Bouncing Off the Satellites

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Bouncing off the Satellites is the fourth studio album by American new wave band the B-52's, released on September 8, 1986, by Warner Bros. Records. It was recorded in July 1985 and was produced by Tony Mansfield. Founding member and guitarist Ricky Wilson died of AIDS after most of the work on the album was completed, but a year prior to its release. The B-52's had gone on hiatus by the time Bouncing Off the Satellites was released, and it took three years for the band to recover from Wilson's death and release their next studio album, Cosmic Thing.

Bouncing off the Satellites
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 8, 1986 (1986-09-08)[1]
RecordedJuly 1985
StudioSigma Sound (New York City, New York)
LabelWarner Bros.
ProducerTony Mansfield
The B-52's chronology
Bouncing off the Satellites
Cosmic Thing
Singles from Bouncing off the Satellites
  1. "Summer of Love"
    Released: 1986
  2. "Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland"
    Released: 1986
  3. "Wig"
    Released: 1987

Recording edit

Bouncing off the Satellites was recorded in July 1985.[2]

According to Kate Pierson, "Wig" was written and recorded after the band's label, Warner Bros., asked them to write a hit song for the album.[3] The band had the title in mind for years and devised the song via a jam session.[3]

A backwards message was deliberately inserted into the song "Detour Thru Your Mind": in the last 30 seconds of the track, Fred Schneider says, "I buried my parakeet in the backyard. Oh no, you're playing the record backwards. Watch out, you might ruin your needle."[4][5][6]

Death of Ricky Wilson edit

During the recording, guitarist Ricky Wilson was suffering from AIDS.[7] Keith Strickland was the only bandmate who was informed of Wilson's illness.[8] Strickland later stated that Wilson "was very protective, particularly of Cindy and his family", due to the public's misconceptions about AIDS.[9]

On October 12, 1985, Wilson finally succumbed to the illness, at the age of 32.[7][10] Pierson has stated that Wilson worked on the album in its entirety prior to his death, and that it was completed.[3] Strickland later recalled, "After Ricky Wilson died, we felt that the band was finished. We couldn't imagine continuing without him. So, we each went our separate ways."[8] The band took a hiatus from their musical careers until they reformed in 1988 for the recording of their next studio album, Cosmic Thing.[11]

Release and promotion edit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [14]
Sounds     [16]
Spin Alternative Record Guide7/10[17]
The Village VoiceB+[18]

The album was finally released on September 8, 1986.[1] Devastated at Wilson's death, the band did not tour and were involved in minimal promotion for the album.[12][3] However, the band did produce a music video for "Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland", which Schneider has stated was both "bittersweet" and the best video they ever made.[19]

Pierson later stated, "Warner Bros. figured since we weren't touring after Ricky died that they would just not promote the record. We all went through so many changes—especially without touring, and the record just dropped like a stone—and we all dealt with our grief."[8] Pierson also theorized that the label did not promote the album because the band stated they had no intention of hiring a new guitar player to replace Wilson, thus the label assumed the band would not continue on without him.[3] However, on August 5, 1987, the band appeared on the British ITV show Hold Tight!, miming to the song "Wig", with Strickland now on guitar and Ralph Carney credited on-screen for drums.[20] Carney had previously played saxophone on the B-52's' Mesopotamia (1982) and Whammy! (1983) releases,[21] and had subsequently toured with the band.[22]

Reception edit

Commercial edit

Despite the relative lack of promotion, "Summer of Love" was released as the lead single and initially received a considerable amount of airplay from some radio stations, managing to peak at No. 3 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart.[23] Pierson later recalled that Warner Bros. employee Steve Baker had tried to get the label to promote the album in light of the single's success, to no avail.[3] Subsequently, the album only reached No. 85 on the Billboard 200 chart.[23]

Critical edit

Robert Christgau of The Village Voice felt Wilson's and Pierson's contributions to the album were "watercolors posing as Kenny Scharfs—not only don't 'Summer of Love' and 'She Brakes for Rainbows' redeem anybody's '60s retro, they don't even take off on it", adding that "Fred's abrasive camp saves the day".[18] Trouser Press opined, "The first side is entirely delightful, filled with such classic B-52 silliness as 'Wig,' 'Detour Thru Your Mind' and 'Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland,' but the flip is overly smooth, limp and uninspired."[24]

In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine stated, "Considering their loss, it's not surprising that the B-52's don't sound entirely focused throughout the record", adding that "There are so many musicians on the record that it winds up sounding too carefully considered -- the polar opposite of the loose, inspired fun of their early work."[12] Similarly, in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), J.D. Considine felt the album "flops miserably" and sounded "hollow and contrived", due to the addition of session players.[14] Rich Wilhelm of PopMatters called the album "wistful" and "subdued", concluding that it was "the most subtle of the B-52s' albums, with the loss of Ricky Wilson adding to the album's poignancy."[13] The Spectator felt the album was darker and more melancholy than the band's previous work.[25]

