Members: Bek David Campbell
Beck Hansen was born in Los Angeles, California, to David Campbell (a musician, Canadian, Scientologist and son of a Presbyterian minister) and Bibbe Hansen (a visual artist of half Norwegian, as well as Swedish and Jewish descent, also a Scientologist). When his parents separated, Beck stayed with his mother and brother in Los Angeles, California, where he was influenced by that city's diverse musical offerings?everything from hip hop to Latin music?and his mother's art scene ? all of which would later reappear in his recorded and published work. He didn't have many friends in his childhood, which gave him time to develop his musical talent.
Beck's music--with its pop-junk culture collage of musical styles, oblique, ironic lyrics, and post-modern arrangements incorporating samples, drum machines, live instrumentation and heady sound effects--was among the most idiosyncratic of '90s alternative rock. Although Beck's work defies easy description, his eclecticism and genre experiments have sparked comparisons with Prince, though Beck was undoubtedly a less prolific artist, and drew on an absurdist, free-flowing lyrical style totally original when first exposed to mainstream audiences (indeed, some critics labeled him and his breakthrough single "Loser" as novelties-see below). Despite this individualism, Beck's music was very much a product of the '90s and the media age in general, with hip hop, indie/underground rock, electronic music and genre-benders like the Beastie Boys as notable touchstones; in addition, some critics could not resist likening his head-spinning lyrical aesthetic to a post-modern Bob Dylan sensibility.
After dropping out of high school in the mid-1980s, Beck educated himself and traveled widely. During this period he learned and developed his talent through the art of busking. In Germany, he spent time with his maternal grandfather, Fluxus artist Al Hansen. The late-'80s found him in New York City as part of the punk-influenced anti-folk music movement.
Beck returned to Los Angeles at the turn of the decade, destitute but motivated. To support himself, he took a variety of low-paying, dead-end jobs, and even lived in a shed, all the while continuing to develop his music. During this time, Beck sought out (or snuck onto) stages at venues all over Los Angeles, from punk clubs to coffee shops and even busking on the streets. This is also when he met Chris Ballew (founder of The Presidents of the United States of America) and they even performed on the streets as a duo for a while. In the spirit of an artist struggling to make a name for himself, his shows were memorable for their mix of humor and eccentricity. Some of his earliest and most thought provoking recordings were achieved by working with Tom Grimley at Poop Alley Studios, a part of WIN Records.
In this atmosphere of heady creativity the founders of Bong Load Custom Records discovered Beck. Their 1993 12" vinyl "Loser", from an initial run of 500 copies, created a sensation on alternative radio that led to a furious bidding war between labels to sign Beck. Eventually, he chose Geffen Records, who offered him terms that included an allowance for the release of independent albums while under contract.
In 1994, Geffen's official debut release of Mellow Gold made Beck a mainstream smash success; it also led to his iconic status as the "slacker" representative of the alternative rock scene.
At the same time, he released Stereopathetic Soulmanure on Flipside Records and One Foot in the Grave on independent K Records. Beck took his act on the road with the 1995 Lollapalooza tour. Still, some critics panned him as a one-hit wonder. Audiences' (especially at Lollapalooza) familiarity with "Loser", and their general disinterest in his other work only reinforced his image as a one-hit wonder
The one-hit wonder label was put to rest with the release of 1996's Odelay, a collaborative effort with the Dust Brothers, producers of the Beastie Boys' album Paul's Boutique. The lead single, "Where It's At," received heavy airplay and its video was in constant rotation on MTV. Within the year, Odelay had received perfect reviews in Rolling Stone and Spin magazines, having been listed on countless "Best of" lists (it topped the Pazz & Jop Critics Poll for 'Album of the Year'), receiving double-platinum status, and earning an impressive number of industry awards, including two Grammies.
