One of the oldest versions of "Hollow Log" is from the short 1992 demo tape labeled Beck, Like The Beer
. I am not quite sure if this pre- or post-dates Don't Get Bent Out Of Shape
, but listening to the two, it sounds more like we know it from One Foot
, so I guess it came later.
A little more famous than that is the recording from Don't Get Bent Out Of Shape
(which was also included on Fresh Meat and Old Slabs
). This version is a bit sloppy, as he seems to still be figuring out the melody and Mississippi John Hurt-like guitar line. It hasn't been quite finalized yet. He even skips the normal title line, singing "Sleepin' in a log" instead of "Sleepin' on a hollow log."
In 1993, Beck recorded Golden Feelings
. One of the tracks he recorded was called "Desire," though this version of the song did not make the final cut of the album. Why it was left off would be anyone's guess, as it's certainly as good as some of the stuff that did make it on Golden Feelings
. The only difference in the lyrics is that he originally sang "wake up without knowing you're the one that I desired."
Fortunately, Beck returned to the blues song a year later when he was recording One Foot in the Grave
. Perhaps it was cut from Golden Feelings
, because Beck knew he could get a better performance in time. The guitar on the One Foot
version is recorded, and played, much cleaner, more expertly.
Anyway, it is songs like this that show Beck's skill at mastering and writing in the language of the styles he loves. "Hollow Log" is not a blues imitation, or a blues impersonation, but a blues song in its own right. It's a fine line, but Beck usually comes out on the right side. Here he uses traditional blues images (hollow logs, pistols, walking, gettin' drunk), while at the same time turning them slightly inside-out"walk around with a broken leg," "sleep 'til you're tired." The last line is a strong one as well, which is proved by the early titling of the song "Desire." Knowing that the one you desire will wake up not knowing it is certainly a hollow feeling.
Played live 59 times:
April 11, 1994June 21, 1995July 15, 1995July 23, 1995July 30, 1995October 28, 1995January 5, 1996January 7, 1996March 18, 1996March 21, 1996
...and 49 more
Earliest known live version: April 11, 1994
Latest known live version: June 30, 2015
There have been a number of "Hollow Log"s on stage over the years. It's not frequent or regular, but pops up from time to time. Really, every one I've heard is just wonderful. You can't go wrong with any one you find. It's a pretty song, and when Beck is playing acoustic blues alone, well, it just does not get any better.
Beck tends to introduce the song by commenting on its low-key nature. On March 18 1996, he slyly added, "We're gonna bring the noise right now." On June 10 1998, he explained, "Sometimes the drum machine begins to overheat. You got to turn it off awhile, let it meditate by itself" before playing a few One Foot in the Grave
Beck included "Hollow Log" in his 2-song solo acoustic set on February 1 2000 in Columbus, Ohio, thanks to a pre-show request made by a fan to bassist, Justin Meldal-Johnsen (hi Josh!). The success of the song on that night led to it being played a few mores times before the end of that tour.
The song still pops up now and again, about once a tour.