"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)
Two things are apparent from American Apparel’s new print ad: 1) It features a line drawing of a lady instead of an actual model, and 2) She has pubic hair. (See the full NSFW ad here.) The first fact makes sense: The clothing company is in dire financial straits, so maybe transitioning to illustrations is a cost-cutting measure (or it’s meta commentary on the underground artist who creates fake line-drawn AA ads). But what about the big black bush?
Dov Charney has made a name for himself by stirring up controversy with his pervy behavior and aesthetic. At some point, though, American Apparel and its mastery of the style of P.O.V. porn ceased to be shocking. You can only photograph topless young women cavorting in bed so many times before your audience starts to yawn, That again? When that happens, it’s time for some subversive sexiness — imagery designed to arouse at the same time that it repulses. Enter: The bush.
This isn’t the first time American Apparel has gone there. Its 2008 full-frontal ad featuring unshaven porn star Sasha Grey raised eyebrows. Speaking of, the actress inspired a Twitter backlash this summer when she appeared with pubes on “Entourage.” I wrote at the time that “as the porn industry has defined the hairless norm, it’s also paved the way for a new, titillating taboo.” American Apparel had its own hand in the mainstreaming of the porn aesthetic, and now it’s rebelling against the standard it helped create.
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)