The song was a comeback of sorts following the band's decline in popularity in the mid 1980s coupled with the death of their guitarist, Ricky Wilson, in 1985.
Produced by Don Was, the song's inspiration was "a cabin around Athens, Georgia", complete with tin roof, where the band conceived "Rock Lobster", a single from their first album; it is often said to have been located off "the Atlanta Highway", as the first verse implies. B-52's singer Kate Pierson lived in the cabin in the 1970s, and the cabin existed until 2004, when it burned down.
"Tin roof...rusted," wailed by lead singer Cindy Wilson, was originally an outtake added to the track, and is perhaps the song's most memorable line. Fred Schneider also provides some memorable lines, including his notable boast of having "a Chrysler as big as a whale" and "seats about twenty". It has come to mean many things to different listeners.
The music video was directed by Adam Bernstein and shot at the home and studio of ceramic artists Philip Maberry and Scott Walker in Highland, New York. It is also the first time drag queenRuPaul had ever appeared in any type of media before her own turn as a singer and model only a few years later.
The single release contained various tracks depending on the country it was released in. The United States had a B-side of "Roam", a song that would later reach number 3 as well, and other countries had singles with either "Channel Z" or a live version of "Rock Lobster" as the B-side. In 1998 and 1999, the single was released again with a number of remixes, including one by DJ Tonka, but the re-release did not chart in the United States, although it did enter the United Kingdom charts.
The Simpsons parodied the song in the 1999 episode "E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)" with a song titled "Glove Slap" over a montage of Homer challenging Springfield residents to a duel with gloves, as well as the end credits. This parody was also sung by the B-52's.
The song was performed on Glee as the finale of the Season Three episode 13 entitled "Heart".
The song was used as the lip-sync song for the second episode of the ninth season of RuPaul's Drag Race, in which contestants Kimora Blac and Jaymes Mansfield had to lip-sync, with Mansfield being eliminated. The B-52's were guest judges for the episode.
^Wilkerson Daily Corporation, ed. (1990). The Hollywood Reporter, Volume 315, N° 1 to 17.
^"The B-52s". B-52s. Retrieved 28 July 2013. "From groundbreaking songs like "Rock Lobster," ... to chart-topping hits like "Love Shack" ... the B-52s' unforgettable dance-rock tunes start a party every time their music begins."
^ abDavid Mansour, From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century. Andrews McNeel Publishing, 2005.