"Gold Chains" is a funky acoustic guitar rap song that was initially recorded during the Odelay
sessions. As Beck told Rolling Stone magazine, "It was never a serious album contender. We were just fucking around one day." It kind of makes sense, as some of the arrangement sounds a little like "Loser," so surely it did not feel right to add to the album following up "Loser."
In the end, the song was released 12 years later on the Deluxe version of Odelay
I don't believe the song was untouched in those 12 years. Beck's voice sounds like his 1996 voice, for sure, but the song credits a Nathalie Merchand as "voice." Merchand is also credited as Beck's assistant on Modern Guilt
, so I don't think she was around during Odelay
. My assumption is that she spoke the "Cheetah and Tammy" part; likely a re-recording of a sample (much like Petra Haden apparently did on "Rental Car").
In an old interview in 1999 Beck says:
We hooked up an 808 beat with a loop from the Frogs, and then we had Bunny and Tigra on top-it's an outtake from Odelay. I doubt it'll ever see the light of day because it just costs too much money to clear a sample these days.
Which seems to me might possibly refer to "Gold Chains" before some changes were made. Perhaps Merchand re-did the "Bunny and Tigra" bit as "Cheetah and Tammy"? And either the Frogs sample was wiped or it goes uncredited. The other Odeluxe bonus track, "Inferno," was slightly re-made too, so it's definitely possible Beck did some work before releasing it.
Lyrically, the first verse--as do many of Beck's raps--floats around the blues, mixed with his own unique language. "TB Blues" is a famous old folk song. "Whipflash" is a word Beck used on "Where It's At
" and In A Cold Ass Fashion
" too. Beck's also used nickels, fingers pointing and spice elsewhere on Odelay
The key line here to me, and to the whole song, is probably "Trying to get together into some kind of scene." It's not an uncommon persona for Beck-the outsider trying to break into the coolness. This contrast between the singer and the scene is the whole first verse: people lookin' fresh and women in their whipflash rides vs. the singer's TB blues, wooden nickels, broken machines. He covers up his shortcomings with 50-foot woofers and gold chains. But in the end he doesn't make it; he gets sent back home.
The second verse has less obvious allusions, and is therefore more abstract, but I believe it also describes the bluesiness of his situation.
There was no mention or indication of "Gold Chains" from the time it was recorded until it was released. I know Beck has a huge archive of songs... but the sudden appearence of songs like this makes you dream. What other fun stuff is there hidden away?