Song of the Day #1,885: ‘Amity’ – Elliott Smith

elliott_xoHere’s a rare uptempo song from Elliott Smith — it’s downright hard rock by his standards. This isn’t a favorite of mine because I do prefer the pretty stuff (95% of his catalog) but it isn’t bad.

I came across an interview with Smith in which he explains the lyrics and reveals that even this seemingly upbeat track was colored by the depression that ultimately led to his suicide.

Elliott: It’s a really unguarded song – I made up the lyrics in a couple of minutes and didn’t change them. I like the way it feels, although it’s not an especially deep song at all.

Interviewer: No, not at all. but I love the feel of it. I was dancing around my basement a la Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction.

Elliott: [laughs] It’s, I don’t know… just a big rock song. It’s a pretty simple song. It’s not so much about the words themselves, but more about how the whole thing sounds. Some friends of mine said it sounded like I was trying to get something romantic going with someone, and that’s not what it was supposed to be about. It was supposed to be, “you’re really fun to be with and I really like you a lot because of that, but I am really, really depressed,” but I don’t know if that came across. When I said, “ready to go,” it was supposed to mean tired of living.

Interviewer: Oh?! Like, ready to check out of this world?

Elliott: Yeah. sorry to make the song depressing for you now. [both laugh]

Interviewer: That’s ok, I’ll still listen. I, too, had thought there was a romantic element to that song. I wondered if the word “amity” was a play on the French word “amite.”

Elliott: Actually, it’s a person I know.

Interviewer: My favorite part of the song is where you sing, “’cause you laugh and talk/and ’cause you make my world rock!” It’s such a departure from your usual style of writing, I liked the carefree aspect of it. I remember thinking that most songwriters couldn’t write those lyrics and get way with it. If anyone else had written that, I would have thought, “what a moron!”

Elliott: Yeah. [laughs] Yeah.

Interviewer: But you’re intelligent and your lyrics are so clever that I got the feeling you were purposely letting loose and having fun with the song.

Elliott: It was very simple. I was saying, “I really like you and it’s really great to hang out with someone who is happy and easy-going, but I don’t feel like that and I can’t be with you.”

Amity, Amity, Amity, Amity, Amity, Amity, Amity caught stars
In her arms
Hello, Hello Kitty happy in New York City
Amity walking like a lucky

I’m a neon sign and I stay open all the time
So let’s go, go, go, go

Amity Amity God don’t make no
Junk but it’s plain to see
He still made me
He told me so
I’m good to go
I’m ready to go

Cause you laugh and talk
And ’cause you
Make my world rock
I’m so, so, so, so

Amity, Amity, Amity, Amity, Amity, Amity, Amity good to go

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,885: ‘Amity’ – Elliott Smith

  1. Dana says:

    Wow, that’s a haunting interview! And but for that interview I never would have heard this as a song reflecting his depression or thoughts of suicide.

    I so wish Smith could have worked out his demons and lived. Hard to know whether a mentally stable Smith would have continued to make such great music, but I suspect he would have.

  2. Andrea Katz says:

    That interview actually gets to the heart of that feeling. You can percieve a lot but you aren’t feeling connected at all. That is so sad…

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