Lost Cause
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

Versions:
  1. Lost Cause (3:48)
    Available on Sea Change and 6 other releases.
    Credits
    Beck Hansen: Banjo, Guitar (Acoustic), Percussion, Vocals, Vocals (Background)
    Justin Meldal-Johnsen: Bass (Upright), Glockenspiel, Percussion, Vocals (Background)
    Roger Joseph Manning Jr.: Clavinet, Keyboard / Synthesizer, Percussion, Vocals (Background)
    Joey Waronker: Drums, Percussion
    Darrell Thorp: Engineer
    Nigel Godrich: Engineer, Mix, Producer
    Smokey Hormel: Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Electric), Percussion, Vocals (Background)
  2. Lost Cause (Surround Sound Mix) (3:48)
    Available on Sea Change.
    Credits
    Elliot Scheiner: Remix
  3. Lost Cause (Video Edit)
 
Lyrics:
Lost Cause [Version (a)]:

Your sorry eyes cut through the bone
Make it hard to leave you alone
Leave you here wearing your wounds
Waving your guns at somebody new
Baby you're a lost, baby you're a lost
Baby you're a lost cause

There's too many people you used to know
They see you coming, they see you go
They know your secrets and you know theirs
This town is crazy, nobody cares
Baby you're a lost, baby you're a lost
Baby you're a lost cause
I'm tired of fighting, I'm tired of fighting
Fighting for a lost cause

There's a place where you are going
You ain't never been before
No one laughing at your back now
No one's standing at your door
That's what you thought love was for
Baby you're a lost, baby you're a lost
Baby you're a lost cause
I'm tired of fighting, I'm tired of fighting
Fighting for a lost cause
 
The Song:

"Lost Cause" can be found on Sea Change.

MTV.com, in reporting on Sea Change's upcoming release at the time, referred to "Lost Cause" as "sparse and melancholy, driven by a folksy guitar passage and soft, sedated vocals and embellished with soft brush drumming." That's pretty accurate. This was the "single" for the album, as there was a video made, and Beck performed it on David Letterman's show, Conan O'Brien's show, and Jay Leno's show, as well as Saturday Night Live.

The interesting twist on this "break-up" song is all the people watching you, from the "sorry eyes" not allowing for any privacy. Beck allowed in one interview that this was a reference to Los Angeles ("this town is crazy / nobody cares"). ("Yeah, it's an L.A. line," he says regretfully. "I wanted to take that line out, but I was too lazy. It is, though. People are very, I don't know, blasť.") The third verse builds on that a bit, where it becomes clear that though people are always watching, they're rarely supportive.

I always found this angle on a break-up song, the feeling that everyone else's eyes are on you, adds much depth to the emotions of the album. Whether or not it's actually true that everyone is watching, it definitely feels that way when you're in the midst of an emotional situation.
 
Live:

Played live 366 times:
Earliest known live version: February 24, 2002
Latest known live version: November 20, 2017

"Lost Cause" has been played a great many times since it came out (and once before).

2002-2003 Sea Change tours

"Lost Cause" made it's premiere on stage on February 24 2002. This was the only one of the four shows in the winter of 2002 where it was played. A few weeks later, it would be recorded for Sea Change.

A month before the new album came out, Beck went and played an acoustic tour around North America. Beck and Smokey Hormel tended to play "Lost Cause" as dueling guitars, and it felt a bit slower than the recorded version.

With the Flaming Lips in October 2002, they premeired a somewhat more up-tempo version of the song. I think this added some tension to the music, which fit the lyrics and the mood greatly. Their live arrangement just sounds fuller to my ears.

Throughout 2003, Beck continued to perform "Lost Cause" at pretty much every show. I do prefer the rockier versions of the song, as evidenced through the summer of 2003†(or with the Lips at the end of 2002), over folkier solo versions. But I imagine it's just a matter of taste.

2005-2007 Guero / Info tours

Beck continued to play "Lost Cause" at about half the shows in both 2005 and 2006. I believe most of these were done solo, in his acoustic sets, and not with a band. (But there were probably a few band ones in there.)

One notable version was on January 17 at a benefit concert, in which Will Ferrell came out in a red unitard and danced while Beck tried to get through his soul-baring song.

2008-2009 Modern Guilt tours

On the Guilt tours, Beck played "Lost Cause" quite frequently, again I think mostly as part of his few-song acoustic sets in the middle of the shows.

2011-2013 pre-Morning Phase tours

After a few years off the road, Beck returned to touring for a handful of shows in 2011 and around 30 shows in both 2012 and 2013. The 2012/2013 shows were promoted as a sort of nostalgiac/Sea Change anniversary thing and Beck used the musicians of that album as his band. So naturally, they did "Lost Cause" pretty regularly.

2014 Morning Phase tours

"Lost Cause" was the go-to Sea Change song on the Morning Phase tour of 2014, and Beck played it most every show (51 out of 57 times). The song was played faithfully, almost exactly like the record, except with two differences. First, the tempo seemed to speed up slightly as the tour went along. Second, the band did a five-man harmony on the chorus (which was lovely).

2015-2016 post-Morning Phase tours

Beck continues to play "Lost Cause" in his lighter touring after Morning Phase. It is still in a similar band arrangement, though often it was part of one or two 'acoustic'-natured songs.

The song has never really been drastically rearranged for the stage at all, its greatness allowed to shine merely by being.