It was announced last month that a massive 7″ singles compilation benefitting Planned Parenthood would feature songs from Björk, Bon Iver, Sleater-Kinney, Foo Fighters, the National’s Matt Berninger and Bryce Dessner, and more. One of the “more” was Elliott Smith, whose unreleased live version of “Pretty (Ugly Before)” has been revealed. Listen to the song below, which was recorded in 1999, years before it appeared posthumously on From a Basement on the Hill. The track features an accompaniment from Jon Brion on pump organ. According to Mark Flanagan, the owner of L.A. venue Largo, where the performance was recorded, this was the first time Smith ever played the song live.
“Jon [Brion] happened to be at Largo that night and he and Elliott sequestered themselves in my tiny upstairs office and he played us the song,” Flanagan said in a statement. “I found this cassette recording among the many cassette recordings I have of his shows from almost 20 years ago and can think of no better place for it to find it’s way to all kind people who support girls young and older in our world.”
Elliott Smith’s estate also issued a statement with the release of the song:
Elliott did and said many things in his life that showed his commitment to the principles that Planned Parenthood stands for, including equal rights for all, affordable and accessible access to healthcare, and a woman’s autonomy over her body. He was an outspoken feminist (evidenced not only by his actions and countless conversations with friends and family, but also by his culminating college thesis written in spring of 1991 entitled “Toward a Post-Structuralist Feminist Jurisprudence”). He went out of his way to play for or otherwise contribute to charitable causes. For these reasons, and so many more, Elliott’s family has no doubt that he would feel very proud to be part of this project.