Cellphone's Dead
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

Alternate Titles:

a.k.a. Cellphone is Dead
a.k.a. Knock Out

Versions:
  1. Cellphone's Dead (4:46)
    Available on The Information and 3 other releases.
    Credits
    Stevie Blacke: Cello, Percussion, Vocals (Background)
    Nigel Godrich: Mix, Producer
    Beck Hansen: Vocals, Vocals (Background)
    Lucia Ribisi: Vocals
    Cosimo Hansen: Vocals (Background)
  2. Cellphone's Dead : Edit (3:53)
    Available on The Information Album Sampler and 1 other release.
  3. Cellphone's Dead: Jamie Lidell Limited Minutes Remix (4:32)
    a.k.a. Cellphone's Dead (Jamie Lidell Remix)
    Available on The Information.
    Credits
    Renaud Letang: Engineer
    Jamie Lidell: Remix
    Beck Hansen: Vocals
  4. Cellphone's Dead Villalobos Entlebuch Rmx: Ricardo Villalobos Remix (14:38)
    Available on The Information and 1 other release.
    Credits
    Ricardo Villalobos: Remix
    Beck Hansen: Vocals
    Lucia Ribisi: Vocals (Background)
  5. Cellphone's Dead: Ellen Allien Remix (5:37)
    Available on The Information and 1 other release.
    Credits
    Ellen Allien: Remix
    Beck Hansen: Vocals
Live Versions: [show/hide]
  1. Knock Out
 
Unofficial Versions: [show/hide]
  1. Champion Cellphone (3:02)
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed
    Brandy: Mashed
    Fatboy Slim: Mashed
    Genesis: Mashed
    Team 9: Remix (Mashup)
  2. Phone's Dead Re Edit (6:11)
    Available on Cellphone's Dead.
  3. You (Cell) Must (Phone's) Learn (Dead) (3:44)
    Available on Aphids On The Lettuce.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed (Cellphone's Dead)
    Boogie Down Productions: Mashed (You Must Learn)
    Panzah Sandahz: Remix (Mashup)
  4. Cellphone's Dead / Herbie Hancock - Chameleon (4:07)
    Available on Three Steps Beckwards.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Mashed (Cellphone's Dead)
    Herbie Hancock: Mashed (Chameleon)
    Ian Wardle: Remix (Mashup)
 
 
Lyrics:
Cellphone's Dead [Version (a)]:

Strange ways coming today
I put a dollar in my pocket
And I threw it away
Been a long time
Since a federal dime
Made a jukebox sound
Like a mirror in my mind
To comb my worries
Fix my thoughts
Throw my hopes
Like a juggernaut walks
Now let-down souls
Can't feel no rhythm
Sorry entertainers
Like aerobics victims
Hybrid people
Light a wooded matchstick
Toxic fumes from the
Burning plastic
Beats are broken
Bones are spastic
Robots talkin'
With a southern accent
Voodoo curses
Bible tongues
Voices comin'
From the mangled lungs
Give me some grit
Some get-down shit
Don't need a good reason
To let anything rip

Radio's cold
Soul is infected
One by one
I'll knock you out
God is alone
Hardware defective
One by one
I'll knock you out

Mr. Microphone making
All the damage felt
Like a laser manifesto
Make a mannequin melt
There's people phonin' in
Like it's unlimited minutes
Going through the motions
Just to say that they did it
Treadmill's running
Underneath their feet
So they feel like they're going somewhere
But they're not
So let's put boots
On the warehouse floor
Comin' to you
Like a rope on a chainstore
Throwing equipment
From a moving van
Grab a microphone
Like a utility man
Now fix the beat
Now break the rest
Make a kick drum sound
Like an S.O.S.
Get a tow-truck
Cause it's after dark
And the dance floor's full
But everybody's double-parked!

Cell phone's dead
Lost in the desert
One by one
I'll knock you out
Eye of the sun
Is out of its socket
One by one
I'll knock you out
One by one

This jam is real... that's right

Eye of the sun
Eye of the sun
Eye of the sun

Ahhhhhhhhhh
Cellphone's Dead: Jamie Lidell Limited Minutes Remix [Version (c)]:

Strange ways coming today
I put a dollar in my pocket
And I threw it away
Been a long time
Since a federal dime
Made a jukebox sound
Like a mirror in my mind
To comb my worries
Fix my thoughts
Throw my hopes
Like a juggernaut walks
Now let-down souls
Can't feel no rhythm
Sorry entertainers
Like aerobics victims
Hybrid people
Light a wooded matchstick
Toxic fumes from the
Burning plastic
Beats are broken
Bones are spastic
Robots talkin'
With a southern accent
Voodoo curses
Bible tongues
Voices comin'
From the mangled lungs
Give me some grit
Some get-down shit
Don't need a good reason
To let anything rip

