One of the more intriguing qualities about "Nitemare Hippy Girl" is that it is hard to discern whether it is a negative or a positive one. Initially, it sounds and feels a little like a love song. But in fine Dylan-esque fashion, Beck indicates that it is anything but. Listening closer, and reading the lyrics, indicates that the song is kind of negative, when taken as a whole. This is in strong contrast with many of the individual words that stick out -- "beauty," "style," "magical," "rainbow," "glory," "goddess." Beck, as is his way (see "The New Pollution
"), uses these otherwise glowing words contrary to their normal meaning.
The song is a combination of descriptions and actions, for the most part all negative. Some of the actions are "took me off my guard," "sucked inside," "fumbling," "changing my style," "choking the breeze," "milking her time." All of these indicate the true point-of-view towards the nitemare hippy girl and who she really is. The descriptions of the girl though are a bit more devious. He usually starts with something flattering, before immediately contradicting it. For example, "She's cooking salad for breakfast" (OK, she's a vegetarian) is immediately followed with "She's got tofu the size of Texas" (Oh, she's a crazy one). "She's a rainbow" is lovely until Beck adds "choking the breeze" at the end. The song is full of this type of game.
But in the end, there is still admiration there. "She's a goddess milking her time for all that it's worth" says everything about who this person is, crazy hippiness aside.
Played live 26 times:
Earliest known live version: September 1993 (unknown date)
Latest known live version: September 23, 2015
"Nitemare Hippy Girl" hasn't been played on stage all that often really. There are a few recordings of illegitimate origin that capture it, but not many. In more recent years, it has been a song that Beck turns to every once in awhile as a nostalgiac, here's-an-oldie song. (Some of those early old ones would be ridiculous for him to do, but "Nitemare Hippy Girl" holds up for sure.)
1994-1995 Mellow Gold tours
We don't have every setlist from back then, but we know of around 12 versions of "Nitemare." I think early on, there may have been some full band versions, then as the Mellow Gold tour started, he took to doing it in the acoustic sets. But then by the fall, there were some more band attempts, such as on September 6, 1994. The only other recording I know of when they played it like this was on December 5, 1994. The guitar playing is cool, though the momentum is a little odd; certainly not the same to the acoustic versions. The September one works better. It's always neat to hear reworkings of the songs anyway.
One brief occurance of the song is on November 5, 1994. Beck's acoustic set is a rapid fire medley of acoustic songs, none of which he plays on stage regularly, including "Puttin It Down
" and "Cyanide Breath Mint
." (This makes this particular show a must-have, by the way.) Beck sings the first verse only of "Nitemare Hippy Girl" (but with the "uptight/snooty" chorus) before seguing directly into "I Get Lonesome
So yea, over 1994, the song bounced around a bit -- full band, acoustic, back to full band, tossing the chorus into an acoustic medley.
1996 Odelay tour
One nifty version of the song was on January 5, 1996 in Adelaide, Australia. Beck's alone, doing an acoustic set, on the second stage of a big festival. The "Nitemare Hippy Girl" is one of the highlights, though Beck cut the song somewhat shorter. Beck did improvise a lot of lines nicely. Instead of marijuana, there's "Vitamin C on the bathroom tile." The girl is "uptight and a little bit moody." She's "meditating with the devil / digging down deep with a shovel" and has "aphids the size of Texas."
That's the only time I know of Beck played it between 1996-2002; there might have been a few other times in 1996 though, but wouldn't expect many.
2002 Sea Change tour
It had been quite awhile when Beck finally returned to it during his acoustic performance on February 21, 2002, albeit as part of one of his rapid-fire medley of old songs. Then in August, Beck went on a solo acoustic tour before Sea Change
came out, which included many covers and things. He did "Nitemare" 3 times, but at least two of those were medleys again.
2009 Modern Guilt
At a warm-up show in Los Angeles before Beck and his band headed off to Japan, Beck threw in "Nitemare Hippy Girl" into the acoustic set.
2013-2014-2015 pre-Morning Phase & Morning Phase tours
2013 saw a small bit of touring before Morning Phase, and at one 'acoustic' show, Beck threw "Nitemare Hippy Girl" out there again.
Beck didn't do "Nitemare Hippy Girl" in 2014 on the proper Morning Phase tours, but once on Austin City Limits (in Texas) he sang "she's got tofu the size of Texas" at the end of "Loser." (Mellow Gold jam!)
Then in 2015, Beck did the song at a benefit gig in Los Angeles, where he played a short set between stand-up comedians.