“Depressing” is a superficial tag

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©Todd V. Wolfson

“‘Depressing’ is a superficial tag. Everybody gets a tag. If you listen to a Velvet Underground record you don’t think “Godfathers of Punk.” You just think, “Hey this is cool. It sounds great.” The tags are there in order to help try to sell something by giving it a name that’s going to stick in somebody’s memory, but it doesn’t describe it. So ‘depressing’ is not word I would use to describe my music, but there is some sadness in it — there has to be, so that the happiness in it will matter.”

Elliott Smith

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I don’t know how that story developed

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“I don’t know how that story developed around Everything Means Nothing to Me. I mean, I don’t know why he told that story to David McConnell, and I’m not sure I’d like to know. He probably didn’t think it would spread and become some kind of post-mortem statement adding to the nauseating pile of hindsight wisdom meant to “explain” him and his alleged “suicide”. It really bothers me. That song was very important to him, but not in any negative or self indulgent way. When he discussed it with me in early 2000, there wasn’t any blood or drama involved, it was still a “new” song at the time, and he was proud and protective of it. Continue reading

Around the time Elliott was recording what would be his final album

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©Ben McKeown

“So around the time Elliott was recording what would be his final album, I got to visit the actual basement on a hill. Satellite Park Studios. It’s a gorgeous house on the cliffs of Malibu owned by Josie Cotton with, you guessed it, a recording studio downstairs ‘basement ‘. I got to play Elliott’s guitar, the piano he used, and at the very least look at Tom Waits’ Chamberlin. The next best thing to meeting them I guess. Anyways, I was there with another band who was also recording there and one night, everyone but me had a lot to drink and the engineer opened up and I got to hear a story about Elliott. I was really eager to hear any Elliott stories but I wasn’t about to ask for any so I was glad when he started talking about him. Continue reading

I briefly met Kurt Cobain

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“I briefly met Kurt Cobain, and as soon as he passed away, I was like, oh God, here it goes. They’re not going to paint him the right way. Same with Elliott. I feel like a lot of times you see these headlines: ‘Tormented.’ ‘Mr. Misery.’ And you’re like, Jesus Christ, if you’d gone out drinking with the guy, you’d know that wasn’t the right way to put it.”

Larry Crane

Pictures of Me was more about seeing people on movies

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Pictures of Me was more about seeing people on movies and TV do really shitty things… Somebody can do something good or bad and, of course, you can too. So it’s just about it being a drag to be reminded constantly what assholes people can be to each other. It didn’t come off sounding like that I guess. It sounds like I’m tired of having my picture taken.”

Elliott Smith

A few weeks after I started college


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©JJ Gonson
“A few weeks after I started college, one of my new friends (a much, much cooler friend) asked me if I’d ever heard of Elliott Smith. “Uh… yeah…” I mumbled. It wasn’t completely a lie; I knew ‘Needle in the Hay’ from the soundtrack to The Royal Tenenbaums, but that was the extent of my knowledge. The next day he stopped by my dorm room with a burned copy of XO tucked into a notepaper sleeve. It was a… difficult experience. I’d been listening to the most disposable sort of punk rock in an attempt to reinvent myself as tough and rebellious, and XO sounded like nothing I’d heard before. But I persevered… and failed. After a week on continuous loop in my CD player I’d progressed to the “this is nice, but…” stage and no further. Still, I wasn’t going down without a fight. I picked up a copy of his eponymous sophomore release in hopes that it would fit in more with my style. And it worked.

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He believed in hell

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©Jackie Gold Starr

“He believed in hell. He was maybe even a little obsessed with it. He was raised in Texas in this very God-fearing, fire and brimstone, you’re-going-to-burn-in-Hell kind of way. He would say to me that he was afraid of the devil. That he was afraid of hell.”

JJ Gonson