Diskobox – A belated delve into the rabbit hole of sampling

In the final minutes of the day I often find myself trawling YouTube whilst laying in bed waiting for my 2 year old’s nightly stirrings, whereupon he decides he’s had enough of his room and demands to be carried into ours. It’s during these moments that I tend to be surprised, stumbling upon peach after peach of long forgotten live performances, isolated vocals and badly dated interviews with my musical heroes. And so it was a week or so back when after watching countless videos of The Beatles I found myself watching an entire NME Poll Winners Concert from 1965.

This footage was incredible, a real snapshot in time, band after band rushed onto stage during a well managed merry go round, soured only by the appearance of the then ever present Jimmy Saville. It was whilst watching this concert that I had the pleasure of catching Them (with Van Morrison) performing Here Comes the Night, a tune that I vaguely knew but had long buried deep in the depths of my memory. Yet Here Comes the Night was buried no more. After several days of blurting out the only words to the song that I knew (i.e the song’s title) I decided to watch the footage again, and it was following this that I came to my real discovery; that my favourite Beck song heavily steals from a Van Morrison/Them cover of Bob Dylan’s It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue!

For anyone who doesn’t know, I’m referring of course to Beck’s Jack-Ass, a tender hobo waltz that appeals to the lazy melancholic nature within me. For years, a song that I’d retreat to on lonely bus rides and train journeys to and fro.

Now, I like to think that I’m not an idiot, I know that artists like Beck use an array of samples in their music, I’ve just never really thought about where the samples come from before, or to what extent. The sample from It’s All Over Now… practically IS Jack-Ass, and I just can’t believe that this has passed me by up until now. It’s made me blow off the dust of my old Odelay CD and actually look at the sleeve notes for the first time. And clear as day, there it is. Them. And Them again! On the first few tracks alone Beck sampled 3 (three!) songs by Them. So I’ve taken it upon myself to log onto Spotify and see what else I can find. And I’ve found a lot.

With the help of Beck’s sleeve notes and a fantastic rabbit hole of a website called http://www.whosampled.com I’ve put together a decent (but not exhaustive) playlist of songs sampled by Beck on Odelay (of which there are fuck loads!) Putting aside the countless use of drum breaks which you’d sort of expect, I found moments that for all these years I was convinced were played or sang by Beck himself in the studio. For example, even the throwaway line “that was a good drum break” from Where It’s At wasn’t said by Beck. It actually comes from a song about blokes wanting to fuck other blokes by a band called The Frogs. What an eye opener that is.

Even though Beck had a helping hand with Odelay in the form of Dust Brothers production, I’ve found myself mightily impressed by the amount of work that must go into making a record like this. The dedication and passion that artists like Beck must put into making even a short passage of a song perfect is akin to that of a great animator painstakingly drawing frame by frame. These samples really do bring the songs to life.

It may be niche but if you’re a fan of that record, and lets face it, I know a few of you are, you may just enjoy a dip into Beck and the Dust Brother’s record collection and see what surprises you might find for yourselves.

Enjoy, thanks for reading.

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