"Sissyneck" is a good example of Beck's ability to effortlessly mix styles - in this case, country and funk. Mike Simpson, one of the Dust Brothers, recalled the song was heavily influenced by a group that did the same thing and who not-so-cleverly called themselves Country Funk. Simpson described Country Funk had "that funk element with a really good backbeat, and then country guitars, and country melodies." Obviously, "Sissyneck" has the same description. Beck even adds some country "jokes" like whistling and some mad harmonica playing, and matches the music with some of his most amusing lyrics yet.
Beck's persona of a bad-ass cowboy is funny in itself, but he makes it even better by having the character be a phony. The verses are all manly, tough guy braggin': "I got a beard that would disappear if I'm dressed in leather," "I don't need no wheels / I don't need no gasoline," "Don't talk to me if you're looking for somebody to cry on." Beck's character immediately negates a lot of these claims though with the chorus, admitting he's got a "rhinestone life"?rhinestones being flashy, but cheap knock-offs of diamonds. You can't take this guy seriously with his three-dollar bills and stolen wife. Having everybody know your name at the recreation center is not nearly as impressive as he thinks it is. To that end, Beck memorably explained the vibe of the song: "It's the morning after a full night of line dancing and cocaine. It's the achey-breaky heart after the triple bypass. It's a get-together at the recreation center Ping-Pong tournament."
As Beck explains before singing the song on February 10 1997, "This is a song about not being afraid to be whack."
Played live 142 times:
June 27, 1996July 24, 1996July 26, 1996August 21, 1996August 27, 1996August 28, 1996August 31, 1996September 2, 1996September 21, 1996September 28, 1996
...and 132 more
Earliest known live version: June 27, 1996
Latest known live version: May 19, 2013
There have been a ton of different live arrangements for "Sissyneck."
The first was used generally throughout the Odelay
tour (and again on the Vultures
tour), and it was more of a rock song. It's pretty similar to the record, I guess. There is some cool electric guitar, and when DJ Swamp was with the band, some nice scratching. "This is going back to Saugus, California where we were born and neutered!" is Beck's enthusiastic intro to "Sissyneck" on July 26 1996.
Around the end of the Odelay
tour, Beck did a number of "country" gigs. At these shows, the band played a newer version of "Sissyneck" which was much more acoustic-based, yet still maintained the bouncy riff. In fact, I think this arrangement made the country / funk duality even more evident. One of these, on October 10 1998, was a fairly standard run-through of the song, except an amusing sort of rockabilly coda was tacked on the end.
Then on the Mutations
tour in April 1999, Beck went and did eight shows in Japan and a few in the U.S. The first two shows had the usual arrangement, but on the fifth show, in Osaka on April 16, they premiered a new "soul" version. The bounciness of the original was gone, and instead it is transformed into a smoother song. It is adorned with a lot of percussion, synthesizer, guitar licks, and what sounds like a flute. It's a fascinating and cool change.
This new soul version of "Sissyneck" did not last too long however, just 3 times, I believe. After the Mutations
tour, Beck took a five-month break, and when he returned to the stage in October 1999, the more regular arrangement of "Sissyneck" returned with him.
The February 21 2002, version of "Sissyneck" is intriguing, I'd love to hear it. The concert was just Beck on acoustic guitar or piano, and Justin Meldal-Johnsen on bass. "Sissyneck" seems like a song that needs more musicians than two! But then again in August 2002, on his acoustic tour, Beck and Smokey premiered a simple bottleneck blues arrangement. More than two musicians is not necessary, I'm happy to admit! Smokey played the slide guitar, and Beck jammed on his keyboard. It was a slow, repetitive blues riff, and was really hot. The August 11 2002 version is really long, and the minimal arrangement allowed for a lot of jamming and improvising (see "Back Streets of Ann Arbor
"). Probably one of my favorite things from the August tour.
Beck and the Flaming Lips played "Sissyneck" together on their "warm-up" show before the tour (in Claremont, CA on October 14 2002), but they never played during the actual tour! On the second leg, however, they played it regularly. Beck had a new band in the summer of 2003 and they continued to play "Sissyneck" every so often, though the versions I have heard are shortened considerably.