The Mesopotamians (Demo)

From This Might Be A Wiki

song name The Mesopotamians
artist They Might Be Giants
releases Unreleased
year 2013
run time 2:14
sung by John Linnell


  • John Linnell's home demo of "The Mesopotamians", featuring a stripped-down arrangement compared to the later studio version. Recorded around 2005, it largely features the autoharp, a type of zither, and lacks the bridge of the studio version. The lyrics used in the verses also vary from the final recording.
  • The song was originally written for a book project that fell-through. John Linnell discussed this in a 2013 interview with The Rumpus, through which the demo was released:
This example reveals something about incentives and inspiration. We had a deal for a couple of children's books which were going to be illustrated song lyrics with a companion CD glued to the inside back cover, and John and I were tossing ideas back and forth for the theme of the final book. Mine was about a rock group with the names of ancient near-eastern kings. Now that I think of it it's a little like Philip Roth's The Great American Novel, which is about a mythical baseball league with players named things like Gil Gamesh. Jesus, I just realized that I stole the whole idea from Philip Roth. I hope you don't think less of the song now. Anyway there was originally going to be the Monkees-like theme song and then individual songs for each character, and the arrangements were going to reflect the instrumentation of the band. I had an autoharp sitting on my workbench at the time so one of the members was going to play that. I think Gilgamesh was supposed to be female and she had a song about wanting (as did her namesake) to live forever, but I grew disenchanted with the idea of drawing so directly from the original myths.

Here is the original demo which has an entirely different verse form and the conspicuous autoharp accompaniment. I think I was trying to cop the Lovin' Spoonful more than the Monkees. You can tell that the lyrics are less focused and the whole thing is a bit sleepier. Also faster for some reason.

The book concept never came together and about two years later I rewrote the verses and added the "I thought you were dead" bridge. I think the biggest improvement with the final version was getting the harmonies voiced better and in tune. I don't have a pretty falsetto but the studio is very forgiving.

Song Themes

History, Language, Music, People (Real), Tongue-Twisters, Trade Names, Transportation, Weather


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