“I got a chance to meet Elliott Smith before he died. I’m a big Elliott Smith fan. I went to Los Angeles to go see him. He was super fucked up and thrashed and I’m sitting there at the bar staring at him, and he’s 10 feet away. He’s drinking Johnny Walker Red, and I’m thinking, “Oh man, he’s drinking Johnny Walker Red.” I made him so uncomfortable.
I was staring at him and he kept looking over at me. Finally he was staring back at me like he wanted to fight me, and I realized what I was doing, because I’ve had people do that to me before. I’m fully bumming this dude out. We watched him play; it was totally awesome. My friends that were in other bands were like, “Do you want to meet him? Do you want to meet him? Let’s go backstage.” And I’m thinking, I already did that shit at the bar; he’s going to remember me. What do you say? “Hey, your music changed my life”? You’re going to put them in an uncomfortable situation. I just told them, “Nah. I don’t think so.” It’s such a bizarre thing to get that kind of attention: to touch someone’s youth or be a part of their childhood.”
“Eleven years ago today, Elliott Smith stopped making music. Thousands of miles away from the grim crime scene of his death, I was a fifth grader at the peak of awkwardness. Puberty hit me with that feeling of alienation that is difficult for adults to reconstruct. Pictures of me at age 11 display the old sources of my middle school woes: an expander had pushed my upper palate wide open, stranding my two front teeth so far apart that people asked if they had been pulled. I had just started to reluctantly wear itchy, uncomfortable bras, and several months later I would become one of the youngest girls in my grade start my period. As I navigated the same daily horror of being a chubby nerd with bad hair, Elliott Smith stabbed himself in the heart in Los Angeles.
Or so we think. Smith’s death remains a cold case. The cuts on his hands and arms and lack of a hesitation wound scream murder to some, but his then-girlfriend firmly maintains her innocence. Either way, fans feel his loss sharply. In the aftermath of his death, his lyrics have gained eery resonance. “Nobody broke your heart,” he sings in “Alameda.” “You broke your own / ‘Cause you can’t finish what you start.” Continue reading
“I went to see Elliott Smith last summer at the Sunset Junction Street Fair. He had not played a show in about a year, and he came on stage with a beer in hand, seeming a little out of it. He sat down and started playing some new songs he had written, which sounded really good, but the audience wanted to hear their old favorites. So when the requests for songs off “either/or” and his self titled album were being shouted to him, he attempted to play some. Continue reading
“In 1999 or 2000 during either the XO or Figure 8 tour I was stood at front of the crowd in Manchester over the front barrier (aged 15/16). At the end of the show when Elliott left the stage I leaned over to take the set list… I peeled it off the floor and after found out it wasn’t the set list but a note from the crew, which I imagine is an inside joke between the ‘gang’. Can anyone shed any light on it? Kept it all these years x “
“A few months ago, after spending a long—and much-too-sober—night at the Bigfoot Lodge on Los Feliz in LA, my best friend headed down the street to the Roost. Inside, we grabbed a table and a bag of popcorn. Looking to my left, I recognized a man sitting with some aging hipsters. “Janine,” I began, “what are the odds that Elliott Smith would be here tonight?” Looking over her shoulder at him, she replied, “Pretty good, I think.” Just then, a woman placed a chocolate-frosted birthday cake in front of the Elliott look-alike. As his friends launched into a chorus of “Happy Birthday,” we waited in anticipation for—and soon received—confirmation: “ … dear Elliott.” Singing along under my breath, I briefly entertained the notion of sending him a drink but quickly thought better of it. Instead, my friends and I grabbed some dollar bills and headed for the jukebox. Careful to pick songs I knew he hadn’t covered, I made selections I hoped would inspire him or at least put a smile on his face. Half an hour later, the last of my songs, “Dancing in the Streets,” came on, and Elliott got up to leave. His arm around one of his friends, he headed toward the exit with a giant smile and a half-shimmy, half-bounce to his walk. It might have been his birthday, but seeing him dance out of the bar to a song I picked was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.“
“Saw Heatmiser too many times. Much preferred Hazel. Saw Elliott solo at Produce Row! Was less than impressed. Was introduced by JJ at LaLuna and his handshake was colder than the beer they were serving at the bar. Didn’t catch the bug until I heard ‘Cupid’s Trick’ trying on pants in the dressing room of the 23rd Ave Urban Outfitters. It was like the tumblers of a lock falling into place. A moment. Now a blessed memory. Now I fall asleep to one of his records almost every night (mostly the self-titled).”
“We were freshmen at Lincoln High School. I met him in P.E. class, he was wearing a Rush t-shirt so I had to strike up a conversation. We weren’t very close, but had similar tastes in music at the time, and shared a few laughs. Super nice, mellow guy.”
“Years ago when Heatmiser played Salt Lake, Elliott Smith came into my shop & commented that we were the only record store in the country that was carrying their album, think he was kinda kidding, but I’m glad we had it. He bought the Johnny Cash Cash CD.”
original photo: Renaud Monfourny, 1998.
“I just graduated from Lincoln this year and have no connection to Elliott Smith other than having been really affected by his music. The memorial was my idea, to have a visible mark left on the school in memory of his time there, all that he accomplished, and the effect he’s had on so many students there. So few students, even fans, had any idea he had attended there (and even recorded a Heatmiser track on the stage.)
I commissioned a bronze plaque through Just Right Awards, student artist Dash Robb and I designed it (after a meeting of fans voted on the lyric and image), and the student Executive Council funded it. I presented the idea to now former principal Peter Hamilton last winter. He was receptive although he hadn’t heard of him (it may have helped that his own secretary perked up at the name’s mention and lauded him). I found his father’s number in an old directory and got in contact and he graciously approved and has helped out all along. Since then, it’s been pretty smooth sailing although there was concern about the placement of the memorial and whether this would cause a slippery slope of memorials. But it’s up now, which I think makes it the first memorial in Portland.”