Written by: Beck Hansen
a.k.a. Ballad of Mexico
Mexico [Live version (a)]:
Come gather round me, people, here's a story you never heard
'Bout me and my friends and some shit that occurred.
Well, we thought that we'd take a trip. We thought that we would go
Spend a weekend pleasant down in Mexico.
Well, I was working at McDonald's, doing the late night run
When a car pulled up the drive-thru and pointed out a gun.
Said, "Give us all your money and three Big Macs to go."
I stuffed them all in a bag and I ducked down below.
Well, the boss got angry when he found out I didn't call the police.
I guess I was kinda nervous. There was a warrant out on me
Concerning some jaywalking tickets I couldn't afford to pay.
Needless to say, I got the axe that same day.
Well, me being out of work just then, I didn't want to go home.
My Mom said if I lost this job, I'd have to go out on my own.
So I went over to Dave's house and got really stoned,
Called up some girls, but none of them were home.
Well, Steve came over and brought some alcohol.
We were all gettin' really depressed just staring at the wall!
Well, we thought we'd get some money. We thought that we might go
Spend a weekend pleasant down in Mexico.
Steve's Dad had a hunting rifle and we went and picked it up.
We went and stopped at a 7-11 to try our luck.
Now we pulled out that hunting rifle, but the counter guy just laughed.
As he pulled out an Uzi, we turned and hauled ass.
We were running so fast until we came to the McDonald's where I worked.
We walked up to the drive-thru and gave my boss a jerk.
Said, "Give us all your money and three Big Macs to go.
And suck on this, you weasel! We're going to Mexico."
We all got really wasted. Down South, Dave got a case of the runs.
We were all really hungover and gettin' low on funds.
Dave and Steve called their parents and took the bus back home.
Me, I got a job at McDonald's down in Mexico.
"Mexico" is one of Beck's finest early compositions. It's a little silly, but much of his young songwriting could be considered that. There are two popular versions: one from Don't Get Bent Out Of Shape
, and the other a performance from his first trip to KCRW on July 7, 1993. The amazing version from Bent
was later also included on Fresh Meat and Old Slabs
, a bootleg tape of himself Beck made as a birthday gift for his mother. (Somehow, this performance also ended up as an outtake for Golden Feelings
.) Beck's shout of "Come on in!" seems to proceed all of them, implying it's all the same recording. The Golden Leftovers
version does seem to be a little longer, though I'm entirely clear why or how.
The two versions are pretty much identical in arrangement, save for some negligible lyric edits for the radio. The terrific KCRW recording would be released officially a short while later on a KCRW compilation disc called Rare On Air, Volume One
Before the KCRW performance, Beck admits to having been a big fan of Woody Guthrie's, and says that this song "is coming from those old 'Come-all-ye' ballads, 'listen to my song'. They used to sing about hunting buffalo or digging coal. This is kind of like my version." And in fact, he uses the melody from Guthrie's "Buffalo Skinners" but tells a modern tale, rather than one about hunting buffalo.
One of Beck's greatest talents, as I've said a lot on this site, is updating old-time folk and country with modern emotions and situations. But above all that, "Mexico" is a lot of fun and a great story with an ironic twist ending.
Played live 14 times:
July 23, 1993March 30, 1994September 9, 1994December 5, 1994December 10, 1994July 15, 1995July 23, 1995September 12, 1995March 18, 1996March 19, 1996
...and 4 more
Earliest known live version: July 23, 1993
Latest known live version: April 22, 2003
We know of just 13 live versions of "Mexico," though I imagine there were a good amount in the early years that we do not know about.
The song did make a few appearances in 1994. One early performance was on March 30, 1994, just a few weeks into the Mellow Gold
tour. Beck opens his short set with it, after announcing to the audience that he had brought them some broccoli. Instead of being fired in the song, Beck sang "Needless to say, I had to get some testosterone that day."
A later, better version is on September 9, 1994. Beck's voice is really strong, but unfortunately he keeps being interrupted by a crazed audience (later in the show, he kindly asks everyone to "settle down"). Because of this, Beck starts improvising lyrics, and finally just gives up:
Come gather round me people, here's a story you never heard
'Bout me and my friends and some things that did occur
We thought that we'd get some money, we thought that we might go
[To the audience] Watch out for the girls... don't rip their shirts off... that's uncool
Well, I was working at Safeway, doing the late night run
A man pulled up to the checkout and pulled a gun
Said give us all your money and three coupons to go
I stuffed 'em all in a bag and I ducked down below
Geez, is this some sports event or something?
Well, I walked up to the backstreet and I found a cardboard box
I put it in my hand and I filled it up with rocks
And I danced like a pansy, a friend with no fear
I was writin' down lyrics, I was looking for a beer
I didn't want to go home, my Mom said if I lost the job, I'd have to go out on my own
Shit. I want to play something else...
On March 18, 1996, Beck was opening a concert for Sonic Youth in Holland. He was alone, with just a guitar and a harmonica. Someone in the crowd shouts for "Mexico" a few times after the first song, but Beck was wary, "I could try to do that, but I don't think I remember all the verses. That one's kind of long-winded anyhow." A few songs later, Beck gave in, but after two pretty verses, Beck forgot the lyrics and stated that he might finish the song later. Most artists wouldn't be serious, but yes! Later on in the show, he picked up where he left off, saying, "All right, this is chapter two. I'm gonna lay it on you in increments. So where we left off, there was just a robbery at McDonalds." He did the next three verses (including one with the lines "So I went over to Dave's house and got really eclipsed / Called up some girls, but none of them had phones") before stopping, again saying he'll finish it later. His final three verses came later with no introduction, he just finished the song. The counter guy has a "sausage link" instead of an Uzi.
A few days later, on March 21, 1996, he referred back to the epic three-part version: "I usually do it as a trilogy." (I wonder, were there many more this way?) But after two verses and one line, he suddenly stopped. "That one's too long," he explained. Beck always sounds determined not
to play "Mexico"!
Beck regularly denied requests for the song after 1996. The only other time I know about was when he played the song on April 22 2003. However, since Beck could no longer remember how it goes, a guy named Guillaume came up from the audience and sang it instead. (!)
- In the first published Beck interview (in Flipside Magazine, 1993), Beck summed up the song nicely, but also implied that he wrote it about a trip to New Mexico. Of course, the interviewer started it by saying "Tell me about that song about New Mexico," and Beck seems to just go with it. Beck's reply:
It?s about me and my friends. I?m working at McDonalds and I get robbed so I lose my job. So I go over to my friends house and we decide to get a shot gun and go rob a liquor store. We end up at 7-11 and the store clerk pulls out a gun so we take off. We then go to the McDonalds where I use to work, we rob it and get a few burgers to go before heading off to New Mexico. Then we total[ly] abuse ourselfs on substances and end up stranded in New Mexico broke. My friends call their parents to wire them some money to get back home. I end up having to go work at McDonalds, stuck in New Mexico. It turns (the story of the song) into a vicious circle.
- In 1994, Beck was asked whether he ever worked at McDonald's. His reply: "Mmm-hmm. Fast food is a total wank."
- The first verse of Woody Guthrie's "Buffalo Skinners," from where Beck got the melody, is this:
Come all you old time cowboys and listen to my song
Please do not grow weary, I'll not detain you long
Concerning some wild cowboys who did agree to go
Spend the summer pleasant on the trail of the Buffalo