The "Love Shack" is in many ways a state of mind; a place where people of all stripes come for a groovy good time. The band drew inspiration from the club in the movie The Color Purple, and also from a real club outside of Athens, Georgia called the Hawaiian Ha-Le, where they would hang out. This place drew a multifarious crowd of hippies, scenesters, and lots of students from the nearby University of Georgia. Drummer Keith Strickland has also mentioned keg parties out in the country as another inspiration.
The title and some of the lyrics were inspired by a 1970 Temptations song called "Psychedelic Shack," which has the refrain: "Psychedelic Shack, that's where it's at."
This introduced The B-52's to a mainstream audience. They had a strong cult following, especially in the gay community and on college radio, but "Love Shack" broke them big. Many listeners who discovered them through this song had no idea they had been around for over a decade and had released four previous albums.
"Love Shack" was their first entry on the US Top 40 (their most popular song to this point: "Rock Lobster
"). The follow-up single, "Roam," also made #3, but pop success proved fleeting and they never got higher than #28 ("Good Stuff" - 1992) with any subsequent releases.
One of the most famous breakdowns in pop music comes near the end of this song, when the music stops and Fred Schneider asks, "You're what?"
Cindy Wilson replies with one of the most famous misinterpreted lines in pop music, as she wails, "Tin Roof, Rusted." The line is commonly misheard, often as something like, "Hennnnn-ry, busted."
This section came from a happy accident: the track stopped as Wilson was doing her vocal, and she just kept singing, which gave them the idea to stop the music in this section. As for the line itself, there were rumors that "Tin Roof, Rusted" meant a pregnant woman. The band denied this.
The lyrics are fun and harmless, but they can be interpreted as being about a place where people go to have sex. At Disney World, you will never see Mickey Mouse dancing to it - really - they refuse to play it at Disney weddings.
The video was shot at a house in Upstate New York belonging to a friend of the band who can be seen in the garden as the camera sweeps by the window. It was directed by Adam Bernstein, the go-to director for irreverent videos. His other work includes "Baby Got Back
" for Sir Mix-A-Lot, "Hey Ladies
" for Beastie Boys, and several episodes of the TV series Breaking Bad
Nile Rodgers and Don Was produced this track. Rodgers has produced hits for Peter Gabriel, Madonna and David Bowie, as well as his group Chic, who had disco hits with "Le Freak
" and "Good Times
." Was has worked with Jewel, Bob Dylan, Elton John and The Rolling Stones. He also had his own group in the '80s called Was Not Was, who had a hit with "Walk The Dinosaur
The line, "The love shack is a little old place where we can get together" originally showed up just once in the song, but producer Don Was convinced the group to repeat that line, as it makes a nice hook. Kate Pierson credits Was with turning this song into a hit; on previous albums they often performed the songs live before they recorded them, but the tracks on Cosmic Thing
were recorded before they could play them outside of the studio. "He really helped us structure that," she told The A/V Club
. "It's just such an iconic song that everybody just feels this joy. When we play it, everyone just lets their inner freak out."
The location of the actual Love Shack is not clear (since it doesn't really exist), but in 2004 MSNBC reported that an unoccupied, 5-room cabin with a tin roof in Athens, Georgia that had recently burned down was probably the dwelling in question. Kate Pierson lived there in the '70s.
Over the years, various adult video stores have cropped up using the Love Shack name. There was also a movie released on video in 2010 called Love Shack, which was about a group of porn stars who get together to make a film in honor of a deceased producer.
The group performed this on an episode of The Simpsons as "Glove Slap."
Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson performed this at the 2002 Jammy Awards with the group Particle. Since the awards honored jam bands, they stretched the song into an extended jam.
The horns were provided by The Uptown Horns, a New York-based section that toured with the J. Geils Band on their Freeze Frame tour and played on Tom Waits' Rain Dogs album.
The Cosmic Thing album was the first one the group recorded without guitarist Ricky Wilson, who died of AIDS in 1985 while they were recording their fourth album, Bouncing off the Satellites, which was released the following year. They didn't tour and weren't sure they would continue, but they carried on with drummer Keith Strickland recording guitar parts in Wilson's style.