Private Idaho

Album: Wild Planet (1980)
Charted: 74

Songfacts®:

  • 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.

Comments: 4

  • Jeff Truzzi from Missoula MontanaI heard it was inspired by hearing of songwriter Carole King shooing people off of her piece of Idaho property.
  • Sara Brown from BaltimoreI had heard the song was inspired by the Twilight Zone episode "The Bewitchin' Pool"
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenHey, how 'bout a song about a state with crazy LEFT-wingers?

    That repetitious riff heard throughout this always sounded like a new wave homage to "The Twilight Zone" theme to me.
  • Tony from Vancouver BcThe adventure "Your Own Private Idaho" was published by West End Games in 1987 for the roleplaying game "The Price of Freedom" (1986). The B-52s or the song are not credited as the origin or inspiration of the title. "TPoF" was an odd kind of RPG, part parody and part homage of the movie "Red Dawn" (1984). The adventure "Your Own Private Idaho" featured guerilla warfare against Soviet invaders and was set in Idaho.
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