Dark Star
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

Versions:
  1. Dark Star (3:45)
    Available on The Information.
    Credits
    David Campbell: Arrangement (Strings)
    Beck Hansen: Harmonica, Vocals
    Nigel Godrich: Mix, Producer
  2. Dark Star: David Andrew Sitek Remix (4:08)
    a.k.a. Dark Star (Remix by David Andrew Sitek)
    a.k.a. Dark Star (Remix by TV On The Radio)
    Available on The Information.
    Credits
    David Andrew Sitek: Remix
    Beck Hansen: Vocals
 
Lyrics:
Dark Star [Version (a)]:

One, two
One, two

A disappointment condition, a perfunctory prescription
Of an indigent mindset of belligerent silence
We got all we need droning out of a tin can
Thinking about the rain under the sweatshirt hood
Listen to the noise on the battery tape deck
A Judas trainwreck, anonymous suspect
Hovering in carbon monoxide cremations
Loners waste away inside of vacant locations
Think tanks empty, international dream bank
Plug in my reactor to the fallout zone
The enemies' story is a lot like mine
And if you get to the point then you know better than I

Dark star like an eye that's closing
Sees through the shards from a scar that's open

Autopilot drivers riding out on the ice age
Infidels swallowed in a vanishing point
Ammunition souls shooting holes in the ozone
Widow's tears washing the soldier's bones
Sterilized egos delirium sequels
Punctured by the arrows of American eagles
Robot to teach you all the rules that delete you
Backspace my brain, my equilibrium goes

Dark star, just an eye that is closing
Sees through the shards from a scar that's open

One, two
One, two
You know what to do
Dark Star: David Andrew Sitek Remix [Version (b)]:

A disappointment condition, a perfunctory prescription
Of an indigent mindset of belligerent silence
We got all we need droning out of a tin can
Thinking about the rain under the sweatshirt hood
Listen to the noise on the battery tape deck
A Judas trainwreck, anonymous suspect
Hovering in carbon monoxide cremations
Loners waste away inside of vacant locations
Think tanks empty, international dream bank
Plug in my reactor to the fallout zone
The enemies' story is a lot like mine
And if you get to the point then you know better than I

Dark star like an eye that's closing
Sees through the shards from a scar that's open

Autopilot drivers riding out on the ice age
Infidels swallowed in a vanishing point
Ammunition souls shooting holes in the ozone
Widow's tears washing the soldier's bones
Sterilized egos delirium sequels
Punctured by the arrows of American eagles
Robot to teach you all the rules that delete you
Backspace my brain, my equilibrium goes

Dark star, just an eye that is closing
Sees through the shards from a scar that's open
 
The Song:

This is a song from The Information. Not a Grateful Dead cover, Beck's "Dark Star" is a laidback rap. As Beck has pointed out, this is the one where he really tried to do "something I hadn't done in a rap song before -- something contemplative." This is the embodiment of his idea to mix a little Sea Change into his grooves. To that end he raps over some beautiful strings arranged by his father, David Campbell. Beck tosses in a little blues harmonica blow-out in there as well. It's a great, underrated recording, for sure.

Similarly, Beck shared how producer Nigel Godrich was a force in getting him to do some more rapping on Info, but also that Nigel made him do it here in an amazing whisper.

Beck's impressive lyrics spin a big web, but as he once explained, "there's a feeling of imminent disaster in this. It was in the air when we wrote it."

I am hesitant to break this lyric down much further than that, in part because that quote is so succinct and interesting, it is hardly necessary. Imminent disaster. What disaster? What fear was in the air? I think pointing this song at specific political acts may deaden the song's impact, so I won't go there.

But I think that "imminent disaster" is more than enough, and all that entails: sadness, wonder, confusion, fear.

 
Live:

Played live 8 times:
Earliest known live version: October 4, 2006
Latest known live version: April 16, 2007

There have not been very many live performances of "Dark Star." Presumably, this is because it is such a studio recording--a whispered rap over a bed of strings.

How then did Beck play it live at all?

Beck toured in the months up until the release of Info, playing some of the songs live. Not "Dark Star," however. They waited until October 2006 (the same month the album was released) to start performing the song.

They did it 6 times that month, before more or less dropping it forever.

The first time was in a studio though, during a short show recorded for a KCRW broadcast. I won't say this is a stunning performance exactly, but because of the sound quality and rarity of the song, it is really quite cool. Over a very mellow, junkyard bass/percussion groove, Beck's live vocals sound terrific. The harmonica->strings outro is replaced by an accordion-sounding keyboard and then a repeat of the chorus. This likely worked because of the intimacy of the studio; I cannot imagine it carrying over to a bigger show with an audience.

The next four versions were done in front of a bigger audience, as part of his tour. I unfortunately not heard any of these.

After that first leg of the Info tours, Beck and his band drove across country to get home to Los Angeles. They stopped in four cities, and played very small "surprise" gigs. In Atlanta, it was Halloween, and they showed up at a small 300-person club in Halloween costumes, and played a surprisingly full set, almost entirely done via request. "Dark Star" was included.

Then in December, Beck and his band did a show that was filmed for webcast on Yahoo! They included "Dark Star," again likely due to the relative intimate nature of the set-up, where the song works the best.

The final version of "Dark Star" was when the Information tour went to Japan, in April 2007. It is expertly-performed, as the band adds all sorts of keyboard effects, but not going over the top with it. Brian LeBarton does the harmonica part on it as well.

The song has not been played since. It is easily one of my favorite Beck songs, but it does appear the band never felt quite right doing it, the intimacy of the record being difficult to duplicate. I would be surprised if Beck ever considered the song for his sets again.
 
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