By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

  1. Asshole (2:31)
    Available on One Foot In The Grave and 1 other release.
    Beck Hansen: Bass, Guitar (Acoustic), Percussion, Producer, Vocals, Vocals (Background)
    Calvin Johnson: Producer
Live Versions: [show/hide]
  1. Asshole (2:23)
    Available on Tibetan Freedom Concert.
  2. Manchild
Asshole [Version (a)]:

Your brains went black when she took back her love
And put it out into the sun
The birds did fly when the heavens all went dry
And the cigarettes were smoking by themselves
She'll do anything, she'll do anything
She'll do anything to make you feel like an asshole

Call her name, she looks the same as you
Question marks stretched across her skin
She dangles carrots
Makes you feel embarrassed to be the fool you know you are
She'll do anything, she'll do anything
She'll do anything to make you feel like an asshole
The Song:

"Asshole" is one of the highlights of One Foot In The Grave, easy. The song itself is special, with memorable lyrics. The recording, though lo-fi, sounds incredible with the harmonies and percussion and bass.

(I was not sure who played all these things on this particular song, so I just said they were all Beck in the above credits. For some reason, I get a distinct one-man-band feel here.)

Once, while talking about "The New Pollution," Beck pointed out how he enjoyed taking a word with a negative connotation, like "pollution," and then using it in a positive manner in his lyrics. "Asshole" shows that he has done this for years. While not exactly a positive song, a song called "Asshole" by a lesser songwriter would likely be angry or bitter, or use the title as insult. Beck has none of that, and eloquently uses the word to reflect the feeling of being used, being made the fool.

Most of the lines mirror this experience of humiliation: from "she took back her love / and put it out into the sun" to the amazing "she dangles carrots / makes you feel embarrassed / to be the fool you know you are." Beck does this while maintaining his own unique way of words (e.g., "question marks stretched across her skin").

There is an outtake recording of the song, which unfortunately has not been released, nor circulated. Beck recorded the song with a band, and it was briefly considered to be mixed for a Mellow Gold memorial video in 2004, but it did not ever get finished.

Played live 125 times:
Earliest known live version: September 6, 1994
Latest known live version: June 21, 2022

"Asshole" has made semi-frequent appearances in Beck's improvised solo acoustic sets and he usually has fun with it, sometimes changing the chorus around. One night, he memorably sang "She'll do anything to make you feel like a manchild," poking fun at his image in the media. (Just about every review of Beck in 1994 calls him a "manchild" or mentions his youthful looks.)

Mellow Gold tour - Fall 1994 folk versions

The earliest known live versions of "Asshole" were solo folk versions. At both the October 24 and 28, 1994 shows, Beck uses "Asshole" to try to calm down a talkative, inattentive crowd. This gives the October 28, 1994 version a bit of an edge, as Beck scolds the crowd before he starts singing. October 24 had a lot of harmonica between verses, which is great (the album does not have any), but October 28 had none.

End of Mellow Gold / Lollapalooza festivals Dec. 1994/1995 band versions

On December 4 1994, "Asshole" was played with a full band. It's quiet, and reflective, and there is a nice short guitar solo between the verses. Seems like it is still a calming song for the set and crowd. December 18, 1994 is similar.

This arrangement was played sometimes in the summer of 1995 as well when Beck went out on tour with the Lollapalooza festival.

On August 27 1995, the song was still being done with the band. The lead guitarist was on top of it, and the song was really filled out nicely. These band versions of "Asshole" were really cool, and relatively rare, so worth checking out.

Odelay tours - 1996-1997 folk versions

Some of Beck's long Odelay tour in 1996/1997 included the occasional folk versions of "Asshole," much like in the fall of 1994. August 28, 1996 had the infamous "manchild" chorus, and some cool falsetto at the end. The harmonica showed up sometimes, sometimes not. Here's one:

Odelay / Mutations - 1997-1999 band versions

One great band version of the song was on September 6 1997. It was the final show of the Odelay tour and it was filmed for the Sessions TV show. Smokey Hormel's lead guitar soared, while the rhythm section was very subtle. Good stuff, but Beck has to self-edit himself since this was being filmed for PBS. He slurred through the chorus - "to make you feel like an ohhhhhhhhhhhhh" - which gave the song a unique presence.

A few band versions popped up now and again, most notably on January 10 1999, on the first real Mutations concert. It fit in well with the songs from that album. Sounds a bit like a slower "Bottle Of Blues," that kind of raggedy country rock song.

Post-Vultures tour - September 2000

Beck opened five shows for Neil Young in the end of September 2000. He played "Asshole" twice there. The first, on October 1 2000, was a sleepy version, while the second, on October 3, was a little bit more bluesy. The slide guitar, which is always a welcome addition to near any song, sounds great on it. Here is one of those versions:

Vultures/Sea Change/Guero tours - 2000-2005 folk versions

The song is still played on occasion, though always solo acoustic, and never as a regular in the set. Sometimes it's part of Beck's acoustic folk medley of songs too. I wanted to note the version on October 24, 2002, which I particularly love. Beck plays it slow and tense and dramatic, and kind of mixes in some fingerpicking with the strumming. It's quite beautiful.

Modern Guilt tours - 2009 band versions

8.5 years after last playing it with a band, Beck started playing "Asshole" again on his Japanese tour of 2009. Not as bluesy as before, Beck made the song a bit more slow and trippy. The addition to the setlist was likely due to the release of the Deluxe version of One Foot, though they just did the song three times. Here is one:

pre-Morning Phase tour - 2013

Beck did some small touring in 2013, and included a few more acoustic-focused shows in 2013. All three versions of "Asshole" were done with light backing, just bass and piano (once with Justin Meldal-Johnsen and Roger Joseph Manning Jr.; twice with Vincent Taurelle and Rory McCarthy). Here is the first one with JMJ and Roger:

Morning Phase tours - 2014

Beck only played "Asshole" one time on his Morning Phase tours. And that version was spontaneous, due to a lady shouting for it from the crowd. This tour did not have a lot of spontaneity to it in this way, so this was a rarity. Beck began "Asshole" in response, and his band actually started to join in, offering light backing on keys, electric guitar and bass. After the first verse/chorus though, Beck cut the song short.