Broken Drum
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

Versions:
  1. Broken Drum (4:31)
    Available on Guero.
    Credits
    Recorded at: Madhatter and Sound Factory
    Beck Hansen: Bass, Beats, Celeste, Drums, Guitar (Acoustic Slide), Guitar (Electric), Mix, Piano, Producer, Vocals, Vocals (Background)
    Tony Hoffer: Mix, Producer
  2. Broken Drum (Boards of Canada Remix) (5:39)
    a.k.a. Blank Space
    Available on Guero and 4 other releases.
    Credits
    Marcus Eoin: Producer
    Mike Sandison: Producer
    Boards of Canada: Remix
    Beck Hansen: Vocals
  3. Broken Drum (Dntel Remix) (4:08)
    a.k.a. Outerspace
    Available on Remix EP #2 and 1 other release.
    Credits
    Dntel: Remix
    Beck Hansen: Vocals
  4. Broken Drum (Surround Mix) (4:31)
    Available on Guero.
Unofficial Versions: [show/hide]
  1. Broken Drum (Boards of Canada Remix) (Reversed)
    Available on Guerolito.
  2. Broken Drum (Skew Remix) (3:05)
    Credits
    Skew: Remix
  3. Broken Drum (Dntel Remix) / Broken Drum (Boards of Canada Remix) / Broken Drum (5:33)
    Available on Three Steps Beckwards.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed (Broken Drum (Dntel Remix)), Mashed (Broken Drum (Boards of Canada Remix)), Mashed (Broken Drum)
    Ian Wardle: Remix (Mashup)
 
 
Lyrics:
Broken Drum [Version (a)]:

I see you there
Your long black hair
Your eyes just stare
Your mind is turning

You know I'll laugh
I won't take it back
I've seen your act
I know what you're thinking

And one by one
We'll shoot our guns
We'll have fun
Don't ever doubt it

And when I say
Fare thee well
My only friend
Oh how the days go
Oh how the days go

Your setting sun
Your broken drum
Your little drugs
I'll never forget you
I'll never forget you
I'll never forget you
Broken Drum (Boards of Canada Remix) [Version (b)]:

I see you there
Your long black hair
Your eyes just stare
Your mind is turning

You know I'll laugh
I won't take it back
I've seen your act
I know what you're thinking

And one by one
We'll shoot our guns
We'll have fun
Don't ever doubt it

And when I say
Fare thee well
My only friend
Oh how the days go
Oh how the days go

Your setting sun
Your broken drum
Your little drugs
I'll never forget you
I'll never forget you
I'll never forget you
 
Broken Drum (Dntel Remix) [Version (c)]:

I see you there
Your long black hair
Your eyes just stare
Your mind is turning

You know I'll laugh
I won't take it back
I've seen your act
I know what you're thinking

And one by one
We'll shoot our guns
We'll have fun
Don't ever doubt it

And when I say
Fare thee well
My only friend
Oh how the days go
Oh how the days go

Your setting sun
Your broken drum
Your little drugs
I'll never forget you
I'll never forget you
I'll never forget you
 
The Song:

Originally, there were a number of reports about a song called "Outerspace" which was to be on Guero. This title was changed at the last minute to "Broken Drum," and it is the eighth song on Guero. I wonder if the lyrics changed at some point, and there is an earlier take with spacier lyrics? Or maybe the original title just referred to the spacey music?

"Broken Drum" is a chorusless, moody song, consisting of waves of guitar over a mechanical beat. Classy touches of piano and slide guitar add natural flavor. The recording and song is much more clever, in my opinion, than first meets the ear. Beck is essentially a one-man band on the song, playing every instrument, only sharing a producer credit with Tony Hoffer. (Interestingly, no electric guitar is credited officially, though the acoustic guitar is. Probably just an oversight.) But the striking landscape of music Beck creates for the song is probably my favorite thing about Guero. It feels dark, but at the same time, alive and three-dimensional.

Beck has said that Elliott Smith's death occurred early during the Guero sessions, and that shock and grief ended up in a few of the songs. I can only assume this is one; though since it was recorded with Tony Hoffer, and not the Dust Brothers, makes me wonder if "Broken Drum" originated outside the actual Guero sessions. Regardless, the last few verses, at least, reference the loss of a friend.

Reading the lyrics cold, they don't necessarily encompass the emotion that comes from hearing them sung. They can feel a little too plain in spots, but the music turns that feeling inside out, giving an incredible depth.

 
Live:

Played live 75 times:
Earliest known live version: January 28, 2005
Latest known live version: March 26, 2009

Beck played "Broken Drum" at a high percentage of all 2005 and 2006 shows (the Guero and Info tours).

As I said above, "Broken Drum" is a showstopper on stage. Even though it doesn't have all the instruments of the record, it loses none of the subtlety. And it's all infused with such life! Seriously, I just listened to as many of them in a row as I could (as research) and I'm not tired of it. I LOVE what they do to the song.

2005/2006 versions are based around a fairly nasty keyboard sound, which the rest of the band plays off of--some piano, feedback, Beck's vocals. The outro guitar part doesn't always sound exactly the same either, though it always builds into a beautiful stormy noise.

Beck didn't tour much in 2007, but there's a couple more versions from then (lingering Info tours). And in fact, the 2007 one I know is one of the best I've ever heard (April 9 in Osaka).

Then Beck hit the road for the second half of 2008 with a new band, behind Modern Guilt and promptly dropped the song entirely. He brought it back at 3 of his Japanese Guilt shows in March, 2009. Still impressive on stage, though this band feels like it rounds out the edges of the song. I prefer the sharper versions of 2005/2006.

The interesting thing about "Broken Drum" is it never moved from main sets, nor strayed from the arrangement (though there is room for improv in there some). There's no weird electro versions, nor Beck trying to play it on acoustic guitar, nor bits of it in medleys. If the band couldn't do it full-on, they didn't.
 
Notes: