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DJRadiohead Podcast Experience: Episode 7

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Episode 7 is a Special Edition. It is my tribute to an artist who has come to mean a great deal to me. That fact should become readily apparent to you when you hear this episode.

I try to tell Elliott’s story in this episode. At least somewhat. I give some biographical and background information on Elliott and his songs. I am pretty confident the information I am passing along is accurate. Elliott’s life and music is not always easy to penetrate. I might have gotten some things wrong or drawn some bad conclusions. I apologize in advance if I did. Most of the podcast is dedicated to Elliott’s music which is as it should be.

The first time I chose songs for this Episode, I had over an hour and a half of music selected. Even then I felt I was leaving some great stuff out. I obviously had to condense that. I will probably do a companion podcast one day with all the great songs I had to cut from Episode 7. It’s an idea.

What’s left are some of my favorite Elliott songs- they are also among his best. I worked chronologically from Roman Candle to From a Basement on the Hill. Also included is a tribute to Elliott by the amazing Ben Folds.

Elliott Smith is in my ‘pantheon.’ He is one of the all-time greats. I just cannot believe he is gone. This is an episode you won’t want to miss whether you are a current Elliott fan or a soon to be Elliott fan. I am pretty proud of how much of this one turned out.

I don’t endorse, condone, or condemn: this is the investigator’s report into Elliott Smith’s death. If you are interested in reading it, here it is. If not, don’t. The choice is yours.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • DJRadiohead

    Back in front, Phillip!!

  • Mark Saleski

    this should be interesting because i do not ‘get’ Elliot Smith.

    at all.

  • DJRadiohead

    You don’t ‘get’ Elliott but you do ‘get’ Conor? Scandalous. Shocking! I’m kidding.

    I hope you get an appreciation for him through this. I think Elliott was just a true genius- best of his generation at what he did.

    And if not… you still have my attempts at wit and charm.

  • DJRadiohead

    According to Sweet Adeline (the more or less official Elliott Smith web site) there are several memorials and tribute concerts planned throughout the day.

  • Mark Saleski

    hmmmmm….the only song i’ve actually heard before was “Thirteen”, because the super-delicious Mary Lou Lord covered it on her Live City Sounds CD (which, by the way, has a great, great version of “Thunder Road” on it).

    i’ve got to relisten to the entire podcast. still not sure what to think about Mr. Smith.

  • Mark Saleski

    ps, nice use of the American Beauty score in the background.

  • Phillip Winn

    I didn’t know anything about the guy, but I’m listening now, and liking him pretty well.

    Nice artwork on the podcast MP3, by the way. Brilliant idea!

  • Mark Saleski

    hey, what the hell was that little muted piano nugget at the very end?

    i want it.

  • DJRadiohead

    Mark, that is called “Bye” and it is the last song on Elliott’s “Figure 8″ album. I am glad you liked the American Beauty tie-in… that score is one of my favorites and it does have an Elliott connection so I went with it. I hope the music grows on you.

    Phillip, thanks for that on the artwork. It takes a couple more minutes to add but I just love doing it. I am glad you are liking what you hear from Elliott.

  • losanjealous

    Perfect podcast. Hard to listen to at times, understandably. It is an appropriately grey sky day in LA today. I linked to your story over at my site. Thanks.

  • Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    downloading now, DJ, have a feelin this will be something very special. as to Elliot, i think he was wonderful, although not as good as my beloved Conor. but still remarkable. Either / Or is a stunning stunning record.

  • Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    and also – regardin your question on the other thread about how to get this listed on the uber-BC xml feed, just list it under cultre : podcast, i think it’s automatic after that. said listing is for podcasts only, so they go straight into the feed. list under music too, like, an whatever you want, but include Culture : Podcast.

  • DJRadiohead

    Duke, thanks for the tech help. I had forgotten about that category heading. Damnation! I will keep that in mind for Episode 8 (which is nowhere near ready, I fear).

  • DJRadiohead

    It’s funny that this conversation should turn to a comparison of the virtues of Conor and Elliott. The guy who introduced me to Elliott is a huge Bright Eyes fan (1 out of 2 ain’t bad, eh?!)

    All piss taking aside… I think what separates Elliott from Conor for me is first and foremost vocals. Elliott is not only a gifted singer but has a fucking beautiful voice. Personally, I would also take Elliott as an arranger as well. Some of the shit he put together, particularly on XO and Figure 8 is frighteningly complex and gorgeous. While I prefer Elliott as a songwriter, I am willing to entertain the notion some would prefer Conor here.

    Sad as it seems, there aren’t many people I think had a lot to offer from this generation. Elliott might have been the top of that list.

  • Mark Saleski

    this is all pretty danged interesting as we may have stumbled upon the one place where my hearing parts apparently fail to function properly: i hear no big difference between Smith, Conor, and the dude from the Mountain Goats.

    it’s all fey & dreamy and ….uhmmmm, that’s about it.

  • DJRadiohead

    You don’t hear a big vocal difference? That is very interesting to me.

    Conor really seems to me to have a warbling quality to his vocal- it almost sounds like he is only on key by accident to me. It is hard for me to get past that especially on the more ‘stripped down’ songs. His voice is, to me, similar to Robert Smith. With Smith, you get The Cure’s music which often times had something going on. With Bright Eyes, a lot of times you get a voice and a guitar (not always recorded with a lot of sonic fidelity). That voice is tough for me to take.

