Loser
By: Beck Hansen, Karl Stephenson

Written by: Beck Hansen, Karl Stephenson

Alternate Titles:

a.k.a. KROQ Sets My Dick on Fire

 
Unofficial Versions: [show/hide]
  1. Beverly Hills Creep 2 (4:10)
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed
    Harold Faltermeyer: Mashed
    Nik Kershaw: Mashed
    Radiohead: Mashed
    Weezer: Mashed
    Arty Fufkin: Remix (Mashup)
  2. Broke Loser (Mix 1) (2:50)
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed
    Kanye West: Mashed
    The Podunkian: Remix (Mashup)
  3. Broke Loser (Mix 2) (3:14)
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed
    Kanye West: Mashed
    The Podunkian: Remix (Mashup)
  4. Come Get Some Loser (5:26)
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed
    TLC: Mashed
    bass211: Remix (Mashup)
  5. Dirty Loser (3:22)
  6. Dusted Loser (2:57)
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed (Loser)
    Mazzy Star: Mashed (Into Dust)
    lemoo: Remix (Mashup)
  7. Electric Disko Loser (London Re-Mash) (7:44)
    Available on Loser.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed (Loser)
    D. Ramirez: Mashed
    Fedde Le Grand: Mashed
    Plump DJs: Mashed
    Elektrik Haze: Remix
  8. Electric Disko Loser (Original Re-Mash) (7:42)
    Available on Loser.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed (Loser)
    D. Ramirez: Mashed
    Fedde Le Grand: Mashed
    Plump DJs: Mashed
    Elektrik Haze: Remix (Mashup)
  9. Electric Disko Loser (Vegas Re-Mash) (7:34)
    Available on Loser.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed (Loser)
    D. Ramirez: Mashed
    Fedde Le Grand: Mashed
    Plump DJs: Mashed
    Elektrik Haze: Remix (Mashup)
  10. Elektro Loser (Elektribal Mix) (6:59)
    Available on Loser.
    Credits
    Elektrik Haze: Remix
  11. Elektro Loser (Tek & Onex Mix) (7:09)
    Available on Loser.
    Credits
    Elektrik Haze: Remix
  12. Elektro Loser (Unity Level Remix) (11:12)
    Available on Loser.
    Credits
    Elektrik Haze: Remix
  13. Give Losers a Chance (1:41)
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed
    John Lennon: Mashed
    Arty Fufkin: Remix (Mashup)
  14. Give Loser A Chance To Rock You (RR Mix) (3:39)
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed
    John Lennon: Mashed
    Queen: Mashed
  15. Jude Is A Looser (3:17)
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed
    The Beatles: Mashed
    DJ Moule: Remix (Mashup)
  16. Killer Control Enters Blackhole (4:52)
    Available on Deconstructing Beck.
    Credits
    Huk Don Phun: Remix
  17. Loser (DJ Habit Remix) (3:34)
    a.k.a. Loser Yourself
    Available on Remixx Laws.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed
    Eminem: Mashed
    DJ Habit: Remix
  18. Loser (Fake Fatboy Slim Remix) (4:35)
  19. Loser (Full Tilt Mix)
    Available on Full Tilt Remix Flashback V.1: The Rock Edition.
  20. Loser In The Sky With Diamonds (4:11)
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed
    The Beatles: Mashed
    MP3J: Remix (Mashup)
  21. Loser vs. Insane In The Brain
    Available on Music Factory Mastermix: Mashed Up! Volume 5.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed (Loser)
    Cypress Hill: Mashed (Insane In The Brain)
  22. Lugosi's Mongoloid Loser (3:46)
    Credits
    Bauhaus: Mashed (Bela Lugosi Is Dead)
    Beck Hansen: Mashed (Loser)
    Devo: Mashed (Mongoloid)
    The Illuminoids: Remix (Mashup)
  23. Maniak Elektrik Loser (2:58)
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed
    Chris Gigg: Mashed
    David Lawrence: Mashed
    Moloko: Mashed
    dublxero: Remix (Mashup)
  24. Tell Me The Truth Loser (4:15)
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed
    Clawfinger: Mashed
    Processor Tournesol: Remix (Mashup)
  25. What A Loser I Am
    Credits
    Anti-Pop Consortium: Mashed
    Beck Hansen: Mashed
    Mixomatosis: Remix (Mashup)
 
