For as long as people can keep churning out unreleased recordings, wonderful photos, interviews, and anecdotes, Elliott Smith fans can live in sweet denial of his death. Photographer and friend of Elliott’s, Autumn de Wilde, has helped us do just that for a little while longer with her gorgeous hardcover, Elliott Smith [Chronicle Books $29.95].
The book is 223 pages of captivating black and white and color photos, great interviews with friends and family, playlists, handwritten lyrics—even shopping lists (with items such as “antlers” and “ill will (small box)”. Maybe the best thing about this collection of photos and memories is Elliott’s humor. There are genuine, real smiles and quite a lot of funny stuff here that shows the Elliott beyond the sad songs.
These photos of Elliott Smith appear to be taken predominantly during the Figure 8 days—when de Wilde closely worked with Smith (she designed the cover and packaging of that album). There is an intimacy and candor in these photos that could never be found in the standard press kit. These are photos of a friend, by a friend.
And finally, after the Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing pursuit of bartenders and people-who-knew-people-who-knew-Elliott, someone who really knew him talks! The book contains great interviews with his sister, Ashley Welch, as well as friends Matthew Caws, Neil Gust, Dorien Garry, Joanna Bolme (former girlfriend and bandmate who helped get the posthumous From A Basement On The Hill released), Sean Croghan (who was behind the release of the also-posthumous New Moon), Alyssa Siegel, Ben Gibbard, Chris Walla, Sam Coomes, Mark Flanagan, Jon Brion, Dale Smith, Rob Schnapf, and Margaret Mittleman. The book has a foreword by Beck and Chris Walla.
And as if the book alone wouldn’t be flat-out essential for Elliott Smith fans, it also comes with a sweet five-song CD of a live solo performance at Largo in Los Angeles. This CD includes “Between the Bars,” “Angeles,” “Clementine,” a beautiful cover of the Quasi song, “Clouds,” and a really amusing version of the Hank Williams, Jr. cover, “All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down.” It’s great to hear him laughing and cutting up in that last track. It’s almost like he’s still here.
Let’s pretend it for a little while longer.