Ship in a Bottle
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

  1. Ship in a Bottle (3:11)
    Available on Sea Change.
    Justin Meldal-Johnsen: Bass (Electric)
    James Gadson: Drums
    Darrell Thorp: Engineer
    Nigel Godrich: Engineer, Mix, Producer
    Smokey Hormel: Guitar
    Beck Hansen: Guitar (Acoustic), Vocals
Ship in a Bottle [Version (a)]:

When I called you in the morning
You were struggling for sense
You were journeying through memories so vicious
You made all your dying wishes
Come true

But I know you're gonna try
To live without love by and by
But that's not living
That's just time going by
Going by, my love

Another ship in the bottle
Has got no place to sail
To see the waves getting darker every hour
The stars have lost their power
In the sky

But I know you're gonna try
To live without love by and by
But that's not livin'
That's just time going by
Going by, my love
The Song:

"Ship in a Bottle" was one of the songs recorded for Sea Change. But alas, it was left off the record, in most cases. It can be found as a bonus track on the Japanese version of the album.

"Ship" is a pretty enough tune, with a crystal clear lyric. Why did Beck leave the song off?

That was the super-pop song of the record. I think it was a little too corny. I mean, it was heartfelt, but since then people have been telling me they really liked it. At the time, I thought it was kind of an Elton John-type song, older Elton John. I don't know what the fate of that will be.  I like the recording, it was very cool. I think we felt that the album was so long already.

Initially, I agreed, I felt the song was to be somewhat unmemorable, and containing way too many Sea Change-y characteristics (such as the opening little drumbeat to the background vocals and the instrumentation). I've come around to the recording much more lately, finding the subtle melody both touching and haunting. Like most everything from the Sea Change sessions, this song has feeling.

Played live 13 times:
Earliest known live version: March 19, 2003
Latest known live version: August 21, 2003

Beck finally played "Ship in a Bottle" live during his Australia/Japan tour in March 2003. At the third show of the tour, he brought it out, commenting that the audience probably didn't know it. They played it during the rest of the shows of the tour as well, so they must have dug it! The live version show a little more personality than, and is considerably different from, the record. The lead guitar riff is a little trippy, while the keyboards fill out the song even more. Beck sang "sailing through memories" instead of "journeying" which fits the song nicely.

"Ship in a Bottle" also showed up a few times during Beck's solo tour of Europe in April 2003.  The only one I have heard is an aborted attempt to try it on piano. It also showed up once as a solo acoustic song during his US tour in June 2003.

In Hamburg on August 18 2003, Beck and his band played it again, this time as a request for someone (he didn't say who). Beck also dedicated it to Elton John. It's an excellent performance, I believe the few band versions of the song are quite a bit more successful than the solo ones.