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Anatomy of a Mixed Tape, Track the Eighth

August 24, 2006

8. Amanda Cecilia—Elliott Smith*

*Go here to download this song.

After Elliott Smith died, bootleg recordings from what might have eventually become his next album, that after From a Basement on a Hill, began to circulate on the Internet. Today they’re known as the “Basement II” demos, a collection of songs that are more spare and less polished than anything Mr. Smith had done in his past several albums, since Either/Or. For those who prefer early-period (aka pre-Good Will Hunting) Elliott, these demos are a real treat—but lyrically they’re more or less concerned with the same subject matter as the songs on From a Basement.

black and blue from passing around
whitey says the lady ain’t a hit no more
cecelia amanda i don’t wanna see you get like you got before
another patient in a party dress yesterday
dancing on a remenant scratch
in a place where lonely men pay to make their opposites match

Bruised-ness, copping, loneliness. It felt for awhile like Mr. Smith took flight from his earthly prison of self-loathing and drugs … but towards the end he seemed to spiral back down; the lyrics on From a Basement are especially foreboding. Here’s a line from the best song on that album, “King’s Crossing” (named for a place in Australia where apparently you could get drugs), which includes a nod to Lou Reed’s “Heroin”:

it don’t matter ‘cause i have no sex life
all i want to do now is inject my ex-wife
i’ve seen the movie and i know what happens

Unfortunately, even though he knew what happens, Elliott couldn’t change the ending to his own story—even though, as one can easily see from these demos and his last album, he clearly saw it coming.

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