You Won’t But You Might: On Elliott Smith’s Suspended, Hopeful ‘Either/Or’

Elliott Smith had been playing “King’s Crossing” sporadically at his shows for four years before he recorded it in late 2003. But it was only in his last few months, in a streak of sets that ran from transcendent to painful depending on the his chemical imbalances, that his half-sister, Ashley Welch, and his girlfriend, Jennifer Chiba, would add their responses in-time. At the end of Smith’s second chorus, after he sang the crippling line “Just give me one good reason not to do it,” they would scream back: “Because we love you!”

You can find videos and bootlegs of those late performances now, Smith singing the line before voices come in from off-camera, piercing the white noise. The one that I keep coming back to is from the Henry Fonda Theatre, January 31, 2003. He opened his set that night with “King’s Crossing,” stuttering and slurring through the track, losing his phrasing while his right hand struggled to stay steady, a warped cog throwing off an intricate machine.

And then there’s the scream: “Because we love you!”

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