Well. Not quite 50 million. More like 50. I liked the Elvis-style photo below, hence the title. But in an ideal world more people would know about the music of Elliott Smith. He’s been dead for 3 and a half years, so if this post helps you get into him, great, but don’t expect him to be visiting your local open mic night anytime soon. Just make sure you get over to the Domino Records website for his earlier and later releases and Amazon or Play for his mid-period major label stuff. If you’re new to Elliott Smith I’d go for ‘XO’. That’s the album I discovered him through.
He is a truly great artist. A songwriter’s songwriter for sure. I bet Elton John loves him (though that’s no indication of what Elliott’s records sound like). His singing and guitar playing is absolutely fantastic. He plays all the weird chords, all the fanciest picking arrangements and if you’ve ever tried to learn any of his songs you’ll know how quickly they tie your fingers in knots. I’ve looked at all his press shots. I’ve yet to determine if he has 6 fingers on each hand, but it sure sounds like it. His vocals always sound brilliant. Like his hero John Lennon, they tend to be double-tracked. But whereas Lennon was a shouter (‘Help!’, ‘Revolution’ etc etc, take your pick), Elliot is more introverted. His ‘whispered, spider-web thin delivery’ (as one early reviewer referred to it) is understated melancholoy at its best. Elliott’s frequent battles with depression, drug addiction and alcoholism means that the subject matter can sometimes be dark, but the overall sound is just brilliant. In 1996, his song ‘Miss Misery’ was nominated for an Oscar, and Elliott performed it at the Academy Awards ceremony (it seems to have disappeared from YouTube). Unfortunately or otherwise, 1996 was the year of ‘Titanic‘ and Elliot was pipped at the post by Celine Dion.
When he died he was working on the the songs that would form ‘From A Basement On The Hill’. It was released after his death to no fanfares, fireworks or frenzied reviews. But those of us in the know lapped it up. Last year, ‘New Moon’, an album of demos and outtakes recorded around the time of his 3rd album (‘Either Or’) was released. You can hear one of the tracks here. Below, you’ll find a selection of demos, outtakes and b-sides from throughout his career. This is as good an introduction to Elliott Smith as you need. Happy downloading!
Say Yes (studio version)
Bottle Up & Explode (‘Either Or’-era demo, released on ‘XO’)
Punch & Judy (‘Either Or’-era demo)
Alameda (‘Either Or’-era demo)
Miss Misery (piano version)
Bled White (Jackpot Studios demo. Original version on ‘XO’)
Happiness (acoustic version. Original version on ‘Figure 8’)
Son Of Sam (acoustic version. Original version on ‘Figure 8’)
Figure 8 (title track, dropped from album)
Concrete Jungle (Bob Marley cover)
This is an excellent site where some of my recordings came from.