Greatest Un-Hits: Fred Schneider’s “Monster” (1984/1991)
Maybe “Fred Schneider” isn’t enough of a household name to sell a song. Most people just know him as “the guy from the B-52’s” or “the guy who sing-talks in the B-52’s.” Also not helping his first solo release in 1984, Fred Schneider and the Shake Society, was the fact that the B-52’s were still just a cool, scrappy band with a cult following, and that the album wasn’t promoted in the least. It disappeared from consciousness; the B-52’s kept going.
But in 1989, after toiling somewhere in between moderate success and party band obscurity, the B-52’s scored back-to-back top 5 pop hits with “Roam” and “Love Shack.” Suddenly this old band was rightfully but inexplicably one of the biggest things in music. But a couple of hits for a band doesn’t equal massive recognition for its individual members, and yet that’s how the B-52’s followed up 1989’s multi-platinum Cosmic Thing: with solo projects, like they were the damn Fugees or something.
The Wyclef and/or L Boogie in this analogy then is Kate Pierson, who sang with Iggy Pop on “Candy,” his only real hit song, and then with fellow Georgian superstars R.E.M. on their top 10 hit “Shiny Happy People.” Schneider, however, was the Pras. He just had his 1984 solo album remastered, re-titled, and re-released (as Fred Schneider). The leadoff single was the fantastic “Monster,” which is equal parts synth-pop classic and hilariously crude dick joke.
Pierson also sings on “Monster” and appears in the video, so it’s only barely not a B-52’s song in the first place. It’s got all that group’s campiness and humor, but with the rock n’ roll replaced with pop stuff. And while that’s all well and good, it wasn’t the kind of thing Schneider or the B-52’s were known for or popular for at that point; it also sounds straight out of 1984, and music had changed a lot in the seven years between the song’s first and second releases. This time around, “Monster” tanked, reaching a disappointing #85 on the Hot 100.