sing all the vocal parts at once. It’s an impossibility, but he sure tried. What you have is great songs followed by hilarious, if not awkward introductions. Fred Schneider deadpans: “this next song is a dance tune” as if this is a revelation.
Between my sons twirling and my memories of roller rinks, Live! 8.24.1979 is the kind of blast from the past that puts a giant smile on your face that lingers long after the needle turns away from the wax.
Somewhere between the end days of the Velvet Underground and the start of the B 52’s emerged The Modern Lovers, and their influence would stretch way beyond the world of limited record sales and closed minds. There was always something ‘otherworldly’ about Jonathan Richman and Co.’s take on music. Picture a baby-faced Lou Reed singing songs of optimism and fun while backed by a first rate garage rock band trying their hands at psychedelia and you get the picture. They weren’t just ahead of their time, The Modern Lovers 1976 eponymous record was completely outside of it, and to some extent, still is. Pre-Punk… proto-punk… whatever!!! It is an incredible album with Rolling Stone claiming it to be one of the 500 greatest records of all time.
As for the vinyl, well… like many of the great underground records of the 1970’s, it got great critical reception and sold next to nothing. In fact, The Modern Lovers was out of print on wax for more than 20 years. Of course, you have a few options in the here and now.
The original 1976 pressing can cost you upwards of $150 for a good clean copy in the resale market. You might get it for less, but that will take time and a lot crate digging to find a copy.
The last 20th century printings were in 1986 and 1987 with the German edition being printed on white vinyl. People are usually paying under $40 but resellers are asking upwards of $60 plus shipping.
If you are looking for a new copy, you are in luck. In 2009, 4 Men With Beards released a reissued version on 180 gram vinyl that is still widely available,
However, 2015 has brought two new versions out. The first was another of the Newbury limited editions. One thousand copies were printed on split black/blue vinyl and included a download card. The next version was for general release and printed on black 180 gram vinyl and also included a card for downloading. Both were released in August.
Definitely worth having in the collection you just need to decide how much and where you want to pick it up.