In honor of Mr. Beck Hansen’s 44th birthday earlier this week, we look back to 1997, when he appeared at the Farm Aid benefit alongside John Mellencamp, Neil Young, John Fogerty, Dave Matthews and the Allman Brothers.
At the time, Beck had been touring steadily behind his mashed-up masterpiece Odelay, gradually building up his show into a full-on R&B revue – and the following year, he would release the mostly melancholy Mutations. This show wasn’t really like either of those albums, because Beck showed off his country leanings.
He didn’t don his cowboy hat from the “Devil’s Haircut” video, but he did duet with Willie Nelson on “Peach Pickin’ Time Down in Georgia” (a 1932 cut by the yodeling country star Jimmie Rodgers, “The Singing Brakeman”). And he pulled a great country song out of his back catalog, the yearning “Leave Me on the Moon.”
In his onstage introduction to “Leave Me on the Moon,” Beck talks about the origin of the song, and how he wrote it for a scene in a movie where a character mistakes the glowing orb of a 76 gas station for the Moon. The movie in question was Kill the Moonlight, directed by Beck’s friend Steve Hanft, which remained officially unreleased for many years – although Hanft incorporated some clips from it into the video for Beck’s “Loser,” which he also directed.
Beck’s set also included “Rowboat” (covered the year before by Johnny Cash) and, just to mix things up, a version of the Doors’ “Light My Fire.” Hey, he’s a little bit country and a little bit rock & roll.