Fume
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

Versions:
  1. Fume (4:29)
    Available on Loser.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Producer
    Tom Grimley: Producer
  2. Fume (acoustic version) (3:15)
    Available on Don't Get Bent Out Of Shape and 1 other release.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Guitar (Acoustic), Harmonica, Vocals
  3. Fume (Leftover version) (2:48)
    Available on Golden Leftovers and 1 other release.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Guitar (Acoustic), Vocals, Vocals (Background)
 
Lyrics:
Fume [Version (a)]:

My friend picked me up about a quarter past five.
We stopped and got some donuts and we took a little drive.
We had a can of nitrous, we rolled the windows up.
Now we're breathing deeply, breathing deeply.
And there's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck?
There's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck or what?

We spent many years always trying to get high.
Smokin' broken pencils and beating up kids,
Talking to the devil and drinking a coke.
Now we're totally rocking, totally rocking.
And there's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck?
There's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck or what?

We got a good idea, so we pulled off the road.
Got some Molly Hatchet going on the stereo.
I said let's roll up the windows, let the nitrous go.
Now we can't stop laughing, can't stop laughing.
And there's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck?
There's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck?
What the fuck is going on?

[chatter]

There's a fume in this truck!
And I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck!?
There's a fume in this truck!
And I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck!?
There's a fume in this truck!
And I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck!?
There's a fume in this truck!
And I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck!?

There's a fume in this truck!
And I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck!?
There's a fume in this truck!
And I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck!?
There's a fume in this truck!
And I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck!?
There's a fume in this truck!
And I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck!?
Fume (acoustic version) [Version (b)]:

My friend picked me up about a quarter past five.
Stopped and got some donuts and we took a little drive.
Had a can of nitrous, we rolled the windows up.
Now we're breathing deeply, breathing deeply.
And there's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck?
There's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what?

Well, we spent many years always trying to get high.
Seems like there wasn't nothin' that we wouldn't try.
We made bongs out of bananas. We freebased turpentine!
We were always looking, always looking.
Now there's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck?
There's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what?

Well, we got a good idea, so we pulled off the road.
Got some Molly Hatchet going on the stereo.
I said, "Let's get out the nitrous and let the windows go up."
Now I can't stop laughing, can't stop laughing.
And there's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck?
A fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what? Yeah!
 
Fume (Leftover version) [Version (c)]:

2, 3, 4

My friend picked me up about quarter past five
Stopped and got some donuts, took a little drive
Got a can of nitrous, we rolled the windows
Now we're breathing deeply, breathing deeply
And there's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck?
There's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck or what? NO

Well, we spent many years always trying to get high
Seems like there wasn't nothin' that we wouldn't try
We made bongs out of bananas and we freebased turpentine!
We were always looking, always looking
And there's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck?
There's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck or what?

Ooooh

Well, we got a good idea, so we pulled off the road
Got some Molly Hatchet going on the stereo
Rolled up the windows and let the nitrous go
Now w can't stop laughing, can't stop laughing
And there's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck?
There's a fume in this truck and I don't know if we're dead or what the fuck?
I don't know what the fuck
Is this fume comin' out of my nose
 
The Song:

Listening to the three different versions of "Fume" is a fun way to see how Beck played with and experimented with his songs over time.

The first version, available on his 1992 tape, Don't Get Bent Out Of Shape, is the most "normal" version. That is, it is probably how Beck wrote the song initially, on solo acoustic guitar. Beck's guitar playing is pretty tight, and the simplicity of the main riff shines. It is somewhat reminiscent to "I Get Lonesome," but with a bit more action. This version was also included on the tape, Fresh Meat + Old Slabs.

The next version was the one Beck recorded for Golden Feelings. He did not put it on the album though, and the recording is part of the collection of outtakes that were circulated in 2001. This version is quite wild and noisy. The gunfire metallic drums overwhelm the rest of the recording, which is two Beck vocals and his acoustic guitar. An electric buzz runs through the song as well, but it's hard to tell if it is supposed to be there or not. Though this take is more intense than the acoustic one, most all the subtlety, and thereby some of the humor, has been lost.

