"Rock Lobster" is a song written by Fred Schneider and Ricky Wilson, two members of The B-52's. It was produced in two versions, one by DB Records released in 1978, and a longer version, which was part of the band's 1979 self-titled debut album, released by Warner Bros. The song became one of their signature tunes, and it helped launch the band's success.
"Rock Lobster" was the band's first single to appear on Billboard Hot 100, where it reached No. 56. A major hit in Canada, the single went all the way to No. 1 in the RPM national singles chart. Its follow-up was "Private Idaho," in October 1980, which reached No. 74 in the US. It was well received by critics and was placed at No. 147 on Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."
Australia (Kent Music Report)
Canada (RPM 100 Singles)
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)
US Billboard Hot 100
US Hot Dance Club Play
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)
Composition and themes:
The DB Records single version lasts 4'37". It is rawer and faster than the 1979 Warner single version, as it was recorded live. It has, however, almost the same lyrics of the second version, just including some extra lines in the listing of marine animals. The 1979 single version itself is a edit from the album version released in 1979, which lasts about seven minutes and contains an extra verse.
Its lyrics includes nonsensical lines about a beach party and excited rants about real or imagined marine animals ("There goes a dog-fish, chased by a cat-fish, in flew a sea robin, watch out for that piranha, there goes a narwhal, here comes a bikini whale!"), accompanied by absurd, fictional noises attributed to them (provided by Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson -- Pierson providing the higher-pitched noises and Wilson the lower-pitched ones); the chorus consists of the words "Rock Lobster!" repeated over and over on top of a keyboard line.
"Rock Lobster" is written in the key of C minor (with a raised fourth in the chorus) and is in common time. Instruments used in the music include a baritone-tuned surf-style Mosrite electric guitar, a Farfisa Combo Compact organ, and drums.Kate Pierson played the song's bass line on a Korg SB-100 "Synth Bass" synthesizer.
Fred Schneider - vocals, cowbell,
Kate Pierson - vocals, Farfisa organ, synth bass,
Cindy Wilson - vocals, tambourine,
Ricky Wilson - electric guitar,
Keith Strickland - drums, percussion,
Chart performance and reviews:
The song was well-received overall, and was the band's first single to appear on the Billboard Hot 100, where it reached No. 56. In Canada, released on the Warner Bros. label, the single became a huge hit, eventually going on to reach No. 1 in the RPM-compiled national chart on May 24, 1980. Although Rock Lobster only reached No. 37 on the UK Singles Chart in August 1979, it fared better there when reissued in 1986, reaching No. 12 as a double A-side with Planet Claire.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic called the song "incredibly infectious" and "memorable".
In popular culture:
In spring 1980, John Lennon, whose post-Beatles music career had been on hiatus for nearly 5 years while he helped raise his son Sean, was prompted to record again after hearing "Rock Lobster"; according to Lennon, "it sounds just like Ono's music, so I said to myself sic, 'It's time to get out the old axe and wake the wife up!'" His return to the studio led to the release of Double Fantasy. At a 2002 B-52's concert in New York, Yoko Ono joined them onstage for the performance of this song "to warble and screech with the rest of the band for the show's finale".
The song appears in the Family Guy episodes "The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire" (where Peter plays it on guitar) and "Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q" (as "Iraq Lobster"), and in The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie (as "Rock Monster"). This song is also playable in the videogames Rock Band 3, Donkey Konga, and Just Dance 4; for all of these, the single version is used.
Early Commodore Amiga 500 units had "B52/ROCK LOBSTER" etched on the main circuit board.