Bottle of Blues
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

Versions:
  1. Bottle of Blues (4:51)
    Available on Mutations.
    Credits
    Justin Meldal-Johnsen: Bass
    Joey Waronker: Drums
    John Sorensen: Engineer
    Nigel Godrich: Engineer, Mix, Producer
    Beck Hansen: Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Slide), Harmonica, Keyboard / Synthesizer, Producer, Vocals
    Roger Joseph Manning Jr.: Keyboard / Synthesizer, Vocals (Background)
  2. Bottle of Blues (extended intro) (5:07)
 
Lyrics:
Bottle of Blues [Version (a)]:

Da da da da...

I just found me a bottle of blues
Some strange comfort for a soul to soothe
Ain't it hard, ain't it hard to want somebody
Who doesn't want you?

And I've been waiting for a year or a day
Some strange weather must be blowing my way
'Cause I got no mind to go or to stay
Or be left behind

Holding hands with an impotent dream
In a brothel of fake energy
Put a nickel in a graveyard machine
I get higher and lower
I get higher and lower
Like a tired soldier with nothing to shoot
And nowhere to lose this bottle of blues

Eagles drone and pose alone
Like black balloons all banged and blown
On a backwards river
The infidels shiver in the stench of belief

And tell my momma I'm a hundred years late
I'm over the rails and out of the race
The crippled psalms of an age that won't thaw
Are ringing in my ears

Holding hands with an impotent dream
In a brothel of fake energy
Put a nickel in a graveyard machine
I get higher and lower
I get higher and lower
Like a tired soldier with nothing to shoot
And nowhere to lose this bottle of blues

There's nothing that I won't play
Uh huh, yea what?


Well I just found me a bottle of blues
Some strange comfort for a soul to soothe
Ain't it hard, ain't it hard to want somebody
Who doesn't want you?

Holding hands with an impotent dream
In a brothel of fake energy
Put a nickel in a graveyard machine
I get higher and lower
I get higher and lower
Like a tired solder with nothing to shoot
And nowhere to lose this bottle of blues
Bottle of blues

All my folks in the back row
Bottle of Blues (extended intro) [Version (b)]:

Fucking freeze with the pumpkin pie!

Roll the tape


Da da da...

I just found me a bottle of blues
Some strange comfort for a soul to soothe
Ain't it hard, ain't it hard to want somebody
Who doesn't want you?

And I've been waiting for a year or a day
Some strange weather must be blowing my way
'Cause I got no mind to go or to stay
Or be left behind

Holding hands with an impotent dream
In a brothel of fake energy
Put a nickel in a graveyard machine
I get higher and lower
I get higher and lower
Like a tired soldier with nothing to shoot
And nowhere to lose this bottle of blues

Eagles drone and pose alone
Like black balloons all banged and blown
On a backwoods river
The infidels shiver in the stench of belief

And tell my mama I'm a hundred years late
I'm over the rails and out of the race
And the crippled psalms of an age that won't thaw
Are ringing in my ears

Holding hands with an impotent dream
In a brothel of fake energy
Put a nickel in a graveyard machine
I get higher and lower
I get higher and lower
Like a tired soldier with nothing to shoot
And nowhere to lose this bottle of blues

There's nothing that I won't play
Uh huh yea, what?


I just found me a bottle of blues
Some strange comfort for a soul to soothe
Ain't it hard, ain't it hard to want somebody
Who doesn't want you?

Holding hands with an impotent dream
In a brothel of fake energy
Put a nickel in a graveyard machine
I get higher and lower
I get higher and lower
Like a tired soldier with nothing to shoot
And nowhere to lose this bottle of blues
Bottle of blues

And all my folks in the back row
 
The Song:

"Bottle of Blues," like most of Mutations, was a rusty old song that Beck dug out of the cupboard. However, it is one of the few songs on the album for which pre-album versions are not readily circulating. For the album, Beck and his band put together a fairly straightforward arrangement. The whole song is very rhythmic, from Beck's vocals and guitar to Justin's bass and Joey's drums. Towards the end, Beck and Roger add all sorts of nifty synthesizer sounds to the mix.