Finally, the song was released as a B-side for "Loser." This is a totally rocking band arrangement, that borders on psychedelic pop. A great bass line leads the song, and Beck's vocals are terrific, and you can hear Beck laughing as he sings it (in character or out, I'm not sure!). The second verse is completely new (ad-libbed, I'd guess). At the end of this track, there's a pause, and some conversation, and then yet another new version of the song! This one is the speed metal take, and consists of the chorus shouted "Rollins' Power Sauce"-style over some loud and fast guitar.

Beck sings the song in first person, but it's not an autobiographical song. In fact, on KCRW in 1993, he explained that he wrote the song in response to a newspaper article he had read about two kids who parked their truck, rolled up the window, let the nitrous go, and died. Similarly, on October 24, 1994, Beck introduced the song as, "Taking place in Burbank, California. . .it's a warning. . .it's not meant to glamorize nitrous." This is an important distinction. Beck steps into the kid's shoes to show the stupidity in their big idea, not to show their idea off.

Beck explained his attraction to the story, "The original idea of the song that I wanted to try to get at, but it didn't really work...just that moment when they were crossing over from that highest peak, that highest nitrous high, that second that it turned to death. Just that second, I think, was the thing that I wanted to put into song."
 
Live:

Played live 42 times:
Earliest known live version: March 30, 1994
Latest known live version: August 25, 2002

Whenever "Fume" was played on stage, it was usually given a good thrashing. Most of the time, it was arranged exactly like the recording on the "Loser" single—a melodic rock song with a heavy metal thrashing of the chorus as a coda. Early performances on the Mellow Gold tour were quite raw.

Quarter Past Five version - 1994

"Fume" was mainly played throughout 1994 and 1995. My favorite live versions are the October 1994, performances from the US Mellow Gold club tour. The song was still wild, but sounded a bit more controlled. Long dramatic pauses separated the verses and choruses. The regular hard coda went on much longer than usual too. Also, Beck often changed the details of the lyrics on stage. Air Supply was often on the radio instead of Molly Hatchet (a fairly regular change, but just as disturbing an alternative!). Sometimes the kids were "totally cruising" instead of rocking. But the "Loser" b-side version is a great example of what the live versions tended to sound like.

On July 28, 1995, Beck introduced the song by reminding everyone it's took place in Burbank and is a true story. Tonight, the Blues Explosion was playing on the radio. A particularly energetic heavy metal verse ended the song. "Nice," Beck commented when it was done.

On August 27 1995, Beck switched "quarters" to "nickels" in the first verse. Then he sang later, "We were totally rocking, totally rocking, totally rocking... the casbah!" This version is a blast. Some cool lead guitar licks started taking over during the third verse, and the song does not have that heavy metal coda. A much more casual feel took over.

Broken Pencils folk version

There are a few performances of "Fume" done as it was on Fresh Meat, by himself with a guitar. I believe the earliest were in 1995, when he played the acoustic stages on Lollapalooza. But it certainly could've been played much farther back as well. This continued for a bit, as in early 1996 he played a solo acoustic tour of Europe.

One, on June 5 1996, in Toronto, seemed to come via audience request—they were a knowledgeable crowd, shouting for rare Beck songs all night long. Beck told the story of the song's origin ("It was in the newspaper. It's my one attempt at topical songs"). As he played the little one-note solo, he explained, "This would be the climax," referring to that second where the kids went from nitrous high to death, as well as his fine acoustic guitar shredding. This show was Beck at the top of his folk-musician game—his voice was superb, and his guitar-playing was quick and sharp.

The song made an occasional appearance during the Odelay tour too, but I am not sure if they are folk or band. (I kinda believe them to be folk.)

He hasn't played the song since 1997, but Beck did reminisce about the song on August 25, 2002, recalling how he used to be a topical writer. He also told the story of it, and mentioned, "I don't condone nitrous, it's a cautionary tale." He sang about 50 seconds of the song, trying to remember how it went.
 
Notes: