Elliott Smith by Autumn De Wilde

Posted by Miss Ess, January 24, 2008 02:14pm | Post a Comment

elliott smith autumn de wilde book photosOf course for Christmas I received the new Elliott Smith book by photographer Autumn DeWilde.  All I knew about this book previous to reading it was that it was a photo book of Elliott by Autumn, who photographed him for his Figure 8 cover and made the "Son of Sam" video. I knew it was gonna come with a CD of a Largo show.  But I really didn't have any expectations-- and now that I have read the book I'm so glad I didn't because turning each page brought a surprise.

Autumn included not only gorgeous photographs and theelliott smith figure 8 cover live CD, but also interviews with Elliott's friends.  His old friends.  The ones who truly knew him and cared for him.  Toward the end of his life, many of these friends either were left behind or had falling outs with Elliott.  As a fan, when I heard about this at the time I was wondering what the heck was going on, thinking things must have gotten really bad.  This book answers many questions.  It's not exploitative though, it's merely friends talking about a complicated person they love, in good times and in bad.

elliott smth autumn dewilde
There are many fantastic stories of Elliott in this book, many that even his biggest fans have not heard before.  The interviews were fascinating for me.  With each turn of a page, there was someone else I'd been waiting to hear from since his death.  The interviews cleared up some mysteries for me, like why he and Jon Brion had stopped talking in the years before his death, and what long time manager Margaret Mittleman was going through in dealing with a highly talented but also highly addicted client.

By the end, it left me feeling warm, in a way.  Reading all these tales of Elliott's deep obsessions with specific teensy moments in songs, and how certain songs' lyrics could reduce him to tears no matter where elliott smith either/or coverhe was when he heard them actually made me think (for the first time in a long while) about why I love music so much in the first place.  Elliott's genuine adoration for and obsession with music, down to the most minute detail of a track, sparked back in me that feeling of excitement -- the feeling of discovery and gratification that music can so profoundly provide.

This book is really for fans only.  It's not the place to start if you've never listened to Elliott before.  Please avoid that trashy biog that was released after his death also!!  If you've never heard Elliott before, pick up Either/Or-- that seems like the best point of introduction to his work.  Once you have soaked in the music for a while, and worked your way through all of the albums, then check out this new book.  It presupposes that the reader already knows Elliott's basic life story.elliott smith xo promo shot

Though the book was highly enjoyable, the author came off as somewhat self aggrandizing at times-- but all is ultimately forgiven by what this book provides. This book is by no means a definitive statement about Elliott.  It's more of a graceful, elegiac tribute to the musician and the man.  There are so many brilliant, beautiful stories about such a beautiful, brilliant man that the book left me smiling and sparked my own imagination.  And that's precisely what great artists are here to do, even when they are no longer with us.

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Elliott Smith (14), Autumn De Wilde (1)