The B-52s are an American new wave band, formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1976 and one of the only quintessential 1980s bands that have survived to date. The original line-up consisted of Fred Schneider (lead vocals), Kate Pierson (backing vocals, keyboards), Cindy Wilson (backing vocals, percussion), Ricky Wilson (lead guitar), and Keith Strickland (drums, rhythm guitar, keyboards).
Artist: The B-52´s
Label: Island Records
Mesopotamia is an LP by new wave band The B-52s. It was produced by David Byrne of Talking Heads and was the band’s third studio album. Due to conflicts with Byrne and record label pressure, recording sessions were aborted prematurely and only six of ten songs to be completed were released as a shorter than originally intended LP. The record was distributed as a 12″ EP by Warner Bros.
Mesopotamia is considered a departure in style for The B-52s; Byrne and the band added a large amount of additional instruments, vocal overdubs, horns, synthesizers, layered percussion and an altogether richer sound. A larger emphasis was placed on production after the raw sound of their debut album The B-52s and the slightly more polished sound of their second album, Wild Planet.
Originally, Mesopotamia was conceived as a full album. Due to extensive pressure on the band to release new material, the sessions were hurriedly brought to an end and the bulk of the material was released as an EP. This is also speculated to be because David Byrne had different ideas for the mixing of the album than the band had anticipated. Of the four abandoned tracks, three were re-recorded for the following album, Whammy!.
There are four known outtakes:
- “Queen of Las Vegas” – The original version of this song recorded for the intended full Mesopotamia album was released on Nude on the Moon: The B-52’s Anthology and features a vocal performance from Pierson and Wilson with Yogi Horton on drums. The song was modified and re-recorded in 1983 for the Whammy! album.
- “Big Bird” – re-recorded for Whammy!, this original version has never been released. However, “Big Bird” was included in the band’s live set on the Mesopotamia tour and was largely the same as the version made available on the Whammy! album. It has since emerged that the band had wanted “Big Bird” to be on the EP instead of “Deep Sleep” but the record company disagreed and omitted “Big Bird” in favour of “Deep Sleep.” This explains why the band performed “Big Bird” at all the concerts on the 1982 tour but rarely, if ever, performed “Deep Sleep.”
- “Adios Desconocida” – A ballad with lead vocal by Schneider in an uncharacteristically soft and romantic tone, this song was never remade by the band.
- “Butterbean” – Re-recorded for Whammy!, this original version has never been released.
Mesopotamia was a major departure in style for The B-52s. The band’s two previous albums had been more or less true to the live sound that made them favorites of the ’70s New York scene, with basic organ, guitar, a keyboard bass and a strong backbeat. Mesopotamia, with Byrne at the helm, showcased a new sound. This included multi-layered guitars, a horn section, atmospheric synths, complex percussion and various instruments including a bass guitar, marimba, piano and accordion.
Mesopotamia was also vocally unique for the band because many of the tracks do not feature the vocal interplay for which the band is known. With two Cindy Wilson solo performances, one solo from Kate Pierson, one Fred Schneider solo, and two Wilson/Pierson duets, the sound was more vocally varied than previous recordings. This did, however, showcase the individual talents of the members. The hiring in of numerous session musicians was also a first for The B-52s, although this would be repeated on subsequent albums.
1. Loveland (8:33)
2. Deep Sleep (3:29)
3. Mesopotamia (3:52)
1. Cake (7:45)
2. Throw That Beat In The Garbage Can (5:46)
3. Nip It In The Bud (3:31)