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Random Rules: Keith Strickland of The B-52s

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The shuffler: A founding member of The B-52s, Keith Strickland began his musical career as the drummer driving classic songs like "Rock Lobster" and "My Own Private Idaho." After guitarist Ricky Wilson died in 1985, leaving the band's future uncertain, Strickland shifted to guitar for B-52s' 1989 comeback, Cosmic Thing. It's been 16 years between albums, but The B-52s recently released Funplex, a high-spirited collection that draws on all the usual influences—vintage science fiction, surf and garage rock, dance rhythms, and conspicuous horniness.

"Shake And Fingerpop," Junior Walker + The All Stars

Keith Strickland: This is from the album that has "Shotgun" on it. And I remember, when we lived in Athens [Georgia], before the band was started, we used to go over to a friend's house, John Taylor, in the afternoon sometimes. And he would put this record on, and we would dance. He had this big, empty living room, and we would dance to this album, to Junior Walker, and to Some Girls by The Rolling Stones. It's a great memory, because it was something we would do in the middle of the afternoon. Who has a dance party in the afternoon, during the week, at home? That was a lot of fun. Junior Walker, Dyke And The Blazers. A lot of the early R&B; stuff. I love that stuff. Great dance music.


"1969," The Stooges

KS: Oh, this is great. Actually, I was just listening to this not that long ago, 'cause Iggy Pop played at The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. I was into The Stooges really, really early, like, when they came out. This is the first album I used to listen to a lot when I was 16, when it first came out. And this is an embarrassing story, but I'm sure a lot of kids have done this. I used to put on this album, and also Funhouse, and I would sing along into an imaginary microphone, and sort of flail myself across the living-room floor. My parents had one of those big stereo consoles, mahogany-looking things. And it was loud! And I would turn it up full-blast. Of course when they were gone, no one was home. And I would do the same thing to The Rolling Stones' Got Live If You Want It! And those three albums, I would play a lot, and sort of air guitar, you know, air lead-sing.


"Paper Cup," The 5th Dimension

KS: All right. [Laughs.] Here's a guilty pleasure. This is—wow, what can I say about that? My impression of that stuff is sort of pop psychedelia, I guess. I like The 5th Dimension, actually. They are a guilty pleasure. But this song, it definitely was influenced by Sgt Pepper's. It's a much more pop version.

The A.V. Club: Would you call The 5th Dimension an influence on your music?

KS: No, not really. I mean, somewhere in there, it probably plays a part, but not so much. It wasn't part of the inspiration initially. Maybe a certain kind of melodic sense would come from that, because they are very melodic. And great harmonies. I love their harmonies. Very much in the school of The Mamas And The Papas, The 5th Dimension. Really strong three-part, four-part harmonies. So there could be some sort of harmonic or melodic influence very deep down in there.


"Radio Ethiopia," Patti Smith Group

KS: I actually downloaded this not too long ago. This is re-mastered. One of my favorite Patti Smith songs. It has everything I love about Patti Smith and her group. It's exhilarating. What I love about Patti Smith is that she has a transcendent quality to her songs. They kind of lift off. Particularly in the early days, when we were starting out, she was a huge influence. We were particularly inspired by her. Her music always just made me feel the possibilities were endless. She always had a spiritual quality, even when her rock was raw—there's always something in there. Maybe because she's a poet and sort of understood the power of words in a way that can truly inspire.


AVC: As with The Stooges, did you follow her from the beginning, or catch up with her later?

KS: Oh, no—actually, Patti, I remember ordering her first single, "Piss Factory," from the back of Rolling Stone.


AVC: Back when you could read about someone before you could hear them?

KS: I know, right? There was a certain mystery about artists that would fuel your imagination. Very nice. Radio, too, you would hear music before you ever even saw what the artist looked like. Almost. Almost, not quite.


"Setting Sun," The Chemical Brothers

That's a good one. I remember when I first heard this, it sounded Beatles-esque. Like The Beatles on steroids. It's bionic. When I heard this, it was a new sound for me. It was a hybrid of things. I used to live in Woodside, New York. I would put speakers on the porch of my house. I remember blasting that across the mountaintops. It was my own private rave, I guess. I like Chemical Brothers, particularly this song. I really like this song a lot. It's a bit like "Tomorrow Never Knows." I think I read that it was influenced by that.


"You're Too Hot," Deborah Harry

I'm a big Debbie Harry fan, and Blondie fan. She actually… it was really sweet, when we first started playing New York, she and Chris Stein invited us to her apartment one afternoon. Hung out, Debbie made daiquiris. We went up on the rooftop. I remember we walked in, and their platinum albums were leaning against the wall, lying on the floor. But they were very sweet, very nice. It was great being accepted.