It’s time for another B-Side Bio! Our newest feature is a quick introduction to some of the maybe unknown facts about some of our favourite musicians. This man started from the bottom, literally living in sheds with rats before finding success with his first big single. He became known as the artist who could write “songs about pizza, MTV, and working at McDonald's, turning mundane thoughts into songs.” He also asked the question, “I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me?” And with that, I introduce, Beck.
Beck Hansen, was born Bek David Campbell in L.A. on July 8, 1970. He adopted the last name Hansen from his grandfather Al Hansen, who he later collaborated and toured with on a joint art exhibition to New York City and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Beck was born into quite the creative household - his dad, a Canadian arranger, composer, and conductor, while his mom was a visual artist who was also a “Warhol Superstar”, one of a handful of New York City personalities promoted by Andy Warhol in his work. They are also a family of Scientologists.
As any good creatives, they were dirt poor, living in neighbourhoods with refugees in low-rent apartment blocks. At 16, Beck got his first guitar, dropped out of high school and became a street musician, playing in parks and on busses. He then decided to make a change and hopped on a bus to New York City with only his guitar and $8 in his pocket. After a year and a half of no luck in New York, Beck thought better of another homeless NYC winter and scrounged what little he had to get back to L.A.
Back at home, he started working at a video store, "doing things like alphabetizing the pornography section". During this time he was also playing clubs, bringing his New York performance style of slam poetry and spoken word to his performances. His eccentric personality landed him slots in between the actual musicians, letting him share his strange folk songs with the audience while often wearing storm trooper helmets and other unusual outfits.
After catching the attention of some record execs and publishers, Beck started collaborating in some of their home studios and laid down “Loser”, which he considered a one-off hip-hop-style experiment that he set aside, going back to his folk style. The records execs of the indie label he’d been working with took the single, pressed 500 12” vinyls and released it, even though Beck thought it was mediocre. Unexpectedly, it got picked up by local college radio stations, a major commercial station in Seattle and then was picked up by L.A.’s world famous rock station, KROQ, who played it nearly every hour.
From there, he spent all of his time in the studio, trying his damndest to not become a one-hit wonder. By this time he had gained the respect of his peers, including the likes of Johnny Cash and Tom Petty who loved his style. His next taste of success would come from the 1996 release of the album Odelay which earned him a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year, a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album, as well as a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.
In total, Beck has released 13 albums, with the latest release of Colors in 2017 including one of my personal favourite tracks, “Dreams”.
Did ya learn something?
He’s a fascinating dude, but I’ve got to keep it short, so there we have it! Another B-Side Bios. This week, we’re adding Beck’s acoustic track “Ramona” from the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Soundtrack to our PTP Spotify Playlist.