Track listing edit

All tracks are written by the B-52's, except where noted

Side one
1."Summer of Love"
  • Pierson
  • C. Wilson
2."Girl from Ipanema Goes to Greenland"
  • Strickland
  • C. Wilson
  • R. Wilson
C. Wilson4:22
  • Pierson
  • Tim Rollins
4."Detour Thru Your Mind" 
  • Pierson
  • Schneider
  • Pierson
  • Schneider
  • C. Wilson
Side two
1."Theme for a Nude Beach" 
  • Pierson
  • Schneider
  • Strickland
  • C. Wilson
  • R. Wilson
2."Ain't It a Shame"
  • Strickland
  • C. Wilson
  • R. Wilson
C. Wilson5:30
3."Juicy Jungle"
  • Pierson
  • Schneider
  • C. Wilson
5."She Brakes for Rainbows"
  • Strickland
  • R. Wilson
C. Wilson4:41
Total length:45:55

Personnel edit

The B-52's

Additional musicians

  • Tony MansfieldFairlight CMI
  • Mark Mazur – guitars (3), bass (3)
  • Tim Rollins – guitars (3)
  • John Coté – all other instruments (8), backing vocals (8)
  • Tom Beckerman – lead guitar (8)


  • Tony Mansfield – producer
  • Shep Pettibone – additional production (1, 2), remixing (1)
  • Michael Hutchinson – engineer (1)
  • Steve Peck – engineer (2)
  • Tony Phillips – engineer (3-10)
  • Fernando Kral – assistant engineer
  • Don Peterkofsky – assistant engineer
  • Phil Brown – mastering at K Disc Mastering (Hollywood, California)
  • Andrea Starr – coordinator
  • Matthew Murphy – coordinator
  • Pat Sabatino – coordinator
  • Keith Strickland – back cover photography
  • Kenny Scharf – front cover painting
  • Keith Bennett/Kav Deluxe – art direction

Chart performance edit

Chart (1987) Peak
U.S. Billboard 200 85[23]

References edit

  1. ^ a b The B-52's (2002). Nude on the Moon: The B-52's Anthology (CD liner notes). Rhino Entertainment. R2 78357.
  2. ^ The B-52's (1986). Bouncing Off the Satellites (CD liner notes). Warner Bros. Records. 9 25504-2.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Harris, Will (November 1, 2011). "Kate Pierson of The B-52s". The A.V. Club. Retrieved January 25, 2023.
  4. ^ Patterson, R. Gary (2004). Take a Walk on the Dark Side: Rock and Roll Myths, Legends, and Curses. Fireside. p. 174. ISBN 0-7432-4423-0.
  5. ^ Poundstone, William (1994). "Backward Messages on Records". Biggest Secrets. Harper Perennial. p. 229. ISBN 0-688-13792-X. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  6. ^ "Hard Rock/Metal/Punk". Backmask Online. Archived from the original on August 19, 2006. Retrieved July 25, 2006.
  7. ^ a b "AIDS and the Arts: A Lost Generation - Newsweek Health". MSNBC. 2007. Archived from the original on June 26, 2007.
  8. ^ a b c Phillips, Lior (June 28, 2019). "The B-52s' Kate Pierson and Keith Strickland On The Lasting Legacy Of 'Cosmic Thing'". Grammy Awards. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  9. ^ Michalski, Bill (June 19, 2015). "Bounce It Off Your Satellite". What We Do Around Here.
  10. ^ Edmondson, Jacqueline, ed. (2013). Music in American Life: An Encyclopedia of the Songs, Styles, Stars, and Stories that Shaped our Culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-313-39348-8. While the band was recording Bouncing off the Satellites (1986), tragedy struck. Ricky Wilson died from HIV/AIDs-related illness.
  11. ^ Hart, Ron (June 28, 2019). "The B-52's 'Cosmic Thing' at 30: How the Band Overcame Loss and Found Catharsis at the 'Love Shack'". Billboard. Retrieved January 25, 2023.
  12. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The B-52s - Bouncing Off the Satellites Album Reviews, Songs & More". AllMusic. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  13. ^ a b Wilhelm, Rich (May 3, 2022). "Ranking the B-52s Albums". PopMatters. Retrieved July 22, 2022.
  14. ^ a b Considine, J. D. (2004). "The B-52's". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 67–68. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved November 2, 2011.
  15. ^ Cavanagh, David (July 1990). "Flip Your Wig". Select. p. 121.
  16. ^ Holland, Roger (July 25, 1987). "Lobster Thermibore". Sounds. p. 28.
  17. ^ Huston, Johnny (1995). "B-52's". In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. pp. 38–39. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  18. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (December 2, 1986). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  19. ^ Greenblatt, Leah (June 12, 2018). "The B-52s: The stories behind the hit songs". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 29, 2023.
  20. ^ The B-52's (January 6, 2010). The B52's - Interview / Wig ITV 1 5th Aug 1987 Holdtight (YouTube video) (TV playback and interview). interjet.
  21. ^ Vaziri, Aidin (December 17, 2017). "Ralph Carney, versatile longtime SF musician who worked with top names, dies". SFGATE. Retrieved January 30, 2023.
  22. ^ Cizmar, Martin (December 17, 2017). "Ralph Carney, Legendary Saxophonist and Recent Portland Transplant, Has Died". Willamette Week. Retrieved January 30, 2023.
  23. ^ a b c "The B-52's Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved November 30, 2016.[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ Isler, Scott; Robbins, Ira; Neugebauer, Delvin. "B-52's". Trouser Press. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  25. ^ Wener, Ben (August 11, 1998). "The B-52s party on!: Nearly 20 years after turning the pop world on its ear, the group is gaining in popularity". The Spectator. p. D-10. Archived from the original on January 11, 2013.

External links edit