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Saturday 21 August 2004, 2100-2200

Beck Listen Again to this show
Listen Again to this programme for seven days after the broadcast.

With the upcoming release of a new album, and another new direction, Stuart Maconie presents an intimate portrait of one of the world's most eccentric and influential musical mavericks - Beck.

Beckology reveals a rich musical pedigree, embracing both his bohemian roots and his post-modern pop sensibility. Stuart Maconie talks to collaborators past and present - and Beck himself - to paint a picture of one of the most interesting artists of the new millennium.

Will the real Beck Hansen please stand up? A young dude who duets on country classics with living legend Willie Nelson, covers Diamond Dogs and appears on David Bowie records, writes for Marianne Faithfull and makes her sound like Serge Gainsbourg. All while hanging out with hip 'youngish' things like The Flaming Lips, Air, Beth Orton, William Orbit, Macy Gray and Thom Yorke from Radiohead. And making music which mixes up all of the above.

Loser, Beck's first big hit over 10 years ago, swiftly became a slacker anthem to rival Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit. Promptly followed by an A&R scramble, it proceeded the album Mellow Gold, and ushered in a revolutionary new kind of recording contract. Beck brokered a unique deal with Geffen that allowed him to release 'uncommercial' records on other labels, if he wanted.

By the end of 1996, Beck's Odelay made the top of almost every 'Best Albums' list. Hit singles kept on coming - Where It's At (Grammy winner - Best Male Rock Vocal Performance), Devils Haircut, and The New Pollution. Beck even won a handful of Brits. After Mutations came Midnite Vultures. Beck went all Prince and P-Funk on us, with the production talent of Radiohead's Nigel Godrich. Last year's Sea Change sounded like a broken hearted Beck had been mainlining Nick Drake. Yes, he had split up with his long term girlfriend.

All the while Beck had been putting in the most electric live performances with wit and intelligence, outro outfits and goofy moves. At the same time he was making music with his heroes and high-profile peers.

Allen Ginsberg once said Beck's lyrics were the best since Dylan's, and he has also been compared to Captain Beefheart. But whilst he is clearly steeped in the acoustic folk and blues traditions of artists such as Woody Guthrie and Blind Willie McTell, Beck has also forged a modern mixed up hybrid of sounds and silliness that embraces funk, soul, bossa and Brazilian samba, pop, hip hop, electro and folk.

Radio 2 Music
Beck biography.
Radio 2 Music
Beck discography.
BBC Music
Beck profile.
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Stuart Maconie
Stuart Maconie

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