Odelay was followed in 1998 by Mutations. Though the album was originally supposed to be released on Bong Load Records, Geffen intervened and issued the record against Beck's wishes. The artist then sought to void his contracts with both record labels, and in turn the labels sued him for breach of contract. The litigation went on for years and remains unclear to this day if it was ever completely sorted out. Produced by Nigel Godrich of Radiohead fame, it was intended as a stopgap measure before the next album proper. Recorded over two weeks, during which Beck recorded one song a day, the sessions produced 14 songs. Mutations was a departure from the electronic density of Odelay, and was filled with folk and blues influences. Songs on the album consisted of older tracks, some even dating back as far as 1994. Track 10, "Sing It Again", was written for Johnny Cash, but Beck never submitted it, considering it "rubbish." Cash would go on to record "Rowboat," a song that originally appeared on Beck's Stereopathetic Soulmanure.
During 1998, Beck's art collaborations with his grandfather Al Hansen were featured in an exhibition entitled 'Beck & Al Hansen: Playing With Matches' and showcased solo and collaborative collage, assemblage, drawing and poetry works. The show toured from the Santa Monica Museum of Art to galleries in New York City and Winnipeg, Canada. A catalogue of the show was published by Plug In Editions/Smart Art Press.
MIDNITE VULTURES - SEA CHANGE
In 1999, Geffen released the much-anticipated Midnite Vultures, an orgy of sexual and culinary innuendo supported by a world tour. For Beck, it was a return to the high-energy performances that had been his trademark as far back as Lollapalooza. The live stage set included a red bed that descended from the ceiling for the song "Debra" and the touring band was supplemented by a brass section. Midnite Vultures was nominated for Best Album at the Grammys, but did not win.
After Midnite Vultures came Sea Change in 2002, another airy and emotional album with producer Nigel Godrich, which became Beck's first U.S. Top 10 album, reaching # 8. The album was also met with critical acclaim, earning five stars from Rolling Stone, the magazines rarely awarded highest-rating and later placing second in the Pazz & Jop Critics Poll for 2002. Sea Change was conceptualized as an album with one unifying theme?the stages following the end of a relationship. The album also featured string arrangements by Beck's father David Campbell and a sonically dense mix reminiscient of Mutations. Although some radio singles were released, no commercial singles were made available to the public. Beck embarked on a solo acoustic tour of small theaters and halls prior to the release of Sea Change, during which he played several songs from the forthcoming album. The post-album release Sea Change electric tour featured The Flaming Lips as Beck's opening and backing band. Since then Wayne Coyne, their lead singer, has criticized Beck for his behavior on the tour.
Beck has a number of B-sides and soundtrack-only songs as well, including "Midnite Vultures" (curiously, not on the album of the same name), a cover of The Korgis' "Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime" which appeared in the 2004 movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and David Bowie's Diamond Dogs from Moulin Rouge.
In September 2003, Beck returned to the studio to work on his sixth major-label album. The record, Guero, was produced by the Dust Brothers and Tony Hoffer and features a collaboration with Jack White of The White Stripes; it marked a return to Odelay-era sound. The album was released in March 2005 and enjoyed critical acclaim from most mainstream press, earning four stars from Playboy and Rolling Stone, as well as a "Critic's Choice" recognition from The New York Times. However, the album received a less enthusiastic response from Beck's indie-oriented fanbase, as shown by the low 6.6 (out of 10) score given by Pitchfork. Nonetheless, the album debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts, pushing 162,000 copies in the first week and giving Beck his best week ever in terms of commercial sales and chart position. Since the release of Guero, the first single, "E-Pro", has been well received by the mainstream rock community, and has seen a large amount of play time. The second single, titled simply "Girl", is a bright, upbeat song appearing at first to be about summer love; however, a closer look at the lyrics reveals a darker side to the song. "Girl" received heavy airplay on various college radio stations. The third, and final single, was "Hell Yes".
Beck married Marissa Ribisi, the twin sister of actor Giovanni Ribisi, in April 2004, shortly before the birth of their son, Cosimo Henri Hansen.
In May 2006, Beck revealed on his website that his seventh major label album, The Information, had been recorded with producer Nigel Godrich and is due for release in October. Its inspiration is reputed to be hip-hop. In June 2006, it was reported that Beck had completed filming of his next video, "Cell Phone's Dead", directed by Michel Gondry. Some other new songs recently performed live that may end up on the new album are: "Soldier Jane", "We Dance Alone", "Landslide", "Information", "Think I'm in Love", "Nausea", "Elevator Music", "Remain in the Dark", and "1000 BPM".
