Lou Barlow Provides Insight Into Iconic Elliott Smith Either/Or Cover Photo (+ full video of corresponding live set)

Earlier this year, the Kill Rock Stars label gave the deluxe reissue treatment to Elliott Smith‘s monumental third album, Either/Or.  The 20th anniversary expanded edition effort involves a couple of limited vinyl pressings that were remastered from the original tapes, and includes an extra disc consisting of “five live multi-track recordings from the Yo Yo A Go Go Festival in Olympia WA in 1997, as well as three previously unreleased studio recordings and one b-side gem.”  The care and attention put into the double LP is impressive, as it not only effectively reaches back to a musical triumph of the past, but presents brand new material and content of actual substance for both new and longtime fans alike.  Housed in a gatefold jacket, it comes with a postcard of the original master tapes and includes an insert of the original liner notes and some wonderful printed inner sleeves, which feature several “never-before seen photos” of the late songwriter.  But while the new photographs are one of my favorite additions to the repress, providing yet another layer to what already feels like such an intimate record, nothing could be more iconic than the cover photo of Elliott, cigarette in hand, seated on the counter in front of a graffiti-tagged mirror under the synthetic warmth of public restroom lighting.  Now, thanks to a new social media post by none other than Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr, The Folk Implosion, Sebadoh, Deep Wound), we have a bit more insight and context regarding the famous image.

Posting on the official Sebadoh Facebook page earlier today, accompanied by an image of the classic Smith cover photo next to one of themselves taken in the same location, only minutes apart, for comparison’s sake, Lou explains that Elliott was opening for Sebadoh at the time and that the idea to photograph each of them with the same backdrop actually came from the band’s tour manager, Deb Pastor.  Thanks to various commenters and other sources, it appears that the photograph was shot on September 16, 1996 at a now-defunct venue in Tempe, Arizona called Gibson’s, during Sebadoh‘s Harmacy tour.  I’m unsure of who else was on the bill, but for the following night’s show in San Diego, which Barlow also references, Smith was one of the early openers, followed by the pre-Pinback/Blackheart Procession project, Three Mile Pilot.

Check out Barlow‘s images and text (typos and all) regarding the photograph below, followed by the full video of the actual Gibson’s show in question.  The footage is pretty amazing to see, with Elliott ending his set with a cover of the Big Star classic, “Thirteen.”  Somehow, this video has a surprising low number of views on youtube since being posted 4 years ago.  Perhaps, we can  alldo something to remedy that.



these fotos were taken on the same day, same place, within minutes of each other a long time ago.. the top was used for the front cover of Elliott’s either/or LP.. the bottom has been in the bottom of a box for a couple of decades.. Elliott was opening for a Sebadoh tour and our tour manager/photographer-in-her-own-right Deb Pastor had the idea of capturing us in front of this graffitied mirror in th Phoenix AZ club..we are pictured with our one and only roadie Mike Flood, Elliott with his ubiquitous cigarette.. that night I drove with him in his car so he didn’t do the overnight drive to San Diego by himself.. within a few months people stopped talking while he played (as they did on this tour, he was less-known).. he said he preferred the talking t the silence because it made him less self-conscious.. – lou


Elliott Smith
Gibson’s – Tempe, Arizona
September 16, 1996


No Confidence Man
Needle In The Hay
Coming Up Roses
Between The Bars
Condor Ave
Some Song
Biggest Lie
Thirteen (Big Star cover)

Dead C

Located in Seattle, Dead C is the founder/editor, as well as the principal writer and photographer, of Monster Fresh. Creating the site in 2007, he did so with a specific dream in mind. Unfortunately, being a muscle relaxer-fueled fever dream, it's hard to recall all of the details. "I remember that my mom was there, but it wasn't actually her in the dream, it was actually 70s heart throb, Jan Michael Vincent. And everything took place here, in this room... but it wasn't actually here... it was different. The colors were washed out and, for some reason, there was a raccoon kicking it with us and it was wearing a holographic monocle."

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