High 5 (Rock the Catskills)
By: Beck Hansen, John King, Mike Simpson

Written by: Beck Hansen, John King, Mike Simpson

Versions:
  1. High 5 (Rock the Catskills) (4:10)
    Available on Odelay and 1 other release.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mix, Producer, Vocals
    The Dust Brothers: Mix, Producer
    Mike Boito: Organ
    Joey Waronker: Percussion
 
Lyrics:
High 5 (Rock the Catskills) [Version (a)]:

High five... high five
Come on, 8 everybody, come on now 7, 6, 5, huh
Gimme five, oh yeah, I like that shit
Gimme five, gimme five, no jive, gimme five


When I arrive like a high five
Or a slap in the face, I love the taste
All my days with my wheelchair ways
Watch me glide in my suicide high
I don't mean to cause a holy commotion
When I step to the room with a powerful motion
Leopard-skin, let the record spin
Round and round with the speed of sound
High 5, more dead than alive
Rockin' the plastic like a man from a casket
High 5, more dead than alive
Rockin' the plastic like a man from a casket

Rocky mountain low, we got to go
Put that casket in a random mode
Purple candy, rocking the Tandy
Rhumba bloodshot, doing the foxtrot
In my car sweating like a dog
Beers and tears, new frontiers
On my way from the 'Frisco Bay
Dixieland, soda pop man
High 5, more dead than alive
Rockin' the plastic like a man from a casket
High 5, more dead than alive
Rockin' the plastic like a man from a casket

Yeah, put that machine in the Latin mode
Talkin' about poppin' tacos, back back in the last century
Turn that shit off, man!
What's wrong with you, man?
Get the other record. Damn.


High 5, more dead than alive
Rockin' the plastic like a man from a casket
High 5, more dead than alive
Rockin' the plastic like a man from a casket
High 5, more dead than alive
Rockin' the plastic like a man from a casket
High 5, more dead than alive
Rockin' the plastic like a man from a casket

OK, now, do you like designer jeans?
Everybody say say say ooh la la Sasson!
Come on, come on, come on, one more time.
Let me hear you say ooh la la Sasson.
Now all the ladies, all the ladies say Sergio Valente.
Sing it girl! Let me hear you say Sergio Valente.
Jordache turn it out!
 
The Song:

When Beck first began recording with the Dust Brothers for Odelay, they would do songs like "High 5" that have lots of samples and sounds and layers, spending weeks on one song. This went on for a few months, and then Beck took a few months off to tour with Lollapalooza. When he returned, he decided to work quicker, trying to spend no more than a day on a song.

Anyway, "High 5" is therefore one of the more Dust Brothers-influenced recordings on Odelay. They've constructed a crazy, sample-heavy fun track for Beck to rap over. There are samples of classical music, obscure '70s hiphop and funk, and even a track from earlier on Odelay! They're all mixed in with funky bass, Latin-flavored acoustic guitar, and scratching. Such a blast!

Beck explains, "'We went crazy on 'High 5'. It's a chaotic cut-up flying-everywhere-at-once song, with the Dick Hyman bump-n-grind. We spent weeks on that one. That's what I got for a lot, putting three or four songs into one." Sometimes it was just random, dumb luck. "Most of the best parts of the record are accidents," Mike Simpson said when asked about their insertion of Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony into the middle of the song, "Just drop the needle in the right place at the right time. It's like, 'Wow, this kind of sounds cool!'" (LA Times, on August 23, 1996). Indeed it does.

A similar recollection from 2008:

"The only people using Moog synthesizers were Stereolab and a couple of indie bands, so you could go to pawn shops and get them for sixty bucks. I had a pile of them and I'd bring one in and use it until it broke, and then go get another one," Beck says. "There's a lot of that in there. We spent at least three weeks on 'High 5.' I remember people hearing it and they were a little bit confused."


Also the Dust Brothers were impressed at how most of Beck's lyrics were written extremely quickly. This is not always the case, but "High 5" was surely one of those—the two short rap verses are entertaining and fun. They work well in strong contrast with the heavily thought-out music that took forever to finish. You can see how Beck writes though, using bits of this and that and whatever.

The opening "gimme five!" sample comes from a, well, COOL song called "Mr. Cool" by Rasputin's Stash; the lyric "when I arrive like a high five" also comes later in the song. This leads into the chorus which combines that with the "more dead than alive," a phrase which Beck first used way back on "Olde English."

And then, if you listen closely, it sounds very much to me like the chorus is saying "like a man from a casket." Perhaps this "correct" version was misheard by someone as "man from the Catskills" and from then on, the name was changed? "Catskills" is more amusing, for sure, but "casket" does fit the "more dead than alive." It could have been similar to how the word "odelay" was a mis-hearing of "orale," but Beck stuck with the mistake. This is just a theory of mine, and I have never heard it substantiated anywhere else. Regardless, at this point, Beck on stage and everywhere has started to use "Catskills."

There a few other samples in the song as well, most notably the famous "ooh la la Sasson!" jeans section.

 
Live:

Played live 176 times:
Earliest known live version: June 5, 1996
Latest known live version: September 3, 2017

We have this down for quite a few live performances, but I should note that at least 90% of these are from when Beck sings the "ooh la la! Sasson" with the crowd (usually within "Where It's At"). Beck did do the song in full on its own regularly in 1996-1997. I think it showed up one or two times in 1998-1999 at various gigs, but since then, it's always just been the jeans section.

The song first began to appear on stage in 1995 when Beck tried to rouse the crowd with the "Ooh la la Sassoon" section. One good example of this was closer to the release of the album though, on June 5 1996. Beck brought out his Casio drum machine, and started rapping "Diskobox." By the end of the performance, he got the whole crowd going, singing along about Jordache. It's a riot!

During the Odelay tour, "High 5" was a frequent set closer, before the encores; or sometimes as the first encore. The arrangement was much the same as the recording, with some mad scratching from DJ Swamp and the band having a blast with all the vocals. Beck sings the sample about the jeans himself, while the band goes wild. Best live version: May 30, 1997 by far.

The song did not last on its own much after any of the Odelay tours. It did make an appearence during one Mutations show, but no Vultures gigs or anything since.

The jeans jam section does show up though quite regularly, still, in almost every "Where Its At"! Sometimes Beck pulls it out in other songs, once even during a "Hollywood Freaks" jam in June, 2001. I doubt we'll ever hear "High 5" in its entirety again, but the jeans jam will LIVE ON.
 
Notes: