My friend Brett, who's a chef, told me about the time he met Beck a few years ago when his band was in town for a show.

'Twas a Thursday eve, and all was well inside Milano's Cafe in Newcastle. Couples were canoodling, families were bickering good-naturedly, and the kitchen staff were content (well, as content as people in the hospitality industry can be). Then in came a crazy looking group; Beck, a green-haired girl and a guy with his arm in a sling. They sat down, were eating their meals happily, then Brett's *crazy experience with fame* began.

Beck (drawling, his eyes turned into slits, presumably the result of a large intake of the herbal drug marijuana), to Brett: Where's the lav?

Brett: Sorry?

Beck (in exactly the same tone and vocal pattern): Where's the lav?

Brett gave complicated instructions on how to get to the toilets, beginning with the phrase "Don't go in those doors to the kitchen, turn left just after them..."

Beck, thirty seconds later, goes through the doors he was warned about and ends up standing in the middle of the kitchen, bewildered.

Brett: No, not here... oh, OK, I'll take you there.

On the way to the toilets, Beck manages to walk into a glass door and is not capable of opening another. Eventually, he gets it together and makes it back to his table. The rest of the meal goes uneventfully.

At the end of the dinner, after paying for the meals, Beck and his friends come to the counter.

Beck's male friend drawls: "Those olives tasted metallic, man." Brett agrees- they came out of a can, he confides.

Beck leans over behind the counter and grabs a pen. He writes a note on a nearby napkin and hands it to Brett. It says:

MEAL +1 1/2

Brett doesn't know what that's supposed to mean, and doesn't know where the napkin is now.

That night, Beck was a hit at his gig.

In Brazil it is a slang, that refers to a joint, doobie, spliff, etc.

In other words: a cannabis hand-rolled cigarrete.
An unconventional pop musician and singer who rose to fame in the 1990's, Beck has been labelled everything from folk musician to anti-folk, innovator and imitator, a genre chameleon or a tongue-in-cheek poseur, the new Dylan/Bowie/Kenny G or the "Christina Aguilera of the indie set" (, "One Hundred Albums You Should Remove from Your Collection Immediately"). He is probably best known for his breakthrough single 'Loser' (1995), and the major-label follow-up LP Odelay (1996), which thrust him into the public eye as a long-haired slacker with an acoustic guitar and a penchant for kooky samples. His discography taken as a whole reveals that he has more strings to his bow, continuing to explore new directions while splitting critics into two equally fervent camps.

Beck was born Bek David Campbell, son of bluegrass musician David Campbell and former Warhol Superstar Bibbe Hansen and grandson of Fluxus artist Al Hansen. After his parents split when he was three, he took his mother's surname. He grew up in a predominantly Latino neighbourhood in Los Angeles, up to the point where he dropped out of high school and, sick of menial jobs, caught a bus to New York. Although this stage of his life did not run smoothly ("New York City chewed me up and spit me out, and I had the bleakest moments of my existence there. It's hard when you don't have connections and you're not the most outgoing, charming person, and after a while, my friends got tired of me crashing on their floors."), Beck managed to hook up with the 'punk-folk' scene. On returning to L.A. he played folk clubs (and his stepdad's coffee shop) and recorded songs at home.

One of these songs, a goofy pop song built off of a looped slide guitar sample and a nonsensical nasal rap, ended up getting recorded as a single for the tiny Bong Load Custom Records label in 1993. Gradually this 'Loser' song began to get more and more airplay, sparking the inevitable major label bidding war (eventually won by Geffen, who, unusually, offered Beck the freedom to continue putting out records on small labels at the same time as working on a high-profile LP for them). Unfortunately, it also earned Beck the status in many critics' eyes as a one hit wonder. This perception was to change in the wake of his first major label album, 1996's Odelay.

Odelay (the name is a corruption of the Spanish greeting Oralé, as jotted down by a sound engineer during the recording of 'Lord Only Knows') was produced by The Dust Brothers (see Paul's Boutique), although produced is perhaps not quite the right word. This collection of songs span the dial from country-folk to alt-rock to nostalgic hip-hop (attempts at genre classification become increasingly futile as this writeup progresses), with each track liberally sprinkled with a plethora of obscure samples, scratching and static. The album went platinum, spawned a string of successful singles and netted Beck a fistful of Grammys. Beck had become a household name and (on balance) hadn't sold out in the process. The promotional clip for Devil's Haircut, directed by Mark Romanek, also presented the iconic image of Beck wandering the streets of New York with a cowboy hat and a boombox.

Many listeners who had only been following this radio-friendly side of Beck's output didn't know what to make of his next album, 1998's Mutations (produced by Nigel Godrich). Consisting mainly of folky songs with very tidy production (including the use of an Indian orchestra), this was far away from the loose hokey grooves of Odelay and Mellow Gold, but consistent with the acoustic trend present in Beck's earlier albums. (It did however retain the nonsensical lyrics.) There was still some room for sonic experimentation- the only single from the album being a tribute to 1960's Brazilian pop (Tropicalia). Another track, 'Static', remains perhaps the most accomplished song that Beck has recorded. The whole record was put together in two weeks, and resulted in a legal spat between Bong Load and Geffen, the latter party having reputedly muscled in on selling the record when they realised that it had turned out better than they had expected. (An amicable agreement was reached.)

Having done what he had set out to do in the folk arena (at least for the time being), Beck, caught up in millennial high spirits, got back in touch with the Dust Brothers, as well as his new showbiz friends Johnny Marr, Jack Black and Beth Orton, and began work on a party record to end all party records. 1999's Midnite Vultures was Beck's strangest and most flamboyant record. In places very heavily (and not very reverentially) influenced by R&B, it showcases Beck's voice as capable of all manner of craziness (does he really sing any of 'Get Real Paid' at all?). Once again the album spawned three singles (less successful and catchy than anything of Odelay, with the best probably being Nicotine & Gravy) and the dubious honour of having a track featured on the Windows ME CD-ROM (Beautiful Way).

Beck's latest record (as of this writing, see below), Sea Change (which you can read about in more depth in its own writeup) has been more of a muted affair from a promotional point of view, which seems like a missed opportunity as it's arguably his best record to date. Beck is currently busy touring, and keeping an online journal of his exploits. There's also an internet rumour that he recently became a scientologist. He is perhaps the only popular musician working today for whom this rumour would spark fears among his fanbase that his lyrics are going to become less nonsensical. And on that tortuous abuse of grammar, we proceed to a mini discography:-


Web resources

Beck (?), n.

See Beak.




© Webster 1913.

Beck, n. [OE. bek, AS. becc; akin to Icel. bekkr brook, OHG. pah, G. bach.]

A small brook.

The brooks, the becks, the rills. Drayton.


© Webster 1913.

Beck, n.

A vat. See Back.


© Webster 1913.

Beck, v. i. [imp. & p. p. Becked (); p. pr. & vb. n. Becking.] [Contr. of beckon.]

To nod, or make a sign with the head or hand.




© Webster 1913.

Beck, v. t.

To notify or call by a nod, or a motion of the head or hand; to intimate a command to.


When gold and silver becks me to come on. Shak.


© Webster 1913.

Beck, n.

A significant nod, or motion of the head or hand, esp. as a call or command.

They have troops of soldiers at their beck. Shak.


© Webster 1913.

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