A French magazine, Les Inrockuptibles
, asked Marianne Faithfull to keep a diary for a week in April 2001. Fortunately for us, during that week, Beck hooked up with her to work on material for her next album.
The first day, April 16, was the first time Marianne met Beck. Before meeting him, she wrote in her diary,
Later it is the afternoon and i am sitting in Hal's garden writing up an idea for a song with Beck it hasn't got a name yet but i must say i am pleased with it, as a lyric and i have another one called "sex with strangers" if we need it. This is the first time i have really prepared and written up a lyric for this record usually we do the music first and then i write it up later when i am at home with myself. But i have a feeling that Beck will like it that i have something prepared even if we don't use it.
Later that day she finally met Beck and wrote:
A few hours later Beck has just left. What a cool guy! (and seriously gorgeous) We have the makings now of two songs. He's a fabulous guitarist we talked a lot, played some other songs and then started to get on with it. It's a bit like preparing a good meal, a banquet in fact.
The next day, she joined Beck and Tony Hoffer in a studio in Hollywood where Prince recorded his first three albums. Faithfull was excited to find "Beck and Tony already started on 'Sex with Strangers' and it sounds great!" She had a bad cold (and eventually goes to see Beck's doctor
, Dr. Cooper) throughout the week. Nonetheless, she was excited about the work she did with them ("Listen to the track and get very excited WHOOPEE!!!").
Beck returned to work on some more production with Faithfull in May 2001. Besides "Sex with Strangers," they also came up with another tune called "Like Being Born
." She also ended up covering "Nobody's Fault But My Own
" for the album.
The album became Kissin' Time
, and was released on March 4, 2002. "Sex with Strangers" was also the first single, coming out a few weeks before the album.
Talking about the song, Beck said, "We wanted to make a really fucked-up club track that wasn't trying too hard, and didn't sound too ready for the rave chamber." That's of course a pretty accurate description of the light funkiness of the song. There's very little in the way of instrumentation, just a drumbeat and lots of squelchy synth gurgles. Marianne's voice is way up front, loud and clear, as she half-pants, half-speaks the vocals. It has a very anonymous robotic sexuality to it, which certainly suits the lyrics. I think Beck adds some backing vocals in the back, as well.
The "Sly and Robbie Sex Ref mix" improves on the original, in my opinion, by bringing in a more natural band arrangement.