Who’s the man?
As he plays one of his final performances of his mammoth Sexx Laws tour at T in the Park, we look back and try and find out just who BECK is.
Words: Rodger Evans
‘ hey fuck you up. your mum and dad.‘ said Philip l.arkin. In I Beck‘s case. his grandfather may haye a case to answer. A performance artist who created the l'oko ()m) l’r'ono Drop (basically take one Steinway. a high building and . . .l and humped into Valerie Solanas just alter she'd tried to pop.’ Andy Warhol. Al Hansen was a key influence on little Bek. Way hel'ore the 'c’ and lame chanced along. Not that the folks are without hlame: dad a session musician who worked with Willie Nelson and the Stones. mum a teenage Warhol Superstar. Beck was horn to he cool. doomed to hecome ‘possihly the hippest person in the world’ as Q determined in 19%.
We're getting ahead of ourselves though. As a kid Beck loy‘ed Slur
llin‘s. James Bond. and Mick and Keel”s ‘Ruhy 'l‘uesday‘. (irowing up in 70s Los Angeles. he drifted out of school and into a series of crappy johs. as he observed when ‘l.oser‘ became a hit in l‘NJ.
‘l was living in a shed behind a house with a hunch of rats.’ recalled Beck of these heady days. 'I had zero money and [em opportunities. I was working in a video shop alphahetising the pornography section for minimum wage . . . l was never any good at getting jobs or girls.‘
Of course as in all the hest hard luck stories. the underdog comes good. An MTV sponsored. zeitgeist-surﬁng anthem on a par with Niryana‘s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. ‘l.oser‘ was Beck‘s calling card. Though the network had inexplicably ignored his dehut single. ‘MTV Makes Me Wanna Smoke (‘rack‘ . . .
‘We got really drunk and recorded a really obnoxious record in a week, writing about one or two songs a night.’
who work in the Bay Area but can’t find accommodation there. Jason would go for bike rides and see these new houses popping up everywhere. and people dumping their trash in orchards.
‘One of the negative things about the technological revolution is that people are becoming less and less social. Also we have a problem with obesity in America and now that people can work and do everything from home, y'know. that’s a little bit frightening to me.‘
The issue at hand seems to be the growing isolation and dehumanisation of man through his use and abuse of technology: in ‘Jed The Humanoid’. from The Sop/aware Slump, a robot built out of odds and ends is loved then neglected and eventually dies after drinking too
much. The video for single ‘The Crystal Lake’ features the band asking directions from a power-dressed lady yapping into her mobile, before coming to the conclusion that she’s mad. That clip emphasises Grandaddy's sly sarky humour. as does the band‘s recording of a fake
album, prior to The Sophtware Slump, following pressure from their record company. ‘We got really drunk and recorded a really obnoxious record in a week, writing about one or two songs a night,‘ Dryden recalls. ‘After we sent it off it actually took days for the company to phone up and say “Very funny, now where’s the real record?” But that got them off our back.’ Grandaddy’s easy-going but dedicated approach to music has so far earned them critical acclaim, well-profiled tours, their own studio to take their time in and a growing fanbase featuring celebrity names such as Kate Moss, Liv
But you didn't hay e to he The .llun Hit/1 'l'wo mum. to ascertain that here was a complicated artist. one who refused to he lahelled a one—hit wonder and tucked away in the noyelty drawer. So who or what was Beck'.’
’Suhterranean hlues-sick homey T' yelped one rey iew er. a press release ol‘l‘ered '.\'eil Young on cough syrup' and a handmate lmckhanded him the compliment of heing ’a dtisthin oil-\merican [tollular music sly les'. ()h and he may haye heen a Scientologist. His mother ought to know. ‘lle's an originalf she said.
What of the man himself"? Refreshingly unwilling to hide hehind the ‘I let my music do the talking' mantra. Beck spins a line line in hysterical tillhhlcd.‘ t—‘Uok‘. ‘lt's like a satanic K—Tel record that‘s heen found in a trash dumper.‘ he said ol~ his first (iel‘l‘en l.l’. ‘.’\ few people hay e molested it and slept with it and half-swallowed it helore spitting it out. Someone played poker with it. someone tried to smoke it. Then the record was taken to Morocco and covered with humus and tahouli. Then it was flown hack to a convention of water-skiers. who skied on it and play ed l-rishee with it . . f
\Vith l‘)‘)(i came a second LP. a world tour and a llslltll ol (irammy nominations. (Mo/(1y lost out to ('eline Dion‘s alhum yet Beck still walked away with the Best Male Artist and Best .-\lternati\e Performance awards. Two more acclaimed l.l’s bring its to now and Becks 31st hirthday this month. There have heen recent collahorations with Marianne liaithltil and Air plus a coy'et‘ ol' Bowie’s 'l)iamond l)ogs‘ recorded for the soundtrack of" Ba/ l.uhrmann‘s new llick .llou/m Rouge. The track may exert he a treat for 'l' in the Park goers. ‘\\'e gotta put some ghetto—tech in there.‘ claimed Beck. ‘hecatise we heard that was the nest hig thing. We're going to ride the ghetto-tech waye to the next (irammys.~
Beck plays the Main Stage on Sun 8 Jul.
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Tyler and David Bowie. Not bad for five lads from rural California, but sometimes it’s just not quite believable either. ‘lt's a little strange,’ Dryden laughs. ‘The whole David Bowie thing was a little shocking. I don’t think any of us had ever been around celebrities before so afterwards we were all like, “uh, did that really just happen?”
‘Fame isn’t a huge thing for us, but the pace of it all has been just right, it's given us plenty of time to adjust. We're happy with how it's going so far.‘
Grandaddy play Stage Two on Sun 8 Jul.
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