Lyrics: Steal My Body Home [Version (a)]:
Put me in a hole in the ground
With the money and the town
And the women all running around
Can't complain about the mess
Mama killed her only dress
Now she's longing for the pines
Watch my troubles all unwind
Drinking gasoline and wine
Catch a chill off the stove
On the train they cannot feel
Lost my head beneath the wheel
Now she steals my body home
The trees are fake, the air is dead
The birds are stuffed with poisoned lead
And the ground is much too clean
And if it's only me who's scared
Strap into electric chairs
Ring the moon like a broken bell
When she drags you from the hill
Daddy's gonna burn down there still
We can watch it from the rooftop
Lay into the frying pan
Now she kisses her own hand
With a fiddle on the fire
I took a leap into the fog
Sleeping on a hollow log
Now I'm coughing with no mouth
You can keep yourself inside
But you know you cannot hide
When the devil's your only friend
This song was recorded a long time before Mellow Gold
. It was back in 1991, the same time Beck first hooked up with Carl Stephenson and Bong Load records.
As the story goes, Tom and Rob of Bong Load discovered Beck (seperately!) and they immediately set him up with Stephenson. One early article placed this way back to January 1991, when Beck and Stephenson first got together and in three hours made "Loser" and "Steal My Body Home."
" and "Steal My Body Home" in the can, and the first single with the two songs was released on Bong Load. The rest is history. (Beck and Stephenson would do some more material in 1992.)
"Steal My Body Home" feels like a jumble of ideas mixed together, relatively inelegantly but definitely enjoyable. A slow and eerie song at its core, Beck puts in three strikingly different breaks in between the main sections.
The first is a short and squeaky violin bridge, presumably played by friend Petra Haden (though she's only credited with appearing on "Blackhole
" in the Mellow Gold
liner notes, so perhaps it is someone else?), and definitely sounding like John Cale, Velvet Underground's cellist.
A few verses later, the song becomes a relatively upbeat, distorted guitar arpeggio. It doesn't seem to fit, but it works!
Beck tops the song off with the clincher, as the entire outro is a long jugband jam complete with lead kazoo and a sitar (?) and all sorts of good stuff. Unfortunately, the song slowly fades out before it can drastically change directions yet again.
As is often reported, Beck makes up his lyrics fairly quickly. "Steal My Body Home" might be one of the best examples of that. The music is so structured that the lyrics probably got added on almost as an afterthought. That's not to say they are meaningless or uninteresing, but a lot of the rhymes and lines though are ones seen in other songs around the time, or are standard blues images (hollow logs, "you know you cannot hide when the devil's your only friend," etc.). A number of things here may derive from the old blues standard "In The Pines."
Beck begins the song sounding very much like he's singing about his experience in Los Angeles ("Put me in a hole in the ground / with the money and the town / and the women all running around" and "The trees are fake, the air is dead"). That is his home, after all, which is mentioned in the title.
Played live once:September 1, 1994
Only one live version of this song is known, and was discovered many years after the fact when a bootleg of September 1994 show surfaced. It does sound pretty cool--the band plays it calm, Beck mumbles and mixes up much of the words. It's definitely a song they could have perfected on stage more, it's got some built-in drama. I would assume they tried it a few other times that year we don't know about, but either way, it was probably rare.