It’s a magic birthday, 44, for my beloved most favorite artist today. I pulled together a playlist of my personal faves, scoured Pinterest and Instagram hashtags to see what other fans are posting, and realized: it’s time to spill my guts about this hidden sickness.
I’ve been obsessed with Beck Hansen, aka Beck, aka Bek David Campbell, for years now. OK, “obsessed” probably only applies to my high school self, who, in the void of Pinterest, Tumblr, Google, and basic Internet access, cut out any mention of Beck from whatever printed material I could get my hands on, and painstakingly arranged these little papers under protective film, collected chronologically in a three-ring binder. More attention was lavished on this pre-Web stalker-y paper-log (plog?) than any subject in school.
People knew I collected Beck memorabilia, and brought me little scraps of information. One enabling friend printed out every page from the main Beck fansite, facing hella trouble for wasting all the printer ink.
At fifteen, I was a continual delinquent tagger/ collage artist/ aspiring punk with ambitions to be a film director. After a life-quakingly inspiring Beck show, I decided to hitchhike to LA from Las Vegas for an art show of Beck’s collage art. I didn’t know who I would stay with, or how I’d eat, but I was determined to get there. My bag was packed, my Doc Martens were laced, and I made it two blocks on foot before a grimy man in a white van pulled up to ask where I was headed. Taking this as a sign, I continued walking to 7-11 for a Slurpee, and then went straight back home. Delinquent, yes, not an idiot.
My family didn’t have money. No cable TV. No MTV. I still haven’t seen all of Beck’s videos, but the ones I have seen… man, they’re good. My youthful consumption of Beck’s artistry was purely radio plays and magazine scraps, until I turned 16, got a job, and bought up every Beck release in existence. I’d hit the magazine racks at Tower Records to figure out which compact disc was worth my hard-earned $17 that week, while seeking printed intelligence on my imaginary LA musician boyfriend. (You modern-day teenagers have it so easy, with your YouTubes and the Spotifys. In my day, music was expensive! And nearly impossible to steal!)
Yes, the young me had a poster of Beck on the ceiling above my bed, but my obsession was spiritual, not (totally) sexual. Beck’s weird yet intelligent melding of influences was brave and individual. His collage of sound, abstracted, beautiful lyrics, and strange behaviors he was said to exhibit were signs of a True Artist. The type of person I wanted to be. The kind of person I wanted to attract and collaborate with. Someone to understand. One Seventeen article revealed Beck’s stomping ground to be Silver Lake, a neighborhood allegedly “ten minutes from LA’s downtown,” filled with celebrities and unfettered access to Manic Panic hair dye. It sounded like an alternative dream. Today, I live near Silver Lake, and even fifteen years later, expect to see Beck walking past me, lost in thought, blue eyes focused inward, on a new idea.
Beck continues to release fabulous records and push boundaries of the music industry. Waking Light is a heartbreaking return to recorded music, after disruptive releases like Song Reader, a collection of sheet music, and collaborating with Lincoln for Hello Again, an immersive orchestral online experience. But my favorite Beck releases are found at Beck.com, where Beck’s unique aesthetic rules. Visual artists he loves are housed in the Colorspace Gallery. Record Club is just documentation of Beck and other world-class artists fucking around, reinterpreting selected records of Beck’s choosing. Such as Yanni.
I hear Beck’s music, I see his art, and it takes me to a familiar, recognizable yet consistently evolving space. There’s nothing to decipher. Everything’s there. Emotions and stories. Reassembling the world around you into a form that fits. A vision, an aesthetic, a work ethic. Being An Artist. My favorite Beck songs are wild and ethereal, untamed and lucid. Here, I’ll share a playlist. But on one condition. Keep my little obsessive secret to yourself.