366 Songs 156: Son of Sam

Also from Elliott Smith’s Figure 8, also great: Son of Sam, which ends up with a lovely piano line but apparently started as something entirely guitar-based; this was originally released as a “demo version” of the song:

And here’s the final, album version with the piano taking the place of the guitar:

First off: The finished version really gains something from the piano, doesn’t it? Not that it wasn’t a great song before – It clearly was/is, not least of all because of the lyrics, which feature amongst some of Smith’s best; I’ll get back to that in a second – but the piano adds not just a fragility and variation in aural color, but also the greatness of the honky-tonk piano moment that happens after “King for a day” at 1:42.

Secondly, back to those lyrics: I love the creepiness inherent in the song, embedded deep in lines like “I’m not uncomfortable being weird/Long revered options disappear/But I know what to do” and “Acting under orders from above,” but the surrender as the song closes is a lovely piece of taking one common thing and turning it into something much less comfortable (As if naming the song after a serial killer wasn’t hint enough): “I may talk in my sleep tonight/Cause I don’t know what I am/I’m a little like you/More like the son of Sam,” followed by a “ahhhhh,ahhhh, ahhhh” breath out/pop note moment that’s just a little bit more unsettling because of where it ended up.

Here’s to being not uncomfortable, being weird.

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