Radio's cold
Soul is infected
God is alone
Hardware defective

Mr. Microphone making
All the damage felt
Like a laser manifesto
Make a mannequin melt
There's people phonin' in
Like it's unlimited minutes
Going through the motions
Just to say that they did it
Treadmill's running
Underneath their feet
So they feel like they're going somewhere
But they're not
So let's put boots
On the warehouse floor
Comin' to you
Like a rope on a chainstore
Throwing equipment
From a moving van
Grab a microphone
Like a utility man
Now fix the beat
Now break the rest
Make a kick drum sound
Like an S.O.S.

Cell phone's dead
Lost in the desert
Eye of the sun
Is out of its socket
 
Cellphone's Dead Villalobos Entlebuch Rmx: Ricardo Villalobos Remix [Version (d)]:

One by one... that's right
One by one... that's right
One by one... that's right

Strange ways coming today
I put a dollar in my pocket
And I threw it away
Been a long time
Since a federal dime
Made a jukebox sound
Like a mirror in my mind
To comb my worries
Fix my thoughts
Throw my hopes
Like a juggernaut walks
Now let-down souls
Can't feel no rhythm
Sorry entertainers
Like aerobics victims
Hybrid people
Light a wooded matchstick
Toxic fumes from the
Burning plastic
Beats are broken
Bones are spastic
Robots talkin'
With a southern accent
Voodoo curses
Bible tongues
Voices comin'
From the mangled lungs
Give me some grit
Some get-down shit
Don't need a good reason
To let anything rip

Radio's cold
Soul is infected
God is alone
Hardware defective
One by one I'll knock you out

Mr. Microphone making
All the damage felt
Like a laser manifesto
Make a mannequin melt
There's people phonin' in
Like it's unlimited minutes
Going through the motions
Just to say that they did it
Treadmill's running
Underneath their feet
So they feel like they're going somewhere
But they're not
So let's put boots
On the warehouse floor
Comin' to you
Like a rope on a chainstore
Throwing equipment
From a moving van
Grab a microphone
Like a utility man
Now fix the beat
Now break the rest
Make a kick drum sound
Like an S.O.S.
Get a tow-truck
Cause it's after dark
And the dance floor's full
But everybody's double-parked!

One by one... that's right
Cellphone's dead
Lost in the desert
Eye of the sun
Out of its socket
One by one I'll knock you out
One by one
That's right
Knock you out

This jam is real
That's right

YEA
One by one
That's right
One by one
Eye of the sun
Eye of the sun
Eye of the sun

Matchstick
Plastic
Plastic
That's right
Need a good reason to let anything rip
One by one
That's right
That's right, do it
That's right
Damage felt
Melt
Huh uhhuh
Beat
That's right but not
Chainstore
Mail
That's right
Break the brass
SOS
Dark
That's right
That's right
That's right
That's right
Yea

...

it keeps going on and on

(and then goes through the first verse/chorus)
(and then resumes the chopped-up phrases)
Cellphone's Dead: Ellen Allien Remix [Version (e)]:

Eye of the sun
Eye of the sun
Eye of the sun
Eye of the sun

Cell phone's dead
Lost in the desert
Eye of the sun
Is out of its socket
Radio's cold
Soul is infected
God is alone
Hardware defective

Eye of the sun
Eye of the sun
Eye of the sun
Eye of the sun
 
 
The Song:

"Cellphone's Dead" first showed up on stage in early 2005, when it was called "Knock Out." Back then, the chorus was: "Here we go / Stereo / One by one / I'll knock you out / We'll go down / Round and round / Round and round / One by one / I'll knock you out / Knock you out / Knock you out." (Something like that.)

Beck has said they whittled away at songs over a few years in creating The Information, and knowing the early live version of "Cellphone's Dead" indicates how they did this. He re-wrote the chorus, but kept the melody, and added some killer production beats, but otherwise it's the fairly similar to "Knock Out." The album recording sounds fantastic, and displays a very high level of work. All its parts blend and flow brilliantly.

The song begins with a very cool jungle-y beat, a great intro, one that catches the listener. The song then goes into the verse and choruses, Beck rapping over a slow bassline. A few sounds fill it out (some beautiful piano, Beck's baby saying hi), but it remains quite minimal. The second chorus has more going on, mainly synth effects. And in between the second verse and chorus, the intro beat pops up unexpectedly. I love that.

