Sunday, 10 March 2013

Read Between the Bars

For those who don't know, Elliott Smith was an indie musician from the United States. He performed from 1991-2003, initially with the band Heatmiser, then as a solo artist, pioneering his own style of deep, layered music. As a singer and multi-instrumentalist, he had significant freedom to accurately express himself and create interesting, unique pieces. Although he never really achieved mainstream popularity, he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song in 1998 with Miss Misery, featured in Good Will Hunting (an excellent movie, highly recommended).

Throughout his life and career he struggled with severe depression, and drug and alcohol addictions. These issues affected him deeply and are themes reflected in many of his songs. Although the circumstances surrounding his death at 34 from multiple stab wounds to the chest are unclear, it seems an unlikely way to commit suicide...

I was introduced to Elliott's work by a close friend in 2008. Sadly, too late to ever witness a live performance or hope for an album of new music, but certainly not too late to enjoy and marvel at his carefully-crafted songs. If you want to listen to his music, I particularly recommend Between the BarsKing's Crossing,  and Angeles.

Elliott's music helped me get through some tough times in my life, and I created several pieces in tribute to him. Each of the pieces below are inspired by his songs (A Fond Farewell, King's Crossing, and Between the Bars respectively).

The Great Romance

The King's Crossing

Between the Bars

I still listen to Elliott Smith, though not nearly as often as I once did. There is something unique about his sound that I doubt I'll ever get bored of. It's a real loss that he died so young, but without his severe depression, drug and alcohol issues, and volatile relationships I doubt his music would have achieved the quality it did. Elliott was far from the first troubled musician to pass before his time (Elvis, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, The Notorious B.I.G., Whitney Houston, etc.). Others simply had to move on from music in light of their personal issues (e.g. Syd Barrett).

Whether causative or simple correlation, there's a clear link between creativity and mood and substance disorders. It's a topic I find very interesting and will be writing more about in future!

Tribute to Elliott Smith

Kings Crossing

The king's crossing was the main attraction
Dominos are falling in a chain reaction
The scraping subject ruled by fear told me
Whiskey works better than beer

The judge is on vinyl, decisions are final
And nobody gets a reprieve
And every wave is tidal
If you hang around
You're going to get wet

I can't prepare for death any more than I already have
All you can do now is watch the shells
The game looks easy, that's why it sells
Frustrated fireworks inside your head
Are going to stand and deliver talk instead
The method acting that pays my bills
Keeps the fat man feeding in Beverly Hills
I got a heavy metal mouth that hurls obscenity
And I get my check from the trash treasury
Because I took my own insides out

It don't matter because I have no sex life
All I want to do now is inject my ex-wife
I've seen the movie
And I know what happens

It's Christmas time
And the needles on the tree
A skinny Santa is bringing something to me
His voice is overwhelming
But his speech is slurred
And I only understand every other word
Open your parachute and grab your gun
Falling down like an omen, a setting sun
Read the part and return at five
It's a hell of a role if you can keep it alive
But I don't care if I fuck up
I'm going on a date
With a rich white lady
Ain't life great?
Give me one good reason not to do it
(Because we love you)
So do it

This is the place where time reverses
Dead men talk to all the pretty nurses
Instruments shine on a silver tray
Don't let me get carried away
Don't let me get carried away
Don't let me be carried away

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