 
Lyrics:
Loser [Version (a)]:

In the time of chimpanzees, I was a monkey
Butane in my veins and I'm out to cut the junkie
With the plastic eyeballs, spray-paint the vegetables
Dog food skulls with the beefcake pantyhose
Kill the headlights and put it in neutral
Stock car flaming with a loser in the cruise control
Baby's in Reno with the vitamin-D
Got a couple of couches, sleep on the loveseat
Someone came in sayin' I'm insane to complain about
A shotgun wedding and a stain on my shirt
Don't believe everything that you breathe
You get a parking violation and a maggot on your sleeve
So shave your face with some mace in the dark
Saving all your food stamps and burnin' down the trailer park
Yo cut it!
Soy un perdedor, I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?
Double-barrel buckshot. . .
Soy un perdedor, I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?

The forces of evil on a bozo nightmare
Ban all the music with a phony gas chamber
'Cause one's got a weasel and other's got a flag
One's on the pole, shove the other in a bag
With the rerun shows and the cocaine nosejob
The daytime crap of a folksinger slob
He hung himself with a guitar string
A slab of turkey neck and it's hanging from a pigeon wing
And you can't write if you can't relate
Trade the cash for the beat and body for the hate
And my time is a piece of wax falling on a termite
Who is choking on the splinters
Soy un perdedor, I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?
Get crazy with the Cheez-Whiz. . .
Soy un perdedor, I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?

Drive-by body pierce. . .yo bring it on down
I'm a driver, I'm a winner . . . things are gonna change, I can feel it
Soy un perdedor, I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?
I can't believe you!
Soy un perdedor, I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?
Sprechen sie deutsche, baby... know what I'm saying?
 
The Song:

Beck once said, "I was always into the Delta blues and playing slide guitar, and I had always heard that Delta-blues rhythm in hip-hop. I remember early on playing slide guitar, and thinking that slide guitar on a hip-hop beat would always sound real good. I had that in mind for years, long before I did 'Loser.'" This I assume was the origins of "Loser."

Shortly after being "discovered" by the Bong Load guys, in 1991 or 1992, Beck was sent over to Carl Stephenson's house, where they recorded "Loser" in his living room while they ate pizza and Doritos. Beck remembers how they hooked up: "Tom [Rothrock, of Bong Load Records] had called up and said, ?Hey, I know this guy who does hip-hop beats and stuff.? I said, ?Oh yeah, well sometimes I rap between songs and get people from the audience to do the beat-box thing into the mike.? So we went to this guy?s house and I played him a few of my folk songs. He seemed pretty all-around unimpressed." Carl himself also remembered, "I had some ideas of some grooves, and I played them for Beck. At that time, I had taken several sitar lessons, so I laid some sitar into a track to see what he thought of it, and he started scribbling down some ideas that he had onto a piece of notebook paper, and after a couple of hours, we roughed out an idea for 'Loser,' the first song that we ever did together. We'd just met a few hours earlier."

Stephenson took one of Beck's slide guitar riffs, looped it and added all the musical layers, including the drum beats, sitar, and a great funky bassline. The song was semi-forgotten, until Bong Load Records finally released the song as a single in 1993. Thus began Beck's career.

Beck recalls now how the words to "Loser" began, "I started the song by writing the verses, and attempting to rap like Chuck D [of Public Enemy]. When [Carl] played it back I thought, ?Man, I?m the worst rapper in the world?I?m just a loser.? So I started singing, ?I?m a loser baby, so why don?t you kill me.? I?m always kinda putting myself down like that." Beck also had this to say about the song, "That was the first time I ever rapped . . . The chorus should have been, 'I can't rap worth shit.'"

