Electric Music and the Summer People
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

Versions:
  1. Electric Music and the Summer People (4:43)
    Available on Odelay and 2 other releases.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Engineer, Guitar, Percussion, Robot, Vocals
    John King: Engineer
    Justin Meldal-Johnsen: Engineer, Keyboard / Synthesizer
  2. Electric Music and the Summer People (Mutations version) (3:35)
    Available on Mutations and 5 other releases.
    Credits
    Justin Meldal-Johnsen: Bass
    John Sorensen: Engineer
    Nigel Godrich: Engineer, Mix, Producer
    Beck Hansen: Guitar, Keyboard / Synthesizer, Organ, Producer, Sitar, Vocals
    Roger Joseph Manning Jr.: Keyboard / Synthesizer, Organ, Piano, Vocals (Background)
    Joey Waronker: Percussion, Timpani
 
Lyrics:
Electric Music and the Summer People [Version (a)]:

Out on the highway, I'm doing it my way
Handing out money, a fly's making honey
Zigzag patients vibrating the ancients
Beaches a-plenty, the pig's on the levee
Let's not be like everyone else
With the one-trip rooms, the halfway house
Big black drums beat in the night
Running away, that's what I like

Breezes are turnin', villages burnin'
Convalescents open the presents
Wandering children, ready and willin'
Beggars and lightweights harness the highways
Let's not be like everyone else
With the one-trip rooms, the halfway house
Big black drums beat in the night
Running away, that's what I like

Abandoned coalmines, we'll have a good time
Sunstroke rivals recycling bibles
Let's not be like everyone else
With the one-trip rooms, the halfway house
Big black drums beat in the night
Running away, that's what I like

Doo doo doo...
Electric Music and the Summer People (Mutations version) [Version (b)]:

Out on the highway, I'm doing it my way
Zigzag patients vibrating the ancients
Handing out money, the fly's making honey
Beaches a-plenty, the pig's on the levee
Let's not be like everyone else
With the one-trip rooms, the halfway house
Big black drums beat in the night
Running away, that's what I like

Seasons are turning, villages burning
Convalescents open the presents
Wandering children, ready and willin'
Beggars and lightweights harness the highway
Let's not be like everyone else
With the one-trip rooms, the halfway house
Big black drums beat in the night
Running away, that's what I like

Abandoned coalmine, we'll have a good time
Red tape rivals recycling bibles
Let's not be like everyone else
With the one-trip rooms, the halfway house
Big black drums beat in the night
Running away, that's what I like

Doo doo doo...
 
The Song:

Initially, this song was recorded really quickly one day with just Justin Meldal-Johnsen and John King, one of the Dust Brothers. JMJ plays keyboards, not his usual instrument, while Beck adds some fantastic electric guitar, percussion, and robot. The "robot" probably refers to the sound noise collage that closes the song.

Then in 1998, Beck recorded the song again for Mutations. This new version is much more a band performance, with a more three-dimensional production. Beck even plays a little sitar. The middle of the song has a trippy synthesizer solo, either by Beck or Roger Manning. Some of the vocal harmonies remain. There are some minor lyric edits in the new version, but the song is so surreal, that they don't really change it for better or worse.

And what could this song be about? It does seem pretty random. The title doesn't help: it is a phrase that was first seen in one of the artist's paintings included in the liner notes of the two-disc album The Poop Alley Tapes (to which Beck gave an alternate version of "Girl Dreams"). Beck swiped the phrase and first stuck it on "Devils Haircut," but changed that, and then used it again here.

There are some terrific rhymes in the song ("Zigzag patients vibrating the ancients," "beggars and lightweights harness the highway"). That sort of breeziness of images and words and rhymes was most likely the goal.

The second verse feels a lot less surreal, and even slightly coherent! With the "villages burning," "wandering children," and beggars, it sounds like a description of some decaying society or situation, again something Beck often explores in his lyrics (especially on Mutations).
 
Live:

Played live 4 times:
Earliest known live version: May 17, 1998
Latest known live version: June 6, 1998

Beck, having re-recorded "Electric Music" during his Mutations sessions in March, 1998, included the song a few times on the following tour in May/June 1998. He could not help but include a number of the unreleased Mutations songs he had just finished recording.

One of these performances was on June 6 1998, in Saratoga, NY. The song was very much like the newer Mutations version, as you'd have expected, but it was also faster and funkier. It was a loose jam, but also one of the highlights of the evening.

This was definitely a song which was not performed enough.
 
Notes: