Olde English
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

Alternate Titles:

a.k.a. Chewin' Like Gilligan
a.k.a. Chillin' Like Gilligan
a.k.a. Talkin' Shit Blues

  1. Olde English (2:58)
    Available on Banjo Story.
    Beck Hansen: Banjo, Drum Machine, Vocals
Olde English [Version (a)]:

Bottle up pain and you were better off dead
And I would rather love your daughter, but it's gone to my head
Jukebox playing with a notion to explode
Drag racers bent on bending the road
Entertainers with no charms to speak of
A circus of fleas, a band of spooks
Neighborly ghosts looking at you
Heavy metal music like a ratchet to a truck
Glowing in the dark and you're just out of luck
Walking with a suitcase and a crack pipe to boot
Throw the dead bodies down a laundry chute
Breaking bones and shattering knives
Plow your face into a field, bury your eyes
I packed my bags, I got out of town
Yeah, I took up with a traveling show, but I couldn't stick around
'Cause the funhouse went all up in flames
And the carousel horses leaped out from their chains
I took a car, I was ready to drive
I put down the top, I was more dead than alive
One foot on the brakes, yeah one foot on the gas
One foot on the brakes, a pocket calculator to count all your mistakes
All nervous words that fall into a pile
Living in some personality with no particular style
I speak the sound of hollow logs and walk the dance of rags
Tombstone skateboards and underwear flags
Hide in a trailer park for a year or so
Got some groceries, waiting for the beard to grow
The old man next door said you won't live long
I'm telling you, I said I know I always knew this was true
But I been seeing things, and I been shedding a lot of skin
And I found myself in a back of a burned-out fire engine
And then I took a long way at a dead end
The end of the line, born of no name, the hard luck child
Too many times caught between the extremes
Bullfight blow flies border magazines
A hundred eyes with a quarter of a brain
Rock and roll, post-coital let down again
Flamethrower TV dinner electric frozen grin
Dragstrip, bullwhip, rocket ship tailspin
Bluegrass, eyeglass, motion picture jam
Cannonball, summersault, faker in the can
I'm wound up, plastic wino breathing haze
Umbrella shadows white light daze
Convenient store fruit pie deranged men and more
One-armed folksinger chewing on the floor
Ragtime whiskeyman, bottle of snuff
Box of junk and a crocket of stuff
Chillin' like Gilligan...
The Song:

This early song could be considered a sort of precursor to "Loser." The lyrics with the numerous images and rhymes are the earliest known example of Beck freestylin' it. The rhythm and cadence of the words are quite similar to "Loser," though it lacks a decent melody, and Beck sounds like he's bored. I don't think it's intentional. He's just reciting the words, as opposed to singing or rapping. His musical accompaniment is a drummer (or more likely, Beck stomping on the floor) and some disinterested banjo picking. It took Beck a little longer before he could get hiphop down better.

There are some good ideas here, like the irony of a "burned-out fire engine," and the bit about escaping town with a traveling show, but much of it is unexplored. A bit of "I took a car, I was ready to drive / I put down the top, I was more dead than alive" would be reused seven or eight years later on "High 5." Other images that appear here for the first time, and would become common Beck lingo, are hollow logs, trailer parks, and folksingers.

With that in mind, "Olde English" is actually an awesome title. There really isn't a plot or narrative to the song, it's just a lot of words and it is an early glimpse of some Beck stylings which he would evolve and perfect later on. "Olde Beck" is more like it.

Back in 1992, Beck frequented coffeehouses in Los Angeles, often playing short acoustic sets between the scheduled bands' performances. One of those shows, he played between Possum Dixon and Permanent Green Light. One of the members of Permanent Green Light, Matt Devine, remembered his friend telling him that he was good, but "the guy who sang 'Gilligan's Island Blues' was brilliant!" While this may have been Beck improvising a new tune about the TV show, I guess it's possible it was also "Olde English" (considering its last line).