Little One
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

  1. Little One (4:16)
    Available on Sea Change.
    Justin Meldal-Johnsen: Bass (Electric), Percussion, Vocals (Background)
    Joey Waronker: Drums, Percussion, Vocals (Background)
    Darrell Thorp: Engineer
    Nigel Godrich: Engineer, Mix, Producer
    Beck Hansen: Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Electric), Percussion, Vocals, Vocals (Background)
    Jason Falkner: Guitar (Electric), Percussion, Vocals (Background)
    Roger Joseph Manning Jr.: Percussion, Piano, Vocals (Background)
  2. Little One (Surround Sound Mix) (4:16)
    Available on Sea Change.
    Elliot Scheiner: Remix
Little One [Version (a)]:

Go to sleep, we're so tired now
All together in a snakepit of souls
New days, throw your chains away
Try to hang your hopes on the wind
Little one, just a little way today
All we need is waiting

Night rise like the evening prize
In a turnstile, backwards we fly
Cold bones, tied together by
Black ropes we pulled from a swing
Little one, just a little way today
All our dreams are waking

Can't stand on crooked legs
I'm cross-eyed to the wall
In these harbor lights
Satellites explode

Drown drown, sailors run aground
In a sea-change, nothing is safe
Strange waves push us every way
In a stolen boat, we'll float away
Little one, just a little way today
All we need is waiting

Little one, just a little way today
All our dreams are waking
Little one, hold on, hold on
All our dreams are waking
The Song:

Before Beck played "Little One" on stage on August 17 2002, he commented on how he had been working on the song for seven years. This age does kind of show on Sea Change, I think, as it is more colorful and closer to the songwriting of Odelay or Mutations than anything else on the album.

The words on "Little One" are younger than the music, and they do reflect the tumult and emotion described throughout Sea Change. So much so that one of the lyrics was used as the title! "Go to sleep / We're so tired now / All together in a snakepit of souls" reflects the frustration in, well, "fighting for a lost cause." The battle has taken its toll. The next lines, "New days / Throw your chains away / Try to hang your hopes on the wind" are a beautiful two-line summation of "The Golden Age." Here "sailors run aground," recalling in "Paper Tiger," when there's "capsized boats on the sand." Viewing the song like this, it's hard not to see that it's a keystone of the album, at least lyrically.

Beck had a quote about the song briefly in Another magazine that I found interesting. When asked about "Little One," he said, "Haven't got a good song title for that one yet. One of my favourite recordings, but unfortunately that was the one we worked on the most. And when you work on a song for a number of days, the tape starts to wear." To be honest, I think he may be right, perhaps some of the freshness of the recording was lost, though almost certainly a bit of weariness doesn't hurt the Sea Change message. For me, I didn't really realize the beauty of the song until I heard a stripped-down, acoustic live version.

Played live 39 times:
Earliest known live version: July 16, 1996
Latest known live version: September 20, 2005

"Little One" was never really played live all that often, but it did pop up in a few of the Sea Change legs.

one time in 1996

As noted above, Beck had said that he was working on "Little One" for years. There is one bootleg recording of him performing a solo acoustic song in the middle of a show in Italy in 1996. This song shares the music with "Little One." He seems to be just improvising lyrics for it at the time though (which I've put in 'notes' below). At a show in 2002, Beck noted that he had sung "Little One" years earlier, but his road manager bet him to sing all the lyrics of an acoustic set about him (so that's what happened here!).

2002 Sea Change tours

"Little One" did not make its official live debut until 11 shows into the August 2002 tour, in Philadelphia on August 17. That night, he played it alone on acoustic guitar, and it sounds like it was a spontaneous addition to the setlist. He then did it four later times on this tour. At the show in Dallas, he called the song "weird."

After the solo acoustic tour, Beck used The Flaming Lips as his band for the fall of 2002. "Little One" for the first time was played in full band fashion. They play a very dynamic arrangement, with pounding drums, swirling "windy" synthesizers, cascading piano and acoustic guitar. They did the song together around 18 times.

In 2003, the song has only been played a handful of times. It showed up a couple of times in March, on a quick run to Australia and Japan with his old band. Then just 3 times on another solo acoustic tour, this time in Europe. Beck then took a new band around over the summer; they tried "Little One" together only 4 times though. They were touring behind Sea Change, but mostly played a rocking show and I guess it didn't quite fit.

2005 Guero tours

Similarly, in 2005, they played the song 5 times that were reported. I think all were part of Beck's acoustic set, and at least one was part of a long acoustic medley of songs.