Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact
Album: Wild PlanetReleased: 1980Charted:
In this song, the fine state of Idaho is used to represent a case of paranoia - the lyrics "get out of that state" meaning to get out of that state of mind. B-52s singer Fred Schneider came up with the title, which was a play on the phrase "Private Eye" well before Hall and Oates used it in a song with a similar theme, but with hand claps
Why Idaho? Schneider explained to the Idaho Statesman
that it was the wacky reputation of the state, saying, "Idaho is pretty mysterious to all of us. I know it's a beautiful state, but then I know there's also a lot of crazy right-wingers and all that stuff." He added, "The song's about all different things. It's not like a parody of Idaho or anything."
There's an interesting history lesson built into the lyrics, "swimming 'round and 'round like the deadly hand of a radium clock." In the 1920s, the radioactive element radium was used to paint the dials of glow-in-the-dark watches. The women who painted the radium onto the dials would put the brushes in their mouths and get them to a point for the delicate application. This lead to a high rate of cancer, and a 1928 lawsuit that led to a settlement for the girls.
Gus Van Sant used the title of this song for his 1991 movie My Own Private Idaho. He thanked the B-52s in the credits, but that's all they got out of it.
It wasn't until September 13, 2011 that the B-52s finally played in Idaho. They headlined a show at the Eagle River Pavilion in Eagle, which is outside of Boise.