"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
So much for the healing. After some brief post-election chatter about extending an olive branch across America’s great partisan divide, numerous Bush supporters this past week reverted to a generous display of nasty rhetoric and full-throated gloating.
There is “so much to savor” about Bush’s victory, wrote the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan, who called it “a big win for America,” while deeming the “biggest loser” of the election the mainstream media. For her, the demise of “the famous MSM, the initials that became popular in this election cycle,” didn’t happen to include the Bush-boosting Fox News Channel and its 84 million weekly viewers. But her analysis did make room for a breathless tale of how right-wing bloggers single-handedly saved election ’04 by rescuing the nation from the “liberal” big media’s malfeasance.
“Every time the big networks and big broadsheet national newspapers tried to pull off a bit of pro-liberal mischief — CBS and the fabricated Bush National Guard documents, the New York Times and bombgate, CBS’s ’60 Minutes’ attempting to coordinate the breaking of bombgate on the Sunday before the election — the yeomen of the blogosphere and AM radio and the Internet took them down. It was to me a great historical development in the history of politics in America. It was Agincourt. It was the yeomen of King Harry taking down the French aristocracy with new technology and rough guts. God bless the pajama-clad yeomen of America. Some day, when America is hit again, and lines go down, and media are hard to get, these bloggers and site runners and independent Internetters of all sorts will find a way to file, and get their word out, and it will be part of the saving of our country.”
A few savvy denizens of the Web undoubtedly made an impact this year, but Noonan’s version of the blogger revolution comes up a bit short itself in the research department — she seems to have missed the lefty bloggers who busted Fox News for publishing a fake report ridiculing John Kerry, and others who exposed the Bush campaign for using phony images of U.S. troops to beef up a TV ad at the peak of the race.
And what did some of those invaluable pajama-clad pundits of the right have to add about the election outcome? Self-styled firebrand Adam Yoshida (a citizen of the freshly popular liberal refuge of Canada, no less) envisioned a special new role for Dems and liberals — especially for the women:
“If anyone needs to work to ‘bring the country together’ it’s those on the left who have divided it so badly. Those who sought to destroy this great man should get down upon their knees and beg the victors for mercy. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll let a few of them linger on for the simple reason that they amuse us. My life’s goal is to see the Democratic Party virtually obliterated and left as a rump of people like [Democratic Rep.] Stephanie Herseth [of South Dakota] who both mostly agree with us anyways and are easy on the eyes.
“That’s the future of the Democratic Party: providing Republicans with a number of cute (but not that bright) comfort women.
“Let’s face a hard truth: this was the bitterest Presidential campaign in living memory. The Democrats and their allies staked everything on the defeat of this President. All of the resources they had accumulated over a generation of struggle were thrown into this battle: and they have failed. Despite all of their tricks, despite all of their lies, the people have rejected them. They mean nothing. They are worth nothing. There’s no point in trying to reach out to them because they won’t be reached out to. We’ve got their teeth clutching the sidewalk and out [sic] boot above their head. Now’s the time to curb-stomp the bastards.”
“To the sneering punks who called Bush a smirking chimp, the conspiracy nutjobs who couldn’t say four words without Halliburton dribbling out of their mouth, the goons who tried to shut down GOP campaign offices, the morons who think Bush is an idiot, the defeatists who encourage our enemies while demanding that we don’t dare question their patriotism, the thugs who painted swastikas on Bush campaign signs, the sophists spouting ‘regime change begins at home’, the historically challenged fools who compare Bush to Hitler, the ‘It’s all about oil’ idiots, the ‘Fahrenheit 911′ watching simpletons, the delusional paranoids who claim that fascism is now upon us, the self-important nobodies who fancy that their dissent is even worth crushing, and the disaffected expatriates who trash our president and country overseas to curry favor with their Euro buddies, I have a simple message using the straightforward words of Dick Cheney:
“Go fuck yourselves.”
Turns out there’s an extra-exclusive A-list for some extra-deserving offenders:
“I also want to extend my one fingered victory salute to some specific individuals and groups. So here’s a big Fuck You victory shout out to:
“Michael Moore, The City Pages, Al Franken, National Public Radio, Bruce Springsteen, MoveOn.org, Barbara Streisand, the a-holes at The New York Times (big-time!), Dan Rather, Rock The Vote, Garrison Keillor, CBS News, George Soros, The Guardian, Michael Stipe, The Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial board, P Diddy , Minnesota Public Radio, Nick Coleman, CNN, Paul Krugman, Kim Ode, the eastern half of Canada, Molly Ivins, Whoopi Goldberg, and France.