And that's partly what is so fascinating about the "Loser" lyrics. They're freestyled, for the most part, but the end effect is not random. The song's lines are full of metaphors and character sketches, both self-referential ("the day-time crap of a folk-singing slob") and not ("stock car flaming with a loser in the cruise control"). All are humorous, entertaining, and well-written. Most match the main theme of being a loser, out-of-place, failing, struggling. From the opening line proclamation of a freak and an outsider ("In the time of chimpanzees, I was a monkey") to the resulting "freak" behaviour ("butane in my veins". . ."saving all your food stamps / burning down the trailer park"). His baby is gone (in Reno, no less) and with images of parking violations, flaming stock cars, shotgun weddings and stained shirts, the persona here is clear. Beck explained it as coming from, "feeling displaced in the '80s, a time of materialism when everybody was cashing in and making money. If you went to school and were wearing the same shoes you had a year ago, and you'd grown out of them, and your toe was coming through a hole, you were not accepted."

So the song may be tongue-in-cheek, with a bit of novelty to it, but the feelings that inspired it were real. And it's huge success represents that. Beck noticed, "The vacuous '80s pop song has a sense of winning and being on top, and I think there's a certain novelty in a song that came out on the radio and said, 'I'm nowhere, you know, I'm a loser.'" Later in an interview with Calvin Johnson of K Records, he said similarly, "That 'novelty' aspect of popular MTV music is so encouraged by every side of the business that most bands can't help but play into it. And the way the audience is developed, they want to hear the one song, then they want to hear someone else's one song. The situation with 'Loser' was strange and awkward because the song was a personal joke and wasn't originally intended to be released. It was already two or three years old by the time it got popular. It's like an old specter that won't go away."

The "slacker generation" thing was never something Beck related to even though this chorus was a natural for that image, and certainly was part of why the song was such a hit. Beck remembered that when he first heard about it was when the video premiered on MTV. "The guy on the air was talking about all this slacker stuff, saying that 'Loser' was like some slacker anthem or something. I was like 'What?' I said, 'Turn off the TV.' I was like 'Slacker, my ass.' I mean, I never had any slack. I was working a $4-an-hour job trying to stay alive. I mean, that slacker kind of stuff is for people who have the time to be depressed about everything." In a different interview, he eloquently stated what he thought when he first learned about "Loser" being the Slacker Anthem: "Oh shit. That sucks."

So then what does Beck think of the song? "It was a fun song to make, and when they take it out of context like that, it's kind of a drag. It's not some anguished, transcendental 'cry of a generation.' It's just like sitting in someone's living room eating pizza and Doritos."
 
Live:

Played live 570 times:
Earliest known live version: July 23, 1993
Latest known live version: December 11, 2016

The history of "Loser" really is enhanced by all the live stories that come with it. It is a song you might think Beck would get sick of, but he has always been aware of his audience's desire for the song, and pretty much always gives it to them.

1993-1994 Mellow Gold / early years

In the early days, when this was the only song concert-goers knew, Beck had a slightly bitter, but still funny, relationship with the song. On the Mellow Gold tour proper, he played the song often, but would change the chorus to odd phrases like "I'm a nickel baby, so why don't you shine me?" or "I'm a schmoozer baby, so why don't you rock me?" (See the box below this.)

By late 1993, "Loser" was a big success, and his coffeehouse concerts would be packed by music industry types. The night before he signed with Geffen, he refused to play "Loser," but at the end of the show, he played it over a boombox to the audience as he wandered around the stage. Similarly, one time in 1994, he introduced the song as being called "KROQ Sets My Dick on Fire" (KROQ being the influential Los Angeles radio station that really broke the song to the masses).

With the constantly-changing choruses, "Loser" is a fun song on stage (and bootleg), and even though it had taken a life of its own, I still think Beck did enjoy performing it.

