Elliott Smith Top Dozen, #2

Elliott Smith Top Dozen, #2

I did one of these a while back.  I think I could write a new one every couple months, mainly because ELLIOTT SMITH WAS INCAPABLE OF WRITING A BAD SONG.  (A joke, sort of.  Actually, another post might be titled, “Worst ES Songs,” though that one would be exceedingly short….).  So, since the last top dozen, I’ve fallen in love with a batch of different tunes.  Here they are:

•Stickman.  This is an extraordinarily important song in the ES corpus.  I will have a lot to say about it in the biography.  (“Some monster off-stage killing sons”).

•Junk Bond Trader.  I like the less fancy version, with the line “Night brought you to no decision but to execute every day with precision.” This song has an old origin, by the way. A version, with lyrics by Garrick Duckler, was first recorded in high school, with the title “Fast Food.” Some of Duckler’s lyrics reappeared in later versions of the song, but most are replaced in the final, Figure 8 version.

•Go By.  Gorgeous.  Sometimes I hear the words as “Don’t Die.”

•Half Right.  One of Tony Lash’s favorite ES songs, by the way.

•Plainclothes Man.  Check out the video on youtube.

•Angel in the Snow.  Lovely intro that always makes me want to listen all the way through.

•True Love.  A drug song that did not make it onto Basement because it was a drug song.  Sad, painful, beautiful.

•Can’t Make a Sound.  In part about seizures.  I love how it builds.  “The hero killed the clown.”

•Pretty Mary K.  Curiously large number of military references in Figure 8.  Perfect illustration of ES’s fascination with passing chords as he moves musically to the line “Here’s what you get, for things that haven’t happened yet.”

•LA.  Guitar rhythm sweet.  Listened to this a lot in LA two weeks ago, on Sunset.

•Mr. Goodmorning.  This “guy” shows up in 2 songs.

•Everything Means Nothing to Me.  My son’s favorite ES song.  This is the sort of number almost no other member of his cohort could have possibly written.

•Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud?  OK, it’s a baker’s dozen, but couldn’t leave this one off.  The long stemmed glasses, a movie, and a pleasant dream in mid-air.

(Picture, btw, is from the “No Confidence Man” 7-inch.  It’s an insert.  Beside Elliott is Pete Krebs).

10 thoughts on “Elliott Smith Top Dozen, #2

  1. Hi, Todd. It’s more than 12, but this is the lineup for the CD I’m burning for a 68-year-old family friend. Her tastes are eclectic, but she tends to listen more for melody than lyrics. This is the order I want, at least as of 11:40 AM. I’m calling it MIXED-UP ELLIOTT.

    Waltz #1
    I Didn’t Understand
    Angel in the Snow
    Go By
    Come To Me*
    Going Nowhere
    Whatever (Folk Song in C)
    Waltz #2
    Coming Up Roses
    The White Lady Loves You More
    Between the Bars
    Rose Parade
    Independence Day
    I Don’t Think I’m Ever Gonna Figure It Out
    Bye (live in Japan version)

    *This is “You Make It Seem Like Nothing,” which i’ve been listening to 24/7 lately. I prefer the other title, even though I don’t know its origin– or if there is a “correct” title. It just seems to say more in fewer words. I also like the YouTube version where you hear him tuning up.

    1. I’ll check that one out–You Make it Seem Like Nothing. I also like the live Bye in Japan. That was a difficult gig for him to get to, I understand. Don’t believe he did that song live very often.

  2. Glad you have got into Junk Bond Trader, it has always somehow stood out for me even though it doesn’t really have a hook or chorus, which is unusual for him (except the Harrison-esque guitar figure). It has some great lines of barbed cynicism about the songwriter’s lot. I didn’t know there were alternate versions in circulation.

  3. the irony of my only friend writing a book about someone that the love of my life introduced me to is painful. julie introduced me to ES music and we used to listen to it lying on her bed in synchronous aloneness. she is gone and my attachment to her is relentless and without end. i can’t listen to his music any more. nevertheless, it is a characteristically brilliant choice for a biography by a brilliant character.

    1. the worst part about this–maybe–is that you can’t listen to his music anymore. Not sure what I’d do if I were in that situation, because his music is a major part of my life. Anyway, take care. And thanks, my only friend. Let’s do more walks.

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