happened to Beck. Things got muddier as he was touted as King Slacker this. Spaceboy that. A headline in search of a story. A tall- talking. five—foot-sixer whose industry reputation and expectation far exceeded the one-hit-wonderful Me/lmi' (In/(l.
But this was Beck. progeny of punk—rock and orchestral—arranging parents. art-weird and Kentucky-preaching grandparents. Who fled l..»\ for .\'Y(‘ to play ‘fast~folk‘ in East (‘oast coffee houses. then fled back to the West (,‘oast when folk was withering on the vine and rap was blooming with life. Who was the only white kid on his block. Who was as happy on the ‘hood front stoop as he was on the shack back—porch. Things had always been muddy. It was just a case of finding the groove in the grit. ()r \ ice-vet'sa. ()r both together.
The erstwhile king of America's indie dia pora was approaching some sort of. ahem. epiphany. Playing l.ollapaloo‘/.a in the summer of IWS. he was struck by the carnival oi freaks. geeks and knee-jerk moves into which the pierced and painted ‘alt- culture' hordes had descended. Inspired — or despairing —~ he wrote a song called ‘Electric Music And The Summer People‘. A year later. this would appear as the opening track on Ode/av. re-titled ‘Devil's Haircut‘. The original title was too good to waste. though. and Beck rcjigged it for the B-side of his last single. "New Pollution‘.
‘The title's from a poem. from a terrible
record — I can‘t remember what it's called. some easy listening thing from the 60s. I spent that whole summer out in these incredibly. hideously. devil-adjective. tremendously hot. intolerably humid. outdoors facilities playing at two in the afternoon. watching the half- baked youth of the summer of '95. desperately trying to connect with them. It was so ftttile. The original idea behind the song is a last-
’People would be saying, "they love your song, they're coming down, they want you to blow them away!”. So I thought I would get a leaf-blower on-stage and really blow them out of the room.’ Beck '
gasp call to arms for everybody to come together — it was a somewhat cynical title. But it sounds good. “Let‘s don‘t be like everyone else". that seemed to be the current of that summer of ")5. It was inverted homogeny. everyone‘s trying so hard to be different. But they're all the same.‘
From this altered mindstate came Ode/(2y — a record bursting with invention and innovation. with punky-funk and Them samples. proto- electro and nouveau-hobo. bustin' tunes and hip-hop breaks and lyrics of furious imagination. It was the album of 1996. a record that just keeps on selling. that has won Brits and Grammies. that has laid the cornerstone for a whole new. post-modern pop genre.
‘fhe Beck experience: part roving revue, part punk-cabaret
As on plastic. so on stage. Live. tonight. now. Beck is fantastic. A showman. A revelation. A performer. Not rubbish at all. The tottring Beck phenomenon that has been on the road for nearly a year. that tore up a stifling tent at T In The Park last summer. is part roving revue. part punk-cabaret. It is aware of the glorious past of Motown—Vegas showmanship and hip to the non—rock future.
‘That's the challenge.’ Beck nods slowly. ‘That‘s the trick. To use things from the past btit not be stuck in it. It’s a fairly obvious. simple thing. but it's a much harder thing to hang on to it in an accelerated culture. One of the biggest problems of being a musician or an artist or someone creative is the disposability of every aspect of our lives. How do you communicate something timeless to a consciousness that‘s forever just in the moment and then onto the next‘.’
‘lt‘s a hard gig. But if you can step back somehow. get a perspective. where it’s been and where it‘s going. you might find some links. some thread. That’s the thing that will rock now. And that will rock . . .'
So your frontal assault of the ‘Loser‘-era gigs is replaced by something more seductive now“? 'Yeah. it gets the crowd on your side and they‘re with you. The»: it's time to freak out.‘
Beck plays SECC, Glasgow, on Tue 13 May. 2—- 15 May 1997 THE LIST 11