Elliott Smith would have turned 39 on August 6. If.
Not long ago I stopped in front of the Solutions Audio wall on Sunset Blvd. made famous in Autumn DeWilde's photos of Smith taken for the Figure 8 album and took some pictures of what it looks like now.
The wall is still there with the same familiar red and black swirling lines with messages written in the margins.
After Ellliott Smith's death in 2003, the wall became the spot where people went to grieve. It went from being signage for audio equipment to a wailing wall overnight. Dried flowers crumbled on the pavement, along with an occasional burning candle and torn paper note. The wall itself had become thick with Sharpie-penned messages to the singer.
It was repainted a couple of years ago, and its freshness was a little blinding. It felt clean, but was still Elliott Smith's wall. But then, slowly this time, the wall began to regain the notes, the thank-yous and the wishes for peace that Smith's fans had written on it in a flurry years earlier now came back in slow motion. Smith's own lyrics, quoted back to him through messages left on the wall, are some of the most touching.
It's an unintended memorial, and those are the truest kind. No sculpture or plaque needs to be hung to let people know who Smith was or his connection to the neighborhood. The ones who don't care can just walk past without a thought. But for those who know, seeing that wall and recognizing the origin of DeWilde's wonderful image, can act as a magnet to people driving down Sunset and stop people dead in their tracks.
More photos after the jump. All photos by Mark Mauer.
I still remember feeling a bit of pride when Smith sang “Miss Misery” during the Oscar telecast, up against dreck from Diane Warren and the Titanic theme. He didn't win of course, but just being there was a victory, a crack in the fissure, a step in the right direction.
Whatever his behavior, his addictions, his demons, the songs and the records are still wonderful, and the wall still stands. If you're at Sunset Junction this weekend, you might want to check it out at 4334 W. Sunset Blvd.
All photos by Mark Mauer.