Just Noise
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

Versions:
  1. Just Noise
    Available on Song Reader.
 
Lyrics:
Just Noise [Version (a)]:

If you hear my heart breaking
And you don't know what it is
Don't be alarmed, it won't do you no harm
It's just noise, it's just noise
It's just noise, it's just noise

If you notice my hopes falling
As the scatter across the floor
Don't be concerned or startled
It's just noise, it's just noise
It's just noise, it's just noise

When I'm walking through the city
Looking for where my thoughts have run
Inside there's nothing working
No one knows what I've become

If you hear my wheels turning
And you don't know where I've gone
Don't look outside, don't bother your pride
It's just noise, it's just noise
It's just noise, it's just noise
 
The Song:

"Just Noise" is one of the full songs found in Beck's Song Reader.

You can hear versions of the song here.

I find "Just Noise" to be a particularly deceptive song. Reading it, the lyrics are surprisingly simple; they are perhaps some of the most straightforward Beck has ever written.

One recurring theme for years in Beck's music has been ignoring the noise (think "Static," "The New Pollution," "The Information," "Modern Guilt," etc.). The idea often is that the noise is, not necessarily harmful, but disruptive to one's soul. And while that is what we have here on "Just Noise," he also gives it a slightly more personal twist. The noise invading his mind is heartbreak and struggle, the blues. He seems to be telling someone, this blues hurts, but it hurts me alone. You can ignore it. Everyone suffers alone. The isolation subtly written into this song makes it all the more affective.

Having listened to quite a few versions of the song, I wanted to note some of the similarities and differences between them. First, the vocal melody is more or less something people have been sticking with. Similarly, the arrangements of most versions follow the sheet music exactly: verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/verse/chorus. I'm not aware of many drastic rearrangements.

That said, "Just Noise" has inspired quite a bit of creativity within the consistent framework. Those that play it "straight" will find a slightly jazzy tune (the sheet music says 'swing' and I think there may be some complex, rare chords in there). Perhaps to make it easier, people have often been adapting the music to fit their own styles: some have made it noisier, some more ambient, some complete musical rewrites on solo guitar, etc. "Just Noise" has invited some freedom, and shown off the diversity of musicians who are helping bring Song Reader alive.
 
Live:

Played live 8 times:
Earliest known live version: July 7, 2013
Latest known live version: August 4, 2013

In the summer of 2013, Beck was sort of promoting Song Reader a bit, and in playing some acoustic shows, took to playing a small handful of songs from his book. One of the ones he did do a number of times was "Just Noise."

The first time Beck did it was at a show in London on July 7, 2013; he played it with a bassist and pianist.

Then two weeks later, Beck did a run of shows and played the song seven times. He seemed to enjoy the song, and even played it at a couple of festivals (albeit more low-key ones, like Newport Folk Festival).

However, after these 7 shows, Beck dropped the song and hasn't played it since.