“And I have a further message to all those (especially relevant for Michael Moore) who claim that they’d rather leave the country than spend another four years in George W. Bush’s Amerika: Don’t let the border gate hit your ass on the way out.”
Looks like Noonan may have had it right, after all: Who needs the New York Times or CBS to set the record straight when we’ve got these bright lights on the beat?
GOP power broker and president of Americans for Tax Reform Grover Norquist got giddy over the Republican sweep. The Democrats, he told PBS’s Bill Moyers, better prepare themselves to be a permanent minority party. His comments followed a recent article in which Norquist predicted the GOP would zoom ahead with a sweeping range of policy changes, while the Dems continue to sputter toward 2008 with Hillary at the wheel.
“The next four years are a wonderful opportunity for the GOP,” Norquist wrote. “They’re a chance for the party to see what its governors and senators can achieve in lowering and simplifying taxes, offering parents school choice, ending abusive lawsuits, protecting gun rights and other liberties, and furthering decent, limited government. The next Republican candidates for President will have to make their case not through ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ speeches, but rather by enacting real legislation and pointing to concrete results. And all eyes will be on this virtuous competition within the Republican Party. Why would anyone pay attention to the Democratic Party nomination process? Hillary Clinton cannot be defeated for the nomination, and she can’t win the Presidency. Boring.”
Right-wing radio host and Weekly Standard contributor Hugh Hewitt didn’t exactly join forlorn Dems for a conciliatory chorus of “Kumbaya.”
“The sixties ended on September 11, 2001,” Hewitt said, “but they were interred on the morning of November 3, 2004, when a senator from Massachusetts played the reverse role of another senator from Massachusetts 44 years earlier. In November of 1960, John F. Kennedy had received a call from Richard Nixon, conceding the election, an act of statesmanship that still redounds to Nixon’s credit. Nixon’s chances of successfully waging a recount of Illinois and Texas votes were higher than Kerry’s of contesting Ohio’s votes, but both would have been long-shots, and both would have strained the country’s reserves of civility. Both men chose well, and John Kerry’s final act of Campaign 2004 was by far his best.”
If Hewitt felt he was throwing Dems a bone by likening Kerry to Nixon, he outdid himself with some helpful advice on how to reanimate the liberal face of the party.
“A new left, confident of American power in the service of security at home and freedom abroad, could still emerge. Joe Biden has to be shoved aside, and Joe Lieberman elevated. Pat Leahy has to get an elbow and a talking to about how his extremism has played over two election cycles. In short, the old left has to let go, and let the new left grow up and learn to shun the nuts like Michael Moore while learning to support American foreign policy.”
Aussie blogger Tim Blair took satisfaction in having predicted deep psychic pain in the losing camp.
“This site, October 26: ‘Expect a windfall for shrinks if Bush wins a second term.’
“New York Newsday, November 5: ‘This week, many therapists in Kerry-friendly New York found their clients left personal issues at home, instead seeking professional help for post-election political despair. Manhattan psychologist Bonnie Maslin said many of her patients cried about the lost election and the reality of the Republican victory. They talked about hopelessness. They said they felt isolated, depressed and angry.’
“It would be wrong,” Blair added, “to hang around Manhattan psychologists’ offices wearing all black and a Bush-Cheney cap, waiting for tearful patients to emerge, then following them while taking notes. Wrong, but fun.”
And the prize for biggest flip-flopper went to Andrew Sullivan. En route to punching his ballot for Kerry last week, Sullivan had spent months savaging President Bush for his stand against same-sex marriage and for bungling the war in Iraq. But when the election went the wrong way, Sullivan apparently suffered a dramatic change of heart:
“The most fundamental fact of this campaign — and one of the reasons it has been so bitter — is that we are at war. Our opponents at home are not our enemies. The real enemy is the Jihadist terror network that, even now, is murdering innocents and coalition soldiers in Iraq. Our job now — all of us — is to support this president in that war, to back those troops, and to pray for victory …
“I’ve been more than a little frustrated by the president’s handling of this war in the past year; but we have to draw a line under that now. The past is the past. And George W. Bush is our president. He deserves a fresh start, a chance to prove himself again, and the constructive criticism of those of us who decided to back his opponent. He needs our prayers and our support for the enormous tasks still ahead of him. He has mine. Unequivocally.”
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Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)