The situation was strange and awkward, because the song was a personal joke and wasn’t originally intended to be released. It was already two or three years old by the time it got popular. It’s like an old specter that won’t go away. [Beck on ‘Loser’]
Bek David Campbell wrote a song that defined an era, not just for me, but for an audience receptive to his eclectic mix of hip-hop, Delta blues and exoticism. He united any influence he could think of and came up with a crock of gold. Not bad for somebody with song titles like Fucked Up Blues, MTV Makes Me Want To Smoke Crack, Feel Like A Piece Of Shit and Today Has Been A Fucked Up Day in his repertoire. Loser (FF 1994 #32) was the track that gained him an artistically spacious contract with Geffen Records that by the end of the nineties he would have given his left arm to get out of.
He has had a history of family tragedy that, despite what he says, undoubtedly influenced the lyrics. It originally came out as a failed attempt to imitate rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy (he thought, ‘Man, I’m the worst rapper in the world…I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me’), but became a monster and made it difficult for him to overcome, as, until the triumphant Odelay annihilated his reputation as a one-hit wonder, audiences were decidedly unreceptive to his other material.
Loser was not his biggest hit in the UK (1997’s The New Pollution bested this number 15 placing by one), but I would say is the one with the most lasting impact. Whereas one can detect the influences of Dylan and the blues of the fifties most clearly, the laid-back synth-led cantering and out there lyrics (my wife always laughs at the one about the man hanging himself with a guitar string) left its stamp on trip-hop in particular.