Readymade
By: Beck Hansen, John King, Mike Simpson

Written by: Beck Hansen, John King, Mike Simpson

Versions:
  1. Readymade (2:43)
    Available on Odelay.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Producer, Vocals
    The Dust Brothers: Producer
 
Lyrics:
Readymade [Version (a)]:

An open road where I can breathe
Where the lowest low is calling to me
I can pull myself back up, back down
Stuck together like a readymade

Nobody knows where we've been
Canceled rations are running thin
Watches tick out of tune
Falling apart like a readymade
And my bags are waiting in the next life

Rubbish piles fresh and plain
Empty boxes in a pawnshop brain
License plates stowaway
Standing in line like a readymade
And my bags are waiting in the next life

An open road where I can breathe
Where the lowest low is calling to me
I can pull myself back up, back down
Stuck together like a readymade
And my bags are waiting in the next life
 
The Song:

"Readymade" is one of Odelay's often-overlooked songs. Lost among all the singles, and rarely performed live, it's nonetheless an interesting recording.

The best description of the song comes from Beck himself:

"I wrote a song in 1996 called 'Readymade' that has to do with being a sentient being in a business that requires you to be a machine that is sensitized and human to an extreme, yet is capable of dispensing energy and emotion on demand. When you're meeting 80 people a day and swimming in a fast-moving river of faces and conversations, then playing for an audience every night, and living on a schedule that tells you where you're gonna be in six months, to the hour, part of you wants to just surrender and go through the motions. I still try to make connections and feel related to where I am, but it's a struggle."


Beck's not usually so frank about what he writes, and that makes this a good opportunity to see how Beck converts ideas like this into his poetry and music. He does write in a way that even if you don't know the above quote and specifics, the song is relatable.

Beck references the Readymades art movement, led by artist Marcel Duchamp. (See the note below.) Basically though, it is usually defined as something like "an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art."

Beck doesn't seem to be using 'readymade' in quite the same way. As his comment above indicates, it's more about being thrust into the music business, and the relatively dehumanizing experience of fame. But, using a connection to piece of art, as an artist himself, does infuse his thoughts with more depth.

 
Live:

Played live 2 times:
Earliest known live version: June 27, 1996
Latest known live version: November 20, 1996

I only know of one live recording of "Readymade," but the old Beck.com had it listed on a couple of live setlists, so I think it popped up every once in awhile.

The live version I've heard is from Germany. Beck doesn't come close to singing the lyrics correctly (repeating the same lines over and over). The band sounds cool, there's a big electric guitar leading it with lots of keyboard licks tossed in.
 
Notes: