Emergency Exit
By: Beck Hansen, The Dust Brothers
Written by: Beck Hansen, The Dust Brothers

Alternate Titles:

a.k.a. Gospel
a.k.a. Nazarene

Versions:
  1. Emergency Exit (4:03)
    Available on Guero.
    Credits
    Recorded at: The Boat
    Beck Hansen: Arrangement (Strings), Bass, Foot Stomp, Guitar (Acoustic 12-string), Guitar (Slide), Hand Claps, Mix, Percussion, Producer, Vocals, Vocals (Background)
    David Campbell: Arrangement (Strings)
    The Dust Brothers: Mix, Producer
  2. Emergency Exit (Th' Corn Gangg Remix) (3:18)
    Available on Guerolito Album Sampler and 2 other releases.
    Credits
    J'aime Tambeur: Producer
    Nick Diamonds: Producer
    Th' Corn Gangg: Remix
    Beck Hansen: Vocals, Vocals (Background)
  3.  
  4. Emergency Exit (Automator Remix)
    Credits
    Dan the Automator: Remix
  5. Emergency Exit (Surround Mix) (4:03)
    Available on Guero.
Unofficial Versions: [show/hide]
  1. Emergency Exit (Skew Remix) (3:39)
    Credits
    Skew: Remix
  2.  
  3. Emergency Exit (6th Sense & Mick Boogie Version) (3:18)
    Credits
    6th Sense: Remix, Vocals
    Mick Boogie: Remix, Vocals
    Beck Hansen: Vocals
 
 
Lyrics:
Emergency Exit [Version (a)]:

Fourteen miles away from a landfill grave
Never pawned my watch and chain
To the landlord living inside my head
Never paid my rent 'til the lights went dead
Then I saw my sign coming up the road
Dead ditch waitin' for to bury my load
On the avenues in the plain of day
Threw a Roosevelt dime in a bucket of rain

Now hold your hand onto the plow
Work the dirt til the sun goes down
What's left of death is more than fear
Let dust be dust and the good Lord near
It's a little too much to ask of faith
A little too late to wait for fate
So tell the angels what you've seen
Scarecrow shadow on the Nazarene

Kindness will find you
When darkness has fallen round your bed
Kindness will follow
Children will wander 'til the end
Emergency Exit (Th' Corn Gangg Remix) [Version (b)]:

To the landlord living inside my head
Never paid my rent 'til the lights went dead

Hey hey hey hey
Hey hey hey hey
Hey hey hey hey
Hey hey hey hey

Ohh hey ohh hey
Ohh hey ohh hey
Ohh hey ohh hey
Ohh hey ohh hey

I saw my sign coming up the road
Dead ditch waitin' for to bury my load
On the avenues in the plain of day
Threw a Roosevelt dime in a bucket of rain
Now hold your hand up to the plow
Work the dirt til the sun goes down
What's left of death is more than fear
Let dust be dust and the good Lord near

Hey hey hey hey
Hey hey hey hey
Ohh hey ohh hey

Kindness will find you
When darkness is falling round your bend
Kindness will follow
Children will wander 'til the end
Hey
Hey hey hey hey
Ohh hey ohh hey
 
 
The Song:

"Emergency Exit" is the closing track on Guero. The song went through a couple of alternate titles, with both "Gospel" and then "Nazarene" hitting the press in early reports about the album. Beck finally settled on "Emergency Exit." I guess he wanted to avoid the religious connotations?

A blues song at its core, "Emergency Exit" alludes to many famous blues images, and of course highlighted by Beck's superb blues slide guitar.

The song opens with a brief portrayal to set the scene: the narrator is near the end of his life, and has seemingly never achieved even mediocre success (no landlord, no watch and chain). He seems to have little worldly possessions beyond a bucket of rain collecting change and his dreams (i.e., the lights inside his head).

An old Carter Family song has the chorus "I'll pawn you my gold watch and chain, love / And I'll pawn you my gold diamond ring / I will pawn you this heart in my bosom / Only say that you love me again." A gold watch and chain show up throughout numerous old country lyrics, and Beck does tap into that vibe in some of the language on this song.

That vibe continues even stronger in the second verse, which is likely why Beck even considered naming this song "Gospel." This verse shares much language with gospel music, from working the dirt with a plow, "let dust be dust," the good Lord, angels. Gospel music regularly embraces the afterlife, which Beck gets at here: "what's left of death is more than fear / let dust be dust and the good Lord near."

"Emergency Exit" is likely a sister song to "Scarecrow," which also is focused on death, references working the dirt in similar language, and whose central figure is also referred to as a scarecrow. Here, we have a person nearing death, who is in the ditches, and "darkness has fallen" around him. He casts his shadow on the Nazarene, which is a title often applied to Jesus (who grew up in Nazareth). The afterlife will be the scarecrow's savior. "Kindness will find you / when darkness has fallen round your bed," Beck writes, simultaneously ending his electronic blues gospel song with a subtle musical mix of sounds.
 
Live:

Played live 36 times:
Earliest known live version: February 5, 2005
Latest known live version: April 16, 2007

"Emergency Exit" was never a full centerpiece of his live sets, but Beck did play it quite often on his Guero tours.

2005 Too Much To Ask version
The song popped up most regularly in 2005. Throughout the year, the song was played in a full band arrangement, sounding much like the record. Beck would play acoustic slide guitar, while the band added the requisite beats and sounds and harmonies. They do infuse a bit more dynamics into the song, but generally play it pretty straight. Also occasionally, Beck would noodle on his slide guitar to start. The September 22 version sounds great, and feels slightly sped up too, which makes it feel a bit more tense.

2006 Landfill Grave version
Beck took 6 months off at the end of 2005 and start of 2006 to finish The Information. When he returned to the stage, the band continued to do their dinner table performances, where Beck would sing and play acoustic guitar while his band accompanied on glasses and silverware. At many of these 2006 sets, Beck would play "One Foot In The Grave" on his harmonica. But he also started throwing in some lines from "Emergency Exit" into his harmonica performance.

The first time I have pinpointed that he did this was at Bonnaroo on June 17, 2006. It went usually something like "saw my sign comin' up the road / dead ditch for to bury my load / Roosevelt dime in a bucket of rain / livin' one foot in the grave!"

He continued to do this through the remainder of 2006 and maybe into 2007. It probably occurred much more frequently then we know. (It isn't reported in setlists unless I listen to it, since it sounds exactly like "One Foot" and you'd have to recognize the lyrics.)

2006 Landlord versions
There are a few reports of Beck playing the song in his acoustic set as well, but not as part of "One Foot In The Grave." (June 15 and 27, 2006.)

Also once in 2007, I have it down as a medley with "Scarecrow." I was at this show, but don't remember exactly what did to make me note it as a medley. Sorry should've taken better notes!



 
Notes: