I know there is no place de Gaulle in Paris


“I know there is no place de Gaulle in Paris! The work title I was actually using for the album was “Place Pigalle”, where I stayed for a while last year.  I do remember spelling it to the journalist on the phone, but he didn’t understand, or he didn’t want to understand. It makes me very unhappy that  I may have come across as a show off to  French people.”

Elliott Smith

Note: Speaking about popular misconceptions… the Abbey Road session in 1998 was NOT called “Place Pigalle” except as a blunder that came up later on (living on in the Alphabet Town catalogue for instance.) Since the song in question was written in May 1999 and recorded in the summer of 1999, the Abbey Road session has nothing to do with it whatsoever. That particular song also steadily generates a stream of “misheard lyrics” (a typical case of people projecting their misconceptions of Elliott onto his songs and particularly his lyrics, pretty much like that awkward “torment saint” thing.)  Talking about people who don’t understand, or don’t want to understand…  See various Figure 8/Place Pigalle entries on those issues…

It’s about a really heavy evening

‘Turn your words around’ is about a really heavy evening I had in New York at the CMJ festival, years ago –  2003. I noticed a woman just completely lose it in a bar, like hysterically upset. Me and my friends went to see if she was ok. After a while she told us that her dear friend had just been found dead, with a knife in his chest. The friend was Elliott Smith and the girl Mary Lou Lord. It had a very deep resonating effect on me, I didn’t know Elliott and wasn’t familiar with his music at the time but knowing what we did before the rest of the world felt wrong. People talk about the New York fear and I was skeptical but I got it bad that night.”

Jon-Lee Martin

I met people I liked in college

bunny 2013
©Daniel Cavazos

“I met people I liked in college, but no songs come from there. They come more from moving out of my mom’s family than anything else. There are three types of songs in my catalog. “Needle in the Hay” was the “Fuck you” me. It was more of a “fuck you song” than it was even a heroin song. Then there’s the “I’m going to insist that things can work out, and I’ll never stop insisting they can work out.” And then, there’s the part of me that tries to chronicle other people’s lives, especially my mom’s.”

Elliott Smith

Elliott was very different

© Steve Hanford / Thee Slayer Hippie

“Elliott was very different. He was very tortured. I never got into why. But I spent many a night getting wasted with Elliott. At the same time, a lot of brilliance exists in this town. But Elliott was able to marshal his artistic talent in a way that many others were, dare I say, afraid to. He was very brave in his oblivion seeking. His brilliance and ability to write songs rivals that of Lennon and McCartney. Did his sound change when he moved from Portland? Well… he could focus more away from Portland and cultivate his art. Also focus on other things. You know… He was a nice guy, a very silly, crazy person. If you were his friend. Other  than that, he was very stand-offish. Which was how I was, at the time. He didn’t talk. Journalists, he hated that shit, too.”

Steve Hanford


The only interesting thing about drugs

mb1 (1)
©Martin Benjamin

“The only interesting thing about drugs is why do people do them. In and of themselves, they’re very boring. As for drugs in books or in songs, usually they’re a vehicle to talk about dependency or possibility… But the less that I try and put songs in situations that they don’t belong in, the easier it is for me to make them up. To me the point, if there’s a point, is just to make a mood or a feeling or at the most specific to create a mental picture. I just kinda write stuff, and then I look at it and go, ‘Oh, I see what I’m going on about’ or, ‘I don’t know what I’m going on about, but I like how it feels.’ It’s not like there’s any shortage of material in any given person. All you have to do is live a day in order to make record after record after record.”

Elliott Smith