Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Music Box: The B-52's (Mesopotomia Edition)

Although I didn't realize it back in 1982, apparently not all B-52's fans thought "Mesopotamia" was the perfect record I did. Don't get me wrong, I loved their first two albums. But even there I'm in the minority, favoring the slightly more polished "Wild Planet" to the quirky debut.

Sure, "Rock Lobster" and "Planet Claire" are timeless, but the rest are weaker versions of those. I'd take the equally fun "Quiche Lorraine" and "Private Idaho" plus the plaintive "Give Me Back My Man" and haunting "53 Miles West of Venus" over the debut any day.

Perhaps that's what made "Mesopotamia" so perfect. With just six songs, there was no room for filler. Each song was was special, with "Deep Sleep" still ranked in my mind as the coolest song of all time and the title track that never fails to make me happy. It was only later that I learned that the EP was intended to be the band's third LP, but unraveled mysteriously when David Byrne of the Talking Heads was reportedly fired from the project. In the ensuing years, I've scoured the Internet looking for "the lost tracks," convinced that an album's worth of material had been recorded, but the label salvaged the six best songs. Ten or more years ago, I believe I even asked Fred Schneider what he recalled about the recording sessions when I ran into him on the street one time (he must live near me in Chelsea because I see him constantly, most recently eating at Le Pain Quotidien the other afternoon). As I recall, he was the typical celebrity who remembers WAY LESS about the details of his career than his fans do (like when I had to explain to Debbie Harry what "The Beast" was in a club in Georgetown when another fan asked her something about the lyrics!) and offered no new information.

Jump to last week when my pal Mark Allen sent me a link to a fantastic blog post about the history of "Mesopotamia." Although none of the "lost" tracks are discussed -- rumored to be early takes of "Queen of Las Vegas," "Big Bird" and "Butter Bean," all of which were rerecorded for "Whammy," plus "Adios Desconocido," which is described as a "Fred Schneider ballad" (oh, my!) -- it does have the "David Byrne mixes" of the songs that did make it on the EP -- including very different recordings of "Cake," "Loveland" and "Throw That Beat in the Garbage" -- versions that apparently made it on some early pressings of the EP in the U.K. and that are far less commercial-sounding than what fans know to be the final mixes.

You can download them all HERE. Now if someone -- like you, Fred! -- does get their hands on the other four songs, my Lost '80s Music Dream List will be all but checked off and stored away forever ...

UPDATE (05/02/10): I just mysteriously received MP3s of "Adios Desconocida" and the demo of "Queen of Las Vegas" in my inbox today (the former was never released, the latter was apparently on the "Nude on the Moon" compilation -- oops). Also got a demo called "Lost" that was apparently scrapped in place of "Hallucinating Pluto" during the "Time Capsule" period. Thanks to the mystery reader who sent them my way -- and to the World Wide Web for existing!

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andrew said...

I LOVE Whammy! I wore the cassette out in HS. ;)

Anonymous said...

Mesopotamia is by fay my favorite track by the group. I'm not sure about the east coast, but over her ein Seattle there has been a pretty decent resurgence in their popularity. I can count on hearing at leat one track by them when I go out.

nojarama said...

To be honest, I despised "Mesopotamia" when it came out (I adored the second album so much that I was just heartbroken by the change of sound with EP). But, years later, I returned to it & now appreciate it much more now. My all-time favorite B's albums, though, will ALWAYS be the "Whammy" and "Bouncing Off The Satellites" albums.

400 Lonely Things said...

Any chance you can post Adios Descondido and the other hidden gems from your mysterious email?

Hugh said...

THE B-52s - Mesopotamia (Live at Irving Plaza 2012

hidefacebookads said...

Is there any way to hear the song 'Lost'? I've never heard of that one ever.

Mati said...

can you send me those demos please

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

@Mati: Send me your email address.