"Sunday Sun" is an amazing tune from Beck's Sea Change
. On record, it is based around a pulsating piano riff and there is a ton of other stuff going on behind it: lots of percussion, effects, swirling synths, background vocals. This is a very cool, almost experimental, recording that never feels cluttered. For example, the chorus builds on the sound of 3 or 4 pianos that were played and recorded in unison. For me, it is a highlight of Sea Change
Beck seems to be using a "Sunday sun" to symbolize a healing force, that presence that ends your blues and mends your wounds. After the darkness of night, you can start fresh. (An idea that Beck would focus more on 12 years later on Morning Phase
.) Coming near the end of Sea Change
feels right; after all the wallowing and hurt, the sun rises and brings a little light and warmth to the album. At the beginning of the album, Beck sings of getting to this period (i.e., "the golden age"), but he's not ready yet. By the time we get to "Sunday Sun," Beck (and the listener) have arrived there. All the "break-up" songs and emotions that are the core of Sea Change
have been fought through.
More concisely, as Beck put it in Another
magazine, the song is about the "light at the end of the tunnel."
Played live 98 times:
August 2, 2002August 3, 2002August 5, 2002August 6, 2002August 8, 2002August 9, 2002August 11, 2002August 11, 2002August 12, 2002August 14, 2002
...and 88 more
Earliest known live version: August 2, 2002
Latest known live version: November 12, 2013AUGUST 2002 / APRIL 2003: RAYS OF HEAVEN acoustic folk version
August 2002 saw Beck's first proper Sea Change
tour, and it was 20 acoustic shows, just with Smokey Hormel as backing. Thus, "Sunday Sun" made its live debut on August 2 2002, the first of this series of shows. He then played it at all but one of the 20 shows. On this tour, Beck usually played the song alone on acoustic guitar, though sometimes Smokey added some harmonium. This version is unfailingly gorgeous. Some of Beck's "ohhh"s at the end of the choruses are most impressive.
FALL 2002: LOOKING FOR A SATELLITE LIPS version
"Sunday Sun" was played as a full band arrangement for the first time in Toronto with the Flaming Lips on October 20 2002. The Lips provide a fairly straightforward backing to the song: mostly adding drums and a little piano. It is nice to hear it with drums, which work well against the acoustic guitar chords. I would say this version is most like the record. However, Beck and the Lips only played it together at four shows, all in a row (Oct 20, 21, 22, 24). After that, Beck dropped it into his solo acoustic portions of the set a few times.
2003: JADE THE STRAIN BAND version
A different band backed Beck on a few versions in the winter of 2003. Building on what the Lips brought to it, they add some new flavor to the song. The version on February 14 is okay, but a few nights later on David Letterman, they had it down. They blew it away on late night TV. One of Beck's finest television appearences, for sure. It starts out regularly, perhaps a bit too fast, before crashing into a short, tight coda. Awesome. They carried this version with them over to Australia and Japan in March as well.
Beck had a new band in the summer of 2003. They follow a similar model as in early 2003, but it is a bit heavier. They played it regularly at 18 of the 24 first leg shows in June, but only at 2 of the 18 second leg shows in August. Not sure why the sudden drop-off; it is a pretty impressive stage song by this point.
2007 STRAY AGAIN version
After leaving "Sunday Sun" out of the set for the Guero/Info tours of 2005-2006, the song made a slight return during the slight tours (once in Japan, a few in South America) of 2007. The one in Japan was done solo acoustic; the ones in South America were band.
2008 JEALOUS MINDS version
Beck played 44 shows in 2008 behind Modern Guilt, and did sneak "Sunday Sun" into the setlist 10 times.
2011-2013 YESTERDAYS ARE ENDING version
Beck took some time off and then returned to the stage in 2011-2013 for a series of tours, building up to Morning Phase. A number of the 2012 shows were sort of treated as an anniversary tour for Sea Change, so naturally "Sunday Sun" would make regular appearances. It has not reappeared since 2013.
Surprisingly, the song never showed up during the Morning Phase tours of 2014-2015. I say surprising, because thematically the song relates quite directly to Morning Phase
, more than most songs on Sea Change