Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Tube Amp: March

Welcome back to The Tube Amp for March. Made it just under the gun! You may have read the piece directly below this one in which I skewered the "girl/world" rhyme cliche. I excused Elliott Smith's "Say Yes" because it's just too nice a song to dislike. How much of an ass would I be if I scoffed at one of the rare Elliott Smith songs that's at least a bit optimistic?

My interest piqued, I combed YouTube for performances of "Say Yes", the final track of Either/Or. The following video was the most touching of any, I thought, since it seems to encapsulate Elliott Smith's artistic vulnerability, discomfort with the spotlight, and wounded charm all at once.

:01 -- The popular appeal of the song is immediately evident by the swell of applause. I can't imagine anything made Elliott more uncomfortable, but who knows?

:13 -- If the floating spotlights are that annoying to me, they must have been driving Elliott nuts.

:26 -- This guitar looks like a Yamaha, a thought perhaps confirmed by his admission to preferring his old, cheap Yamaha to any expensive models. Goes to show, it's the player and not the guitar.

:45 -- You have to think for a guy like Elliott, stage presence wasn't really his concern. Eyes locked on his fretting hand, hunched over a mic. Must have been hell for him to play Late Night Shows...not to mention the freakin' Oscars.

1:05 -- Can anyone read his shirt? I heart something...Dental? Crystal? Mental?

1:27 -- I love this bridge here. Any aspiring songwriter should study Elliott's use of chord changes. He always had a very unique way of dancing between chords, something I try to employ in my own compositions.

1:45 -- Duh, it says "I love metal".

2:11 -- Remember what I said at :01 about Elliott not being more uncomfortable? Scratch that: the fierce applause at the end of one of his most popular songs seems to do the trick.

Barely a month after this performance, Smith would plunge a knife into his own chest, puncturing his heart and dying shortly thereafter. While it like surprised very few people, there are theories surrounding the incident. Some circumstances suggest it might have been his live-in girlfriend who killed him. This article is a long but fascinating read that presents some of the evidence, and also some really chilling information on 'sharp force trauma' ("It is an extremely painful way to die, a last resort for people so low they no longer care about themselves").

Anyway, have a great day!

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