The great November 28 1994 version of "Loser" began with Beck mumbling an improvised poem while the band tuned their instruments. About midway through, Beck began to realize his poem was sounding a bit like Jim Morrison's story about seeing a car crash full of Indians as a child, and so, what the heck? He tossed Jim into the story too.
A slight chance of rain underneath the evening
Ford American blue ball yellow-blooded cool classy Cutlass
Controlled down on the highway
Looked over beyond the ditch, a truck fell over
Driver was all mutilated and there was a couple of boxes
Cages full of chickens sprawled all over the highway
I was about four years old
That's when the ghost of the chicken shot up my spine!
And Jim Morrison was eating a burrito
And he gave me a high five and told me
'Rock me Amadeus!'
At the end, as he shouted "Rock me Amadeus!" the band exploded into "Loser." Beck had a little fun with the end of the song on December 5 1994, the last day of the Mellow Gold tours. This was a wild and extremely long version, which ended with him rapping "Flavor" before it turned into a thrashy grunge version of "Loser" (sounding like "Spanking Room" a bit!). It included this fine verse:
You can't write if you can't relate
The ?? and the freaks dancin' in the grate
With the bottle of sauce and the bottle tops
And the eye drops!!


1995 Lollapalooza / pre-Odelay tours

During the summer of 1995, Beck took some time off from recording Odelay to go tour on Lollapalooza. During his shows, he constantly hinted at the new songs he'd been writing and recording. The July 28 1995 version of "Loser" was full of references to Odelay. Another chorus began "I'm a backwash baby," which is reminiscent of the first lines of "Hotwax. Another goes "I'm a broken record, so why don't you play me?" that is similar to the English translation of the "Hotwax" chorus. Later on in the song, Beck starts with the "Everybody say 'ooh la la Sassoon'!" crowd interaction from "High 5." Odelay wouldn't end up being released for another year!

In late '95 and early '96, Beck did a number of solo acoustic shows (most of the time opening for Sonic Youth). I guess he still felt he had to do "Loser," so he got in the habit of pulling someone out of the audience to beatbox for him while he rapped the song. On March 21 1996, he did about the first half of the first verse, got a bit lost, found his way again, and finished it off. He managed not to do the chorus, however.

1996-1997 Odelay tours

Unfortunately, most often since the Odelay tour, "Loser" has become pretty much a standard run-through. The band is strong, and the performances are tight and great—especially the way the slide guitar is handled—but overall the song became more predictable and slightly standardized. The song does suit the bigger venues, but for the most part, the anarchy of 1994 was gone. (The tape of cows mooing that ended the song did continue!)

That said, I have no idea how to describe the weirdness that was the "Loser" on March 25 1997. At the end, Beck explained, "That was never attempted before! That was a brand new creation for you all. I hope you dug that. That was called 'Robo-Loser'." Robo-Loser ruled. It's like some bizarre experiment. I love it. It was so bizarre, it's probably my favorite version of the song. Did Beck and gang try Robo-Loser any other times? This is the only one I'm aware of.

1998-1999 Mutations tours

In 1998, Beck didn't tour a whole lot. But he did use "Loser" to open some of the shows. I love these full versions, they're accentuated by the Brass Menagerie mimicking Beck's vocals, which was a great addition. It was also performed at a slower tempo, and combined with the horns, this seems to give it a bit more soul and even a slightly exotic flavor. This arrangement would be carried on into the Midnite Vultures tours a couple of years later. Before that though, Beck did mostly drop the song from his Mutations sets, unless it was a radio festival gig or something like that where his hits would be expected.

2000-2001 Vultures tours

As said, Beck's Vultures band tapped back in to their 1998 slow burn, horn section version of the song, and played it almost every night. However, on the Vultures tour, a short version of "Loser" was also introduced sometimes. Sometimes full versions were played, but most of the time it consisted of just the first verse and then the chorus twice, and was a bit of a lead-in medley for another song.

2002-2003 Sea Change tours

Except for goofing a few times on the riff at his piano, Beck did not play "Loser" on his solo tour of August 2002. "Loser" returned on his tour with the Flaming Lips in Oct/Nov 2002. Beck began to play the slide guitar riff live himself, not using a tape like back in the day. It was a little odd hearing Beck's newer, deeper voice when I'm so used to the young Beck's voice sing the song!

Making better use of his deep voice was the "Goth" version of "Loser" performed on March 31 2003. It's hilarious, and inspired. It's a perfect goth recreation. As far as I know they only did this the once.