    Elliott’s voice seems a lot purer and cleaner to me most of the time. Sometimes it’s not as evident when he goes into his ‘whisper’ mode (or on his earlier, rougher sounding albums). When he is really singing though I just don’t think there is any comparison.

    I guess the best illustration for me (and it’s all my opinion anyway) is that I don’t think Conor could vocally take on “Because” by The Beatles and have it sound beautiful the way Elliott could. Vocally, I think Elliott is leaps and bounds beyond. That’s just me, though.

    I haven’t listened to as much from Mountain Goats so I can’t say much there.

  • Mark Saleski

    i had a similar experience recently with a friend who kept pushing Bonnie Prince Billy my way.

    just can’t get into it for just about the same reason.

    maybe i’m just not into male vocals or somethin’

  • DJRadiohead

    Will ‘The Thrill’ Oldham. Yep. Had that discussion with my buddy here as well. His voice is hit and miss with me. I have heard him sometimes and really liked him. Other times, not so much. We all have different ears and sensibilties.

    On a related but different note, I think Conor sometimes sounds too affected. Too earnest. Elliott can reach that point sometimes and those tend to be the songs I enjoy least. I don’t want total detachment but I like that sometimes Elliott sounds like he might be talking about someone else rather than singing tortured journal entries all the time. Maybe that’s not entirely fair to Conor (and I certainly haven’t listened to him nearly as much as I have Elliott) but it is how I have come away feeling.

  • Mark Saleski

    i think what happens to me is that, because i’m much more of a ‘sound’ guy than a ‘lyrics’ guy, a lot of this stuff comes off sounding very samey-samey. the vocals have a limited range and sort of homogenius timbre…and because on the first pass i don’t pay attention to the words (at all) it just becomes one big gray mass.

  • DJRadiohead

    I am more of a sound guy than a lyrics guy, myself. The sound usually has to be there first and if it is, I will probably dig for the lyrics.

  • Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    DJ, i’m ashamed to say i just got to hearin this now. this was fuckin exceptional, totally outstandin, as good as ANYTHIN a man might find on the real-life radio, which is somethin i’ve always thought about your podcast anyroad. bein a Smith fan, i obviously dug the music, but your stuff in between was excellent. heart-felt an enthusiastic an infectious. an i learned somethin, ie, i thought Elliot Smith was the first album. but there you go. i think my favourites are XO an Figure 8, which i kinda dig for the reasons you seem to be a little unsure about it. that sketchy nature it has in places i think is fairly beautiful.
    again, great great job on this, as good a cast as i’ve ever heard.

  • Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    an readin back on the comments, i feel i must raise this issue again. i think you ARE being unfair to lovely conor. certainly the first album is pretty much journals-put-to-music as you said (even that, though, is ignorin how he colours those thoughts an concerns), but Lifted an especially Digital Ash are not only incredibly ambitious lyrically, but also as complex musically as absoloutely anythin by Elliot Smith. i also think its a kinda odd comparison to make, since really, beyond the fact that it’s fellas with guitars, there ain’t a whole lot of similarity between styles. Elliot certainly has a more traditionally beautiful voice, no doubt about that, and you make a great point about how he could sing Becuase. but i think Conor’s strained, ragged vocals are one of his many virtues. it’s a voice that commands attention, an that sounds like nobody else. but that’s all gettin off the point here, just thought i’d chip in wi some thoughts. belatedly, granted.

  • DJRadiohead

    Duke, your thoughts and opinions are always appreciated regardless of when you get the chance to chime in.

    First… to your generous compliments… I thank you heartily, sir. It means a lot to get compliments from anyone. It means even a little more when you get them from a ‘colleague.’ I use the term as we are both podcasters and I have really fuckin loved your work there. So again, thanks.

    Now, to that pertaining to Mr. Elliott. I like “Figure 8″ but feel it’s a tad too long. I think he let some great stuff be weakened slightly with some material that is a bit lesser. He has a b-side from those sessions called “A Living Will” which I adore. It should have made the record! I am totally in love with “XO” and feel it to be one of the best albums of the 90s. I think it is just monumental and genius and brilliant and gorgeous and heartbreaking. I love his use of the studio and have sometimes wondered what his early compositions might have sounded like had he had a real recording budget.

    Again… thanks for the very kind words and most of all just for listening.

  • DJRadiohead

    And then there is Conor.

    I am not going to go to great lengths to slag off Conor esepcially in light of your hetero-Conorist tendencies.

    I confess I have only listened to x number of songs, not really spent time pouring over his albums. Perhaps I need to do what Mr. Saleski did here with Elliott and really spend some time trying to see if I am missing something.

    Your defense of him goes a long way with me. From this point forward I pledge to reduce greatly the number of times I refer to him as a useless cunt and also to give him another few listens.

  • Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    hah done an done. maybe i should devote a podcast to settin this right…

  • DJRadiohead

    A man has to avenge his- and shit, I wouldn’t be able to talk shit about another man’s- fuck, there goes Episodes 11, 19, and 22!

  • Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    ha, not 22!!!! no!!!!!!!

  • Mark Saleski

    i swear, i also did not ‘get’ Bright Eyes…and then i picked up “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” and THAT WAS IT!

  • DJRadiohead

    The only recent song by Bright Eyes I have heard is “When the President Talks to God” which The Duke played on an episode of his podcast. I thought it was a bit of a jokey number.

    I need to get ahold of Wide Awake and give it a listen.