When I was a child, my mom used to tell me about a moment that changed her life forever: The moment she found out that John Lennon was dead. She was a waitress in the Midwest at the time and I can picture the scene perfectly in my head: My blonde mom is wearing white Keds and a pink uniform with a white apron, serving coffee to old men and truckers. There’s a TV in the corner of the diner, and a news anchor in a grey suit and red tie interrupts a game show to say that John Lennon’s been shot. My mom’s life wasn’t the same.
I don’t know if that’s actually how everything played out. When my mom used to tell me about Lennon’s death, she used to tell me how she felt, how customers reacted, that sort of thing. She never told me what she was wearing or what the weather was like outside but I invented all of those details in my head.
I never thought what it would be like for me if I lost a John Lennon, so when Elliott Smith died, I didn’t know what a void I’d feel. In a lot of ways, Smith was my Lennon. There’s a reason, after all, that I have Smith’s song lyrics tattooed on me not once but twice. I think that makes me pretty legit. Dude wrote good songs.
Now, nearly ten years after the indie legend’s death, another posthumous track has been unearthed — this one a “warm up” from a radio session Smith did in Maryland in ’97. The song is called “Misery Let Me Down” and is just as perfect as you’d expect, considering it came from the revered time that spawned Either/Or, a time that people commonly refer to as the peak of Smith’s all-too-brief career. You can listen to the track over at The Washington Post, and read all about Alex Teslik, the Smith superfan who unearthed the song.
I remember very vividly when From A Basement On The Hill, the album Smith was working on when he died, came out posthumously. What I remember most is the intense feeling of loss I felt as the album’s final track, “A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Free,” wrapped up. That, I thought, was the last new Smith song I’d hear. It was the end of an era that had lasted me from twelve until nineteen, the most formative years of my life up until that point. I was so sad in that moment. What I didn’t know then was the fact that eight years later, Smith would still be bustin’ out the jams. I think we all owe him a high five for that when we get to the afterlife.