Thursday, January 10, 2013

Farfisa Organ: Rock Lobster

The Farfisa organ had a second life in the late 70s and early 80s as the keyboard of choice for a number of punk and new wave bands. Its usage is epitomized by a classic bubbling under recording by The B-52’s. Although it had been previously issued twice on DB Records in 1977 and 1978, the familiar version was a re-recording of the song in 1979 that appeared on the band’s self-titled debut album on Warner Brothers.

Kate Pierson plays the Farfisa organ as well as the bass lines on a Korg SB100. Ricky Wilson used a vintage Moserite guitar that was tuned a fifth lower like a baritone guitar. Fred Schneider sings lead and adds the cowbell. Backup vocals are supplied by Pierson and and Cindy Wilson. Rounding out the rhythm section was Keith Strickland on drums.

Although it was a #1 record in Canada, it failed to break into the Top 40 in the US peaking at #56. This unusual song always brings back pleasant memories from 1980. During that year, I worked the evening shift at WEMM in Huntington, WV. When my shift ended, I drove over to WKEE and hung out with the late night jocks – notably Greg Smith. Every so often at about 3 AM Greg would sneak a couple songs into the mix that were out of character for the Tri-State’s leading contemporary hit radio station.

Completely breaking format, you might hear The B-52’s “Rock Lobster” or Slim Whitman’s “Indian Love Call” at or around 3 AM. Both songs caused me to laugh uncontrollably. I hadn’t thought about Greg in decades, but his sense of humor was most unusual. He and a handful of other jocks threw a goodbye party for me when I left Huntington in 1981. That was the last time I saw him and I heard that shortly thereafter he had returned to Elkhorn City, Kentucky to work in radio in his hometown.


  1. what a wonderful sound from that farfisa!! thank you!

  2. Thanks for this. I'm doing research now for a children's song where I'm doing "3 blind mice" in the style of the B-52's. This was a huge help.