We Live Again
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

  1. We Live Again (3:01)
    Available on Mutations and 1 other release.
    David Campbell: Arrangement (Strings)
    Justin Meldal-Johnsen: Bass (Upright)
    Joey Waronker: Drums
    Beck Hansen: Guitar (Electric), Producer, Vocals, Vocals (Background)
    Roger Joseph Manning Jr.: Harpsichord
    Nigel Godrich: Mix, Producer
We Live Again [Version (a)]:

These withered hands have dug for a dream
Sifted through sand and leftover nightmares
Over the hill, a desolate wind
Turns shit to gold and blows my soul crazy
The end of the end, we live again
Oh I grow weary of the end

Oh hungry days in the footsteps of fools
Gazing alone through sex-painted windows
Dredging the night, drunk libertines stink like colognes
From a new-fangled wasteland
The end of the end, we live again
Oh I grow weary of the end

Love is a plague in a mix-match parade
Where the castaways look so deranged
When will children learn to let their wildernesses burn?
And love will be new, never cold and vacant

These withered hands have dug for a dream
Sifted through sand and leftover nightmares
The end of the end, we live again
Oh I grow weary of the end
The Song:

"We Live Again" can be found on Mutations.

Beck's grandfather, Al Hansen, was a fairly well-known artist himself, famous for avant-garde performance art, as well as odd collages and sculptures. For example, he would use trash like candy wrappers or cigarette butts to make his art. Al Hansen wrote some notes for a retrospective about his visual art, that is now on his website:

"At one time, when Beck and Channing must have been eight and six years old, I gave each of us a plastic shopping bag and we scoured Sunset Boulevard from La Brea west almost to Fairfax and back again east to Yucca. The three shopping bags full of cigarette were all the art materials I needed. All I had to buy was glue.

Using paper trash: tickets, receipts, labels, postcards, movie posters and candy bar wrappers was one thing. A big smelly shopping bag full of cancerous cigarette butts and burnt matches was so stinking filthy that one couldn't escape the fact that one was recycling garbage. It also slowly became apparent as I began to sell my work regularly that I was a successful alchemist. I was literally turning shit into gold.

So clearly, this was an influence on Beck's art, who instead of visual pieces, quite often uses found sounds/styles/samples to create his music, which are very often audio collages. Al Hansen passed away in 1995, and Beck sometime in the next couple of years, wrote "We Live Again" as a tribute. Ironically enough though, "We Live Again" is one of Beck's more straight-forward (i.e., not collage-like) tracks. It feels as if it was recorded live, with only a subtle string section as an overdub. Roger Joseph Manning Jr.'s harpsichord is almost the lead instrument, while Beck's guitar inversely provides texture like a keyboard.

The first verse refer to Al Hansen's art ("sifted through sand and leftover nightmares...turns shit to gold") and his influence ("blows my soul crazy"), and possibly even to Al directly ("withered hands"). The second verse seems to be about the bohemian, artistic lifestyle that Al Hansen helped pioneer. The line "stink like colognes from a new-fangled wasteland," using a little wordplay, might point the song towards Germany. Back in the '80s, Al Hansen opened an art school in Cologne, Germany. Beck spent a little time there as a teenager, as well.

The bridge though feels to me a grander statement about creativity and art, here analogized to love. Be creative, let your wildernesses burn, and what will result will be new and fresh. The story is that you need to let forests burn down so they can grow afresh every so often; perhaps this was a creative theory of Al's as well. His collages of trash may look deranged, but they were always new, never cold and vacant. Artists can always live again.

Played live 53 times:
Earliest known live version: January 10, 1999
Latest known live version: May 22, 2003

1999 MUTATIONS tour

"We Live Again" was played at most of the shows of the short Mutations tour.


The Vultures tour saw but just a couple of "We Live Again"s. Beck played it alone, during his acoustic set on May 31 2000, in Tokyo. He played a very minimal, quiet guitar line, which allowed for his voice to be the highlight. It was a beautiful performance, though he seems to forget what the bridge is and he stops after the first two verses (it had been awhile since he played it, I guess). It is nice to hear songs like this in the acoustic set from time to time, instead of always getting the same song.

2000-2001 after VULTURES

After the Vultures tour, Beck mellowed down by doing a few shows opening for Neil Young, some benefit gigs and a few other stops around California. "We Live Again" certainly fit the mood of many of these appearences, and it was played fairly regularly. The fragileness of the song is best shown at the ArtistDirect concert on October 3 2000. During the "turns shit to gold" line, the song falls apart into laughter. They try to get it going, but cannot, and give up until returning to it for the encore. This time it goes off without a hitch.

An expert performance of "We Live Again" on just an acoustic guitar was played on November 3 2000, at Beck's annual stop at KCRW in Santa Monica, CA. It's quite a brilliant rendition, delicate yet confident. Beck's skills are always getting better, and when he's stripped down to just a guitar, you can really feel it.

The song fit well into the many acoustic sets Beck regularly played.

2002-2003 SEA CHANGE tours

"We Live Again" is not far from the mood of the newer Sea Change songs, so it was again a natural and fairly regular inclusion on the August 2002 tour with Smokey Hormel. Beck would play it solo acoustic, and sometimes Smokey would add some guitar.

A full band arrangement of the song returned in the fall of 2002 with the Flaming Lips. They have a good handle on the song, and played it regularly.

Beck returned to doing "We Live Again" solo acoustic on this tour in April and May 2003.

Beck's 2003 summer band tried this out at the first two "secret" club gigs they did. However, I don't think it fit the show they were taking on tour, and it was never played at a main show.

The song has not been played since 2003.