Then in spring 2003, Beck did another solo tour and introduced a solo version of "Loser" into the set. These are super epic, Beck just playing an electric guitar, jamming on the bluesy riff and rapping. It is very bluesy and I love this; taking "Loser" into the blues is an amazing progression for the song.

Then in the summer 2003, "Loser" opened many of the shows, in a fast rock version.

2005-2007 Guero / Info tours

"Loser" was still played every night on the Guero and Info tours.

2008-2009 Modern Guilt tours

"Loser" was still played every night on the Guilt tours.

2011-2013 pre-Morning Phase tours

Beck took a few years off the road, and then reunited with his classic band from the late '90s/early 2000s. "Loser" at this point is pretty old, but still popular, and dare I say, Beck found a new vitality to it. He seemed to relish performing it, and the audience response is always high.

2014 Morning Phase tours:

Beck played "Loser" pretty much every night during his 2014 Morning Phase tours. The song followed the template of the album, almost exactly. Early on, they cruised through it, but by midway through the tour, it seems the band had made a conscious decision to embrace it better, and they sort of kicked the song up a notch. They started to bring some party vibes to the song, but basically, this band played "Loser" very much by the numbers. Beck even took to singing the "I'm a driver, I'm a winner..." sample most nights.

One noteworthy version was in Providence on July 26, when Jack White joined the band for a few songs. Jack played a janky acoustic slide guitar, but much faster than usual, and so the band had no choice but to follow at a higher tempo. This made it even more fun than usual!

2015-2016 post-Morning Phase tours

"Loser" of course still has a regular slot in Beck's concerts. It always will! While other songs are more epic, or more the centerpiece of the sets, "Loser" is always there adding it's particular brand of loony fun to Beck's shows.
 
Cool Intros

June 11, 1994: "This is called "KROQ Gave Me A Frisbee And I Threw It, But It Flew Back And Hit Me In The Face.""

July 21, 1996 [Beck's spoken intro to the song]: "Cast off your weary tongues! Embark now with us, once again. And put your faith in the same icecap that we have plucked from the loins of the seaman. From the great sea loin that has stifled among the icebergs of the Bering Strait. OK, take it away, Hound Dog Mondle."

June 9, 1998: [sung, over the Muzak intro] "Talking about days of yore! When I was a young, I'm not a kid anymore / But some days I sit and wish I was a kid again / Back in the day when I was young / I'm not a kid anymore / Some days I wish I was a kid again..." [this is from "Back in the Day" by Pharcyde]

June 10, 1998: [sung, over a little Muzak intro] "This is a song, a song we sing / It is so we can get hyped up / Turned on for real!"
 
Live Chorus Changes!

June 11, 1994: "I'm a goldfish, baby, so why don't you feed me?"

June 27 & 29, 1994
October 21, 1994: "I'm a softie, baby, so why don't you rock me?"

September 6, 1994: "I'm a ??, baby, so why don't you breakdance?"

September 9, 1994: "I'm filthy, baby, so why don't you wash me?"

October 24, 1994: "Soy un perdidor / Pronto questo!" (?)

October 28, 1994
November 5, 1994
December 5, 1994
July 8, 1995
August 3, 1995: "I'm a nickel, baby, so why don't you shine me?" (Sometimes "rub" or "toss" me)

November 28, 1994: [Can't decipher it. Perhaps "I'm a boogie baby, so why don't you bump me?"]

December 1, 1994: "I'm a copycat, baby, so why don't you kill me?" & "I'm filthy, baby, so why don't you kill me?

December 5, 1994: "I'm a preppie, baby, so why don't you love me?"

July 28, 1995
August 3, 1995: "I'm a broken record, so why don't you play me?" [see "Hotwax"!]

August 3, 1995: "I'm a shiny nickel in a slot machine"

August 14, 1995: "I'm a broken record baby / Playing it backwards / Soy un perdidor / I'm a ??? around the town."
and
"I'm a broken record! La la la / Soy un perdidor / I'm a wooden nickel / Playing in the jukebox."

August 27, 1995: "I'm a backwash baby, so doo-doo-doo-doo," "I'm a wooden nickel, so doo-doo-doo-doo," and "I'm a broken record, doo-doo-doo-doo"
 
Notes: