As fans of the Doors, Biggie, John Lennon and now Amy Winehouse know, death doesn't stop a beloved musical icon from releasing new music. But with seemingly all of Elliott Smith's odds-and-ends compiled on his second posthumous collection 'New Moon' (that title didn't have the same association back in 2007), it seemed as if the double-disc comp had covered everything. So it was a shock for a curious collector when just weeks ago he discovered an entirely forgotten, largely unheard Smith song from 1997.
The song, "Misery Let Me Down," was caught on tape just before the 27-year-old Smith played a set for a college station at the University of Maryland, College Park. Back then, 'Either/Or' had just come out but he was a year shy of massive exposure thanks to his uncomfortable performance at the Academy Awards for an original song in 'Good Will Hunting'.
According to a detailed account at the Washington Post, Smith's gig--recorded on the fourth floor of a campus dining hall--was transferred to MiniDisc for the station's library but it soon disappeared.
Fast forward to May of 2011, when a long-graduated student and former college DJ decided to sell his dust-gathering MiniDisc player on eBay, only to discover it contained the archived session, which he realized he must have accidentally stolen over ten years ago. He returned the disc to the station, but it wasn't until a 37-year-old fan from Burbank, CA, emailed the college station just last month for a copy of the radio gig that someone finally realized they had a previously unavailable song on their hands.
Like much of Elliott Smith's work, the almost jaunty acoustic tune belies the depressive lyrical content. "Misery Let Me Down" finds the troubled singer declaring that even the dependable emotion of "misery let [him] down" in this instance. Now that's a devitalizing sentiment Eeyore wishes he thought of first.
The song cuts out after two minutes--possibly because the actual radio broadcast was about to begin--but it's a lovely reminder of Smith's considerable gift for melody even in this otherwise unrecorded warm-up tune.