White Telephone
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

  1. White Telephone (3:29)
    Available on Stage Whisper.
    Recorded at: The Library
    Bram Inscore: Cello, Contrabass
    Cassidy Turbin: Engineer
    Cole Marsden Grief-Neill: Engineer
    Dean Nelson: Engineer
    Monique McGuffin: Harp
    Darrell Thorp: Mix
    Beck Hansen: Producer, Vocals (Background)
    Drew Brown: Recording
    Charlotte Gainsbourg: Vocals
White Telephone [Version (a)]:

White telephone, pick up the receiver
Wait for the tone, wait for the tone
It's droning, there's no-one on the line
It's droning, there's no-one on the line

The rotary, finger into the hole
Pull back, let go... pull back, let go
It's ringing, no-one answering
It's ringing, there's no-one answering

All the words go into the wire
Just like a ghost, just like a ghost
It's fleeing like light from a room
Into darkness from an empty room
I'm fleeing like light from a room
Into darkness, calling after you
The Song:

"White Telephone" can be found Charlotte Gainsbourg's album Stage Whisper. Beck wrote and produced the song, and sang some wordless background vocals.

This song was started during the sessions for IRM, the first album Beck and Charlotte made together. They decided together to put it aside and not finish it for that record. But when they got back together to do some songs for Stage Whisper, Charlotte still loved it, so they finished the song off.

Musically, "White Telephone" is one of the starkest tracks Beck has created. The song involves the interplay of a contrabass and a harp (amazing combo, that), with just a little cello and Beck's background vocals for atmosphere. Charlotte sings over this.

Lyrically, the words match that musical starkness. There's nothing in this song superfluous. The song may read extremely simple, about the very specific act of picking up a phone and dialing and waiting for an answer. But this specificity brings it into focus. It's about THAT moment; nothing more than a failed attempt to communicate at its very basic level. You put your finger in the dial, hear the dial tone, wait. This is existential, exploring the senses and nothing more.

(No comment on the outdated-ness of a rotary telephone, haha.)