By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
MÉNAGE À GARLIC PASTE
So OffBeat’s cruising down Sunset Boulevard, Beck’s newest album, Midnight Vultures, blasting from the car stereo. We’re on our way to find out what the beloved Armenian chicken joint Zankou Chicken makes of its mention on Beck’s slow, soulful ballad "Debra." The song, a funny homage to Curtis Mayfield–style ’70s soul music, is about a ménage à trois with the eponymous Debra. It contains the inscrutable lines, "Like a fruit that’s ripe for the pickin’, I wouldn’t do you like that, Zankou Chicken." What is Beck trying to convey? we wonder as we step out of the car, boom box in hand. Is he referring to the erotic tang of the restaurant’s pickled turnips? The sweaty allure of the greasy, spit-roasted meat spinning behind the counter?
Unfortunately, we discover that no one inside, from the cooks to the cashiers, has ever heard of the song or Silver-Lake-homie-gone-platinum Beck. After much "Who?" and "How does the song go?" Alice Awanis, the cashier on duty, steps forward. Turns out a skinny young man with scraggly blond hair had come in just days before, girlfriend and CD in tow, ranting that he had heard someone named Beck singing about Zankou Chicken. "Might have even been him," Alice muses, nodding at Beck’s picture.
"I’m gonna take you up to Glendale, gonna take you for a really good meal," Beck belts out in the background, on his fifth go-round on the boom box. Margrete Iskendrian, a robust 70-year-old woman from Beirut who opened Zankou 17 years ago, says she’s proud that Beck sings the praises of her Glendale location. But she also doesn’t have a clue what Beck is talking about. "I prefer Turkish music," she says.
We wanted to ask Beck directly what he means, but never got past his publicist, Dennis Dennehy. "Beck says he doesn’t like to talk about his lyrics," Dennehy says. "He prefers they remain open to interpretation." Okay, so here goes our reading: Beck is being the polite lover, assuring Debra he wouldn’t eat Zankou’s pungent garlic paste before an amorous encounter ("I wouldn’t do you like that . . .")
"This music is for young people, not me," Iskendrian smiles, as she hands us a stuffed bag of takeout. "But I’d like to meet this Beck."—Deborah Picker
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