Heart Is A Drum
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

  1. Heart Is A Drum (4:31)
    Available on Morning Phase.
    Stanley Clarke: Bass (Electric)
    Roger Joseph Manning Jr.: Clavinet, Piano, Piano (Fender Rhodes), Vocals (Background)
    Joey Waronker: Drums, Percussion
    Beck Hansen: Guitar (Acoustic), Piano, Producer, Sounds, Vocals, Vocals (Background)
    Ben Baptie: Mix
    Tom Elmhirst: Mix
Heart Is A Drum [Version (a)]:

Free as a driving wheel
Circling around your iron will
See only what you feel
Keeps you turning when you're standing still
You try to run from trouble when it comes
You follow the drum keeping time with everyone

High as the light of day
You're falling down across your lost highway
Why does it hurt this way
To come so far to find they've closed the gates?
You've lost your tongue when you fall from the pendulum
Your heart is a drum keeping time with everyone

Everyone hear the drum from the undertow
Need to find someone to show me how to play it slow
And just let it go

Your eyes get stung by the rays of the sinking sun
You follow the drum keeping time with everyone

Going beat beat beat, it's beating me down
Beat beat beat beat, it's beating me down
Day after day, it's turning around
Till all my days are drowning out
The Song:

"Heart Is A Drum" can be found on Beck's 2014 album, Morning Phase.

The song is one of my favorites, a relaxed melody over a mix of guitar and avant-garde sound loops (listen closely for that). Beck once said that he decided to recreate a few Nick Drake tracks, in order to learn what made them tick (this resulted in his posting 3 Drake covers on his website in 2005). I feel like what he learned from this deconstruction ended up here, in "Heart Is A Drum." The flow of the vocals over the picked guitars, touches of piano for flavor, and the shifts in tempo all feel Drake-like.

For many years, Beck has used 'music' as a metaphor for life, and most often percussion ("Broken Drum"/"Black Tambourine"/etc.). Frequently Beck has written about music as a savior, something that helps someone conquer the blues -- sort of like, "when times are tough, keep dancing." Morning Phase had a similar storyline: basically waiting for morning light in the dark night. Music does not show up so much through Morning Phase, but here Beck uses a drum again, combining it with your heart, to evoke a guiding force in your life.

The song invokes numerous phrases about having no forward momentum -- going in circles, standing still, lost highways into closed gates, falling off a pendulum. In all those times though, you still have your heart to guide you, as a drummer would lead troops into battle.

Also an interesting angle is the "keeping time with everyone" line, which makes it feel like more than simple guidance. It is re-establishing your connection with the world, with the people in it, in an existentially human way. You may feel dark and isolated, but with your heart as a guide, you can find your way back. Feel human again.

Played live 86 times:
Earliest known live version: June 19, 2014
Latest known live version: August 14, 2023

2014 Morning Phase tours

Beck did not play "Heart Is A Drum" on his first leg of the Morning Phase tour, for unknown reasons, but it appeared on the second leg and was played mostly regularly from then on (31 of the remaining 46 shows). The leisurely flow and atmospheric sound collage of the recording are probably difficult to recreate on stage, so the song felt a little different. But generally, Beck had a big enough (and great enough) band to do it.

2015-2017 post-Morning Phase tours

While some of the Morning Phase songs Beck played live in 2014 were promptly dropped as that tour ended, "Heart Is A Drum" did continue in the sets during the following years.

One noteworthy one was on Grammy night, when Morning Phase won Album Of The Year, during the TV broadcast when Beck duetted on the song with Chris Martin from Coldplay. (All the album nominees performed duets of their songs with someone famous.)

2017-2018 Colors tour

Beck did carry "Heart Is A Drum" into the Colors tour, but it did not last particularly long before they swapped it out. They did it at 10 of the first 18 shows, but then just 3 times for the remaining 40. One of the later versions was done during the band acoustic set, where Beck's band all stood around him with instruments (and the drummer left the stage). It didn't sound too different in the end, just without the drums, and they only did the song one time this way.

2018 post-Colors shows

After the Colors tour ended, Beck did a couple of low-key acoustic charity gigs around LA. At two of them, he did do "Heart Is A Drum." One was with all three B-53s and Jason Falkner (on piano), a pretty but again drum-less take, of the song. (Honestly, I really miss the drums.) The other version was slimmed down even further, and was just Beck on acoustic guitar and Roger Joseph Manning Jr. on keyboards. I haven't heard this one but am curious how it is stripped all the way down to a folk song.