Beck performed at the music and arts festival Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee on June 17, 2006. Beck performed many songs from his album Guero. In addition to his band, Beck was accompanied onstage by a group of puppets, dressed as him and members of his band. Live video feed of the puppets' performance was broadcast on video screens to the audience. The puppets are part of his 2006 world tour.
At the Bonnaroo festival, he revealed to MTV that in 2006 he plans to release The Information, a Nigel Godrich-produced follow-up to Guero and a 10th anniversary edition of Odelay. The album reportedly took more than three years to make, and is described as "quasi hip-hop." Also, it will include a sheet of stickers, which are used to "make your own album cover."
The new album was released on October 3, 2006. The album in its entirety was leaked onto the Internet in late September. On September 27, 2006, Beck released a Yahoo! Music Unlimited exclusive track before the album was released, titled "Think I'm In Love." Customers who purchased at Best Buy were treated to an exclusive download of an outtake track titled "This Girl That I Know," whereas Target shoppers received "Inside Out," both of which were on European versions of the disc. Some US stores also included a bonus disc, featuring the track "O Menina," which was also included in the Japanese release, along with the other two bonus tracks. Due to its inclusion of free stickers, The Information was disqualified by the Official Chart Company from entering the UK albums chart, but in the US the album gave Beck his third straight Top 10 studio album peak on the Billboard 200, reaching #7.
BECK AND SCIENTOLOGY
Beck has been involved in Scientology for most of his life, but has only recently publicly acknowledged this fact. It is not clear what his involvement was during the 1990s, but he appears to have distanced himself from it to some degree.
His name appears in Scientology literature again in 2003, showing that he is a member and a donor. In April 2004, he married Marissa Ribisi, who is also a second-generation Scientologist. The actress has a small website proclaiming her success with Scientology on which she encourages others to learn about it. On the site, she wrote, "Scientology works! Without it, I don't know where I'd be."
Beck publicly acknowledged his affiliation with the Church of Scientology for the first time in an interview published in the New York Times Magazine on March 6, 2005. Further confirmation came in an interview with the Irish Sunday Tribune newspaper's i Magazine in June 2005, where he is quoted as saying, "Yeah, I'm a Scientologist. My father has been a Scientologist for about 35 years, so I grew up in and around it." When questioned, he was vague on Scientology's core beliefs.
1994 - Mellow Gold
1994 - Stereopathetic Soulmanure
1994 - One Foot in the Grave
1996 - Odelay
1998 - Mutations
1999 - Midnite Vultures
2002 - Sea Change
2005 - Guero
2005 - Guerolito
2006 - The Information
1988 - The Banjo Story
1991 - We Like Folk...Who Cares...Destroy Us
1992 - Beck, Like the Beer
1992 - Don't Get Bent Out of Shape
1992 - Demo Tape (Buck Fuck Iowa)
1993 - Golden Feelings
1994 - A Western Harvest Field by Moonlight
2000 - Stray Blues (B-Sides) (JAPAN ONLY)
2001 - Beck (Beck.com B-Sides)
2005 - Game Boy Variations
1994 - "Loser"
1994 - "Pay No Mind (Snoozer)"
1994 - "Beercan"
1995 - "It's All In Your Mind"
1996 - "Where It's At"
1996 - "Devil's Haircut"
1997 - "The New Pollution"
1997 - "Sissyneck"
1997 - "Jack-Ass"
1997 - "Deadweight"
1998 - "Tropicalia" -
1999 - "Cold Brains"
1999 - "Nobody's Fault But My Own"
1999 - "Sexx Laws"
2000 - "Mixed Bizness"
2000 - "Nicotine & Gravy"
2003 - "Lost Cause"
2005 - "E-Pro"
2005 - "Girl"
2005 - "Hell Yes"
2006 - "Cell Phone's Dead"
2006 - "Think I'm In Love"