After the second chorus, a long outro takes off--a highlight of the song (and the album), if you ask me. (I know you didn't.) It begins with some turntable scratching and piano, which mix beautifully together. Yes! Then Beck chants about the "eye of the sun" (a line from earlier in the song) before a cello and percussion section get the groove going again. A choir of Becks build to the end of the song.

Lyrically, the song reminds me a great deal of "Elevator Music," a couple of songs earlier on the album. Both seem to be exploring that feeling of being down ("strange ways comin' today," "let-down souls"), and combatting it with music (the whole second verse here reminds me of a "Where It's At"-like party/rave situation). There is an touch of sadness to the party, with people there "just to say that they did it," and comparing the situation to a treadmill going nowhere. Also, everyone's double-parked.

The chorus seems to be hinting at the idea of being let down by modern society ("cellphone's dead / lost in the desert"), and being unable to find that connection you need (literally and figuratively). The rapped verses indicate that this connection is music, the easiest way to "comb your worries (and fix your thoughts)." As Beck sings, "let-down souls can't feel no rhythm."

"Cellphone's Dead" is a fun song, but also one that looks at social connections via music and technology, through a slightly sci-fi landscape.
 
Live:

Played live 37 times:
Earliest known live version: January 28, 2005
Latest known live version: October 3, 2008

Surprisingly, "Cellphone's Dead" never became a full-on regular in the sets for very long. It does have a very interesting life on stage though!

FEBRUARY 2005 - "KNOCK OUT" early versions (Guero warm-up shows)

This song made it's premeire as an unreleased song during Beck's "secret" shows prior to the release of Guero. It has a nice relaxed feel to it on stage. At this time, the song was known as "Knock Out." The song consisted of the two rap verses, an early version of the chorus, and the main bass riff pulsing throughout. The little intro and bridges and ending as on Info weren't written yet. Because of that the song is much more pure hiphop (it did have some turntable scratching going on, I think by Beck).

SUMMER 2005 - BACK TO WORK
After these warm-up shows, Beck went on tour behind Guero. Since "Cellphone's Dead" wasn't part of that album, the song dropped out. It does show up on some setlists over the rest of 2005--but usually either more "secret" shows, or if Beck adlibs the chorus on stage.

SUMMER 2006 DOUBLE PARKED version
After finishing up Guero tours, Beck took 5 months and finished Info (he had begun that album prior to Guero), which was released in October. He resumed touring in May 2006 and over the summer couldn't help but dip into some of the Info songs on occasion.

Live versions now sound like the record, with the jungley intro and the tinkling piano riff and choral ending and all. (Occasionally he just did one verse/chorus though.) Cool stuff here.

2006-2007 STRANGEWAYS versions

Ironically, when Info was released in October 2006, and everyone finally knew the song... Beck and the band started screwing around with the song (sometimes).

On October 13, 2006, Beck announces "We're going to make up a new version. I have no idea what's going to happen." Turns out it's a Kraftwerk-style keyboard beat that the band pumps out. The music is hyper, while Beck's raps build the tension. Excellent! (The very next night a normal version is back.)

October 22, 2006 was an "acoustic" show, and they again do the Kraftwerk-style "Cellphone"--lots of percussion, Casio beats, it's AMAZING:



March 22, 2007 saw a warm-up tour show in LA. The "Cellphone's Dead" was more bluesy in nature, and Beck less-rapped than sang the lyrics in a random, nonflowing kind of way.

April 6, 2007 again saw a return to the Kraftwerk version, though it came fully tacked on to a jam with "Cars" and "Think I'm In Love." This version kills! April 9 was back to normal, but short--Beck starts with the chorus, before chatting the Mr. Microphone verse (it's not rapping, nor singing), before doing the chorus again and stopping. "That was a good one," Beck says.

Finally, April 16, 2007 saw JMJ starting up all sorts of bass riffs ("Ain't No Nigga" by Jay-Z and some others). Beck adlibs "Cellphone's Dead" while JMJ goes wild. Full-on live mash-up jam, it's pretty fun. (After one verse, Beck takes it to "Beercan.")

POST-INFO
Beck hasn't played this since the Info tours. It was reported at one show in October in 2008, but don't have a boot to verify, and otherwise hasn't been reported or heard (so I'm skeptical).



 
videos

Official (homemade video):



Official (Michel Gondry video):

 
Notes: