Atmospheric Conditions
By: Beck Hansen, Calvin Johnson

Written by: Beck Hansen, Calvin Johnson

Versions:
  1. Atmospheric Conditions (2:05)
    Available on One Foot In The Grave.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Guitar (Acoustic), Producer, Vocals
    Chris Ballew: Guitar (Slide)
    Calvin Johnson: Producer, Vocals
 
Lyrics:
Atmospheric Conditions [Version (a)]:

There's nobody, there's no mountain, there's no tunnel
You can't get from there to here, you can't get from here to there


There's nobody, there's no mountain, there's no tunnel
You can't get from there to here, you can't get from here to there


There hasn't been a change in the atmosphere
Nothing twisting round, burning down, coming round

There hasn't been a change for over a year
Sliding through, riding through, hiding you

There hasn't been a change in the atmosphere
Shut it up, roll it up, finding you

Pull the tab just a tad, there's no atmosphere
A gypsy haircut, a bearskin rug, the tambourines, a black piano on the mountain

How many atmosphere's are out there?
Dig a tunnel through the mountain to the atmosphere's out there
There's a tunnel from there to here


There's a broken bottle from the tunnel
Cut your hand on the atmosphere

Split in two, band-aids on your hand
Split the atmosphere is split in two, staring at you
 
The Song:

This odd closing track from One Foot in the Grave is a duet between the deep bass-voiced Calvin Johnson and a very young-sounding Beck. (The contrast between the two is huge!) Chris Ballew adds some electric guitar and the whole recording just has a ramshackle feel to it. Had One Foot in the Grave been more of a band project, perhaps it would have sounded a lot like this.

"Atmospheric Conditions" is not a terribly deep song, though it is a fairly evocative one with all its images of the atmosphere and mountains and rugs and pianos. It wouldn't be surprising to learn that some of the lines about the mountain and tunnel came from an older folk/blues song (or two).
 
Live:

Played live 4 times:
Earliest known live version: July 2, 2000
Latest known live version: August 22, 2000

"Atmospheric Conditions" was rarely, if ever, played live for many years. (My hunch is never.)

Then on July 2 2000, at the This Ain't No Picnic Festival in Irvine, CA, Beck and his band did a folk/country set and pulled out many oldies. "Atmospheric Conditions" was the set closer, before the encore. (The picture at the left is from this show, by the way.) Surprisingly, the tune turns out to be a very pleasant folk rock tune, with some nice slide guitar. Roger Manning sang the backing vocals. A few lyrics are changed slightly; Beck sounded like he was improvising a bit:
Nothing turned around, coming down, blowin' 'round (for the "nothin' twistin'..." line)

Where you goin'? Gypsy haircut billowing down on your tambourine
Black piano on the mountain, got your atmospheres around here
There's broken bottles lying in the gutter
Looking 'round at the atmosphere split in two, looking for you now
They must have enjoyed digging up this rarity, as it did get included on three more shows after July 2, when the Vultures tour resumed back in Europe for the end of the summer. The August 22 2000 version was a blast, and he uses similar lyrics to the Picnic Festival (the "broken bottles" are in a tunnel though). Less soft rock sounding, this version is a bit wilder and bluesier.

After these 3 extra performances, the song promptly vanished again.