Soldier Jane
By: Beck Hansen, Nigel Godrich

Written by: Beck Hansen, Nigel Godrich

Versions:
  1. Soldier Jane
    Available on The Information.
    Credits
    James Gadson: Drums
    Nigel Godrich: Mix, Producer
    Beck Hansen: Vocals, Vocals (Background)
 
Lyrics:
Soldier Jane [Version (a)]:

No one cares what dress she wears at all
Tattered rags and paper bags and all
She's the one sleeping in the dirt
Drag her down, don't let her drown in dirt

Lovers drag their canes across the gates
Gamblers light candles for the days
No one wake her up, she's sleeping still
So put a candle on her windowsill

Soldier Jane, don't be afraid
Take your heart out of the shell
Take your heart out of the shell
Don't throw it away

Stars, they strike the darkness from a room
Knives, they take the poison from the wound
Cars, they drive us down into the ruins
And sweep our cares away with dirty brooms

Soldier Jane, don't be afraid
Take your heart out of the shell
Take your heart out of the shell
Don't be afraid
 
The Song:

"Soldier Jane" can be found on The Information.

The song is a lowkey one, that still manages to stand out. That is, the music feels restrained, staying calm and steady, which is what propels its grooviness. When asked about the song, Beck talked about James Gadson, the drummer, and how they played him lots of Krautrock, so the song has a "Germanic thing going on." On top of that mechanical rhythm though, Beck and Nigel Godrich created a beautiful melody and some terrific atmosphere.

Beck starts the song with a relatively awkward verse (it rhymes "all" with "all" and "dirt" with "dirt") that sort of feels like it was left out of "Girl." It is a fairly dark portrait, whether it is metaphoric or otherwise. A person at rock bottom, homeless. (recall Beck's earlier songs about this like "Blackhole" or "Ramshackle.")

After that verse though, the song develops from there. Verse two is all about trying to give a sign to someone ("drag canes across the gates", and lighting candles). (Also I'll add that 'dragging canes' line is perhaps my favorite imagery in any Beck song.) Lovers and gamblers take chances, they are alive. Jane needs to learn from them. There's a candle on the windowsill, and she won't see it. Get out of your shell, Jane.

The same point is made with the contradictions in the last verse. Life may hurt (like a knife), or be blinding (like the stars), or even drive you into the ruins (like a car), but it may also remove the darkness, cure the poison, or lead somewhere better.
 
Live:

Played live 69 times:
Earliest known live version: May 24, 2006
Latest known live version: May 1, 2016

Beck has kept "Soldier Jane" in his sets more or less since its release. (If I'm not mistaken, it's one of Justin Meldal-Johnsen's favorite Beck songs, and when he's in the group, it often gets played.)

2006-2007 Information tour

On The Info tours of 2006-2007, "Soldier Jane" showed up on occasion, at about a third of the shows.

2008-2009 Modern Guilt tour

JMJ left the band for this tour, and "Soldier Jane" went with him. It did show up twice only, once at a show in Amsterdam and another time in Tokyo.

2012-2013 pre-Morning Phase tours

JMJ returns, and yep, so did "Soldier Jane." There weren't a ton of shows these years (just 37), but "Soldier Jane" was played 22 times.

2014 Morning Phase tour

"Soldier Jane" continued in many sets on this tour, played about half of the time.

2015-2016 post-Morning Phase tours

"Soldier Jane" slipped away a little at this point, but did show up 3 times in 2015 and then once in 2016. The latter was JMJ's final show with the band, as well.