This song seems to be about impotence, be it sexual or otherwise. Like most blues lyrics, it's open to different interpretations and emotions. Many of the lines do have an undeniably sexual nature (ie., "I get higher and lower like a tired soldier with nothing to shoot"). One of the main lines of the song says it clearly: "Holding hands with an impotent dream." This line clarifies a lot of the other images, from "a tired soldier with nothing to shoot" and "a brothel of fake energy" to even the title, "bottle of blues." A line Beck borrowed from Woody Guthrie takes on a new meaning here ("hard, ain't it hard...")! Most of the other feelings described ("I've been waiting for a year, or a day" or "I'm over the rails and out of the race") are a result of this "impotent dream."

Beck, as usual, has a pretty twistedly entertaining take on the blues. In addition to the aforementioned interpretation, Beck uses lines like like "Tell my Mama I'm a hundred years late / I'm over the rails and out of the race" or "On a backwards river" to express how he his feeling. Who can't relate to these phrases sometimes? They are simple, unique expressions, but filled with a lot of meaning and emotion.
 
Live:

Played live 39 times:
Earliest known live version: November 8, 1998
Latest known live version: March 31, 2004

"Bottle of Blues" is probably better suited to the stage. The tight, but loose, feel of the song is even more charming on stage.

1998-1999 GRAVEYARD MACHINE version

One interesting live rendition was when Beck appeared on Modern Rock Live on November 8, 1998. It is highlighted by a contemplative trumpet solo. Afterwards, Beck announced that it was probably the first time it was ever played live. This was just a few days after Mutations was released.

Much of the Mutations touring was just on radio shows, and a bit later in November 1998, Beck was back on KCRW once again. The "Bottle of Blues" there was a joy. On Modern Rock Live, Beck did not have his normal band, but for KCRW he had Justin, Smokey, Roger, and Joey backing him up. Their chemistry is amazing. Notes are missed, lyrics are fumbled—"Cause I got no mind to go or to stay or be left on the payroll"—and band members laugh in the background. Roger plays an awesome synthesizer solo, and the song breaks down into wonderful chaos.

2000 BANGED AND BLOWN version

Then on the Mutations tours proper, "Bottle of Blues" was played on just five of the eight shows. The Brass Menagerie had a more integral part in the loose stomp, and it's clearly a song the band enjoyed playing.

On the Vultures tours, the band didn't play the song at all, except on some unique shows. Then the version of "Bottle of Blues" on July 2 2000 (an acoustic show) is noteworthy because of the bizarre jazz horn section in the middle. The Brass Menagerie goes completely wild in the middle of the song, which of course fits the unscripted chaos of the song. Brilliant! I believe there's just a few versions with the horns.

2000 TIRED SOLDIER version

There were a handful of gigs AFTER the Vultures tours ended, which were more chill than the crazy tours, and Beck played "Bottle Of Blues" at some of those.

After the Vultures tour, Beck did return to the song however. It was played at one of the mellow shows he did opening for Neil Young (September 30 2000). These versions from the end of the year were usually highlighted by lead slide guitar licks, which is new and always a welcome addition.

2002-2003 STRANGE COMFORT version

Beck's solo shows of 2002 saw a number of folksy, acoustic "Bottle Of Blues."

In August 2002, Beck did not play "Bottle of Blues" at the first 3 shows, but then played it most of the time ater that. The first night he and Smokey pulled it out, on August 8, he introduced it by saying, "[This song] was just rescued today. It was living in El Paso, Texas, working at the 99-cent store. We put some posters up around town and someone called us." This first version is definitely my favorite version of the song ever. Beck and Smokey used Roland, their drum machine, to provide some beats, and Smokey's slide guitar was sweet. About half of the performances in August were done by Beck alone, but there are a few with Smokey.

Since then, the song has shown up a couple of times in solo acoustic sets and the like, but not often and not in awhile.
 
Notes: