This odd little recording is next up! It was only released, when it was streamed on beck.com a few years back. This post is a little long so let’s just get started:
I don’t get to dine out on this one much, but I thought it worth sharing with the people who it would appeal to most.
Back in September 2006 I got to interview Beck for the second time, this time in connection with The Information, and this time face-to-face, after the phoner we’d had in 2005. Not only Beck, but also Justin [Meldal-Johnsen], who sat with us on the 40-minute interview, making it the first time I had to interview two people at once. We spoke about a few of his songs, and I might go back to those bits later on The Oeuvre, but for the moment let’s see is anyone cares about this, ha ha..
After chatting a lot about The Information, we got to talking about the back catalogue and Beck mentioned having piles of old cassettes from the early 90s laying about. I thought that maybe some sort of rarities collection could be compiled to take care of all of this stuff.
“I’m like any musician,” he went on to say. “There’s just, there’s – you’re – the way the music business is structured, you sort of get one shot every year or two. I mean that, every two or three years to put out a record. And you’re inevitably going to end up with a lot of extra stuff that you don’t really know what to do with, or it’s not, you know, the record company won’t put any interest in it, or what-not. I started to put stuff up on my website.”
It sounded like “Acropolis Now” to me, which had been posted online just a few months before, so I thought perhaps this was a good time to bring it up. Beck sort of trailed off with, “Yeah, that was my, uh, concept band…” while Justin gave it an enthusiastic, “That’s the shit!”
Beck: “That’s something I’ve been working on for years.”
A concept band?
Beck: “Well, just sort of a concept. I wouldn’t say it was a band. I did this, uh, performance art piece years ago, uh, where I was recreating, sort of, Yanni at the Acropolis concert? Gone horribly wrong [laughs]. So, it – “
Justin: “My fondest memory. Ever.”
Beck: “Yeah. We all sort of dressed up in these New Age clothes, and I had a sort of headset mic going through a robot voice and… I think we had, like, porpoise sounds. And it just escalated into more ridiculousness, and then the whole thing about how dolphins and technology were gonna save the world. And then a giant dolphin with a giant phallus comes out and starts having sex with this giant cardboard computer we created. And then we chainsawed DX7s and then it’s… over.”
That sounds insane.
Justin: “That does sound insane.”
Beck: “Yeah, it is. ’Cause I, I think at the time I was thinking, there was so much of this sort of [Justin laughs] You know, growing up with punk rock and, you know, what’s the most underground – what’s the most extreme thing you can do?”
Justin: “Yeah, yeah.”
Beck: “And it was kind of – in the 90s it was getting piercings and tattoos, and bands wearing, like, masks. Kinda taking it so far, and it was sort of becoming so, uhm, such overkill, and it was losing the effect of shock. And so I, I got to a point – one time we were in Texas somewhere in a rental car, me and the band. And, uh, Enya came on the radio and we all started – and then we said, “Turn that fucking shit up!””
Justin: “Turn that shit up!”
Beck: “We turned it all the way up so that the speakers were distorting and exploding, and it just sounded like the heaviest shit you’ve ever heard, and we were all banging our heads. And that’s probably where the idea came from. Heavy New Age.”
I guess the dolphin thing’s interesting, since Beck had also played what’s become known as “Touch Dolphins” in Amsterdam in June the same year. The best thing about this whole “Acropolis Now” part of the interview, however, is that they were both laughing throughout – Justin in particular – yet totally committed to the idea behind it. That it only ended up online for a short period of time for no fee is testament, I guess, to how prolific Beck is, and that he clearly just pounds out the music for his own sake. Not many people would go to the bother of full costumes, props and stage design for something no one else is going to see? I kind of feel that, in that respect, he’s much like Prince, who records umpteen full-production videos in Paisley Park for his own enjoyment. Pharrell Williams once said Prince, “He will continue to make great records as long as he wants to. A man like that cannot be stopped,” and I think there’s a definite parallel to be drawn somewhere.
When this first showed up at beck.com, I listened to it once, laughed, and promptly forgot about it until now. On this listen, I got a much heartier laugh out of it and it sort of gave me a mini-anxiety episode. It’s just very evocative of that feeling of bliss I get when my baby falls asleep –everything’s good, lah-de-dah, flowers and rainbows, and then BOOM, I sneeze really loud, or my husband drops something on the kitchen floor, or a car alarm goes off outside – and she wakes up. Waaaahhhhhh!
Brian LeBarton (Beck’s keyboardist, on his MySpace around the time this was recorded):
Twas a wondrous week of Yanni and Cannibal Corpse.
Some thoughts as I listen:
More like aCRAPolis now! Ohhhh burn!
Nah, I’m just kidding. This song’s alright, I guess. This is the kinda thing I would expect people to release on their websites: far too weird and far too crappy for a real release, half-assed production, etc. It isn’t that it’s bad, really, it’s just that it’s…I dunno, filler?
Most of it is pretty I guess. I kinda wonder who is playing the piano or whatever, and if any of the piano bits were written/planned, or if the person was just kinda jamming on it.
Actually, this kinda reminds me of the little date interlude things (“11.6.45 / 8.4.82 / 8.6.82″) that Beck did, only more modern. Beck has better technology and equipment, but he’s still just kinda fucking around and playing with sound and stuff. This is like Stereopathetic 2006.
I was about to write that the song was longer than I thought, and that it should have been over by now. Then I realized I had it looping. Heh.
I wrote a drabble (a story with exactly 100 words):
We’re here! The cruise across the Mediterranean has finally arrived. The sea air would do us good, and the chance to experience Greece? Excitement. This Greek trip was a long time coming.
Visions of history – The Olympics! The Parthenon! Aristotle! Yanni!!! — swam around our minds. It was a beautiful sunny day. Where to first? Clearly, it had to be the Acropolis, now. The cab ride was not long, stopping at the hotel could wait.
The real journey began—halfway around the world, headed to the Acropolis. We arrive, the impressive building before us. A strange man approaches, carrying a…. AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!
And finally, if you haven’t heard the song,
here it is for download. (file since removed, sorry!)
“Ain’t Your Time To Go” from one of Beck’s legendary KCRW shows is next!