I’ll lead by saying I don’t believe there ever was, or will be, Elliott Smith’s From A Basement On The Hill as it would have existed had he lived to see its release.
Elliott played with numerous track listings for Either/Or, xo and Figure 8 right up until release, even preparing one tentative xo track list for mastering (per Matt LeMay’s xo book) before reconfiguring it in the eleventh hour. Larry Crane has also kindly posted early track listings for Either/Or, and it’s shocking how different that record could have been.
This post isn’t so much about ascertaining what Elliott’s Basement would have been, but rather, how the album existed in transient states between 2002 and 2003.
However, in all those different iterations, it seemed like Elliott had a more consistent view of what Basement could be then I’d previously assumed. Maybe you’ll agree.
Here’s what I’ve found.
Back in April 2002, a series of songs were posted on fan page sweet adeline (http://www.sweetadeline.net/april02.html
) in relation to the progress of LP6. The order wasn’t given with any import, as far as I can tell, and was as follows (numbers added by me):
01) shooting star,
02) a passing feeling,
03) see you in heaven,
04) (i’m) already somebody's baby
05) circuit rider
06) mr. goodmorning (version 1) - (just between us).
07) let’s get lost,
08) little one,
09) don’t go down,
10) brand new game,
11) memory lane,
12) dancing on the highway - (still here),
13) the last hour,
15) true love
I’ll assume that, because of the next “track list”, the songs had been played in the listed order for Scott Booker by Elliott.
We know that Elliott has said, at least at a certain point, that he considered Shooting Star for the opening track. He’d also mentioned that post 9-11. A Fond Farewell had been pulled and replaced by Little One (http://www.mtv.com/news/1450993/elliott ... d-like-it/
The next “playlist” is from Elliott’s Under the Radar interview, released Spring 2003 (http://elliottsmithob.tumblr.com/post/9 ... pring-2003
). Elliott gave the writers a sneak peak of what he was working on, and either by great coincidence or something else, they were written about in the following order:
1) Shooting Star
2) A Passing Feeling
3) See You In Heaven
4) I’m Already Somebody’s Baby
5) Coast to Coast
6) A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Free
7) Let’s Get Lost
8) True Love:
9) Brand New Game:
10) Mr. Good Morning:
Interesting, right? Tracks 1 through 5, and 7 are in an identical order to the list provided on April 2002. True Love replaces the similarly soft Little One, the rocking A Distorted Reality replaces Mr. Goodmorning, and Brand New Game has only moved a few places. That’s almost a full year with only minor changes. Try listening in either order. It flows really, really well, though is obviously incomplete.
Elliott calls this a “mix” in the article, and perhaps that’s all it was, a go to mix of his working roughs; but given the similarities and certain markers, in particular Lets Get Lost remaining at track 7 with adjustments to track 6, I might argue he was hammering out an order without saying as much.
Further, they’re not listed in any arbitrary order of completion, as See You In Heaven was, to the best of my and online fandom’s knowledge, left incomplete. More on this in another post.
Finally, there’s the "Basement" Tapes Unfinished/Suppressed CD that was circulated in 2009. I have no idea where the CD/rip originates from, but I was under the impression that it was burned by Elliott, or at least from a playlist Elliott had created. I may be totally wrong, but two song placements in particular make me wonder:
1. Coast to Coast
2. A Passing Feeling
3. From a Poisoned Well
4. New Monkey
5. Blue Mood/Abused (Instrumental)
6. King’s Crossing
7. Let’s Get Lost
8. Pretty (Ugly Before)
9. Stick Man
10. Instrumental I
11. Instrumental II
12. Fond Farewell
13. Suicide Machine
14. Memory Lane
15. Mr. Good Morning
16. I’ll Be Back (Beatles cover)
17. Trouble (Cat Stevens cover)
This is a departure from track lists 1 and 2, however there is *some* connective tissue, notably A Passing Feeling at track 2, and Let’s Get Lost at track 7 again! There’s also a coherency to the flow of the first half that threads the 3 lists together. The second half really does just feel like a compilation, helped in part by ending with 2 covers.
It gives me the impression that Elliott had a momentum in mind for Basement, even if the songs were changing and like Either/Or, he had way more material than room for it. Basically, after a certain point, Elliott had no idea how to wrap this album up.
In Pitchfork’s 2013 oral history, Rob Schnapf said the following:
ROB SCHNAPF: Dave [McConnell] was kind of an *******. I always tried to be really straight with him. Elliott stopped working with him—I don't know why—and he just felt like he knew exactly what Elliott wanted. Then he talked **** about me in the press without ever talking to me. (http://pitchfork.com/features/article/9 ... l-history/
I get the impression Dave McConnell *did* know what Elliott wanted… at a certain point in 2002. But it’s clear that Elliott’s idea of what Basement was was changing as rapidly as he was recording new songs for the project at New Monkey.
Per Joanna Bolme: “This is not the record Elliott would have put out (Basement, 2004). This is a version of it. As far as all the concepts, double album, straight-to-weird … I’m not totally sure Elliott would have stuck with any of those ideas. The double-album idea was out, and straight-to-weirder certainly would have been a lousy sequence for this group of songs. He was still in the process of recording things.”
What does everyone think?