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Roger Waters on wheat-pasting over the Elliott Smith memorial wall: "We had no intention to cover up something precious"


Roger Waters of Pink Floyd knows the artistic potency of an image on a wall.  But his recent campaign to wheat-paste an anti-war quote from President Eisenhower across American cities to promote his touring revival of the Floyd staple “The Wall” unexpectedly proved his point, after his employees pasted the quote over the storefront of Solutions speaker repair in Silver Lake. The wall has served as an impromptu fan memorial to the late singer-songwriter Elliott Smith for nearly a decade.

Smith passed away in Los Angeles in 2003, and fans have left personal messages and quoted lyrics on the wall, the backdrop to the cover art of his album “Figure 8,” ever since. But as of Monday night, fans noticed that the wall also featured Waters’ image of a soldier cradling a child with the Eisenhower quote nearby.

Though the oft-abused wall has also been a favorite target for taggers and is frequently overwhelmed by non-Smith-related writing, local reaction to Waters’ wheat pasting, including an L.A. Weekly blog post,  was swift and critical. In a phone interview Tuesday evening, Waters apologized to any Smith fans who found his choice of walls callous.

“It was absolutely an accident,” Waters said. “I didn’t want to disrespect Elliott Smith’s fans, and I’ve instructed (the team) to remove the wheat paste immediately. It was a random pasting in the normal course of this, and I want to make it public that we had no intent to offend or cover up something precious.”

Waters, who said he was unfamiliar with Smith’s work until this incident, said the national wheat-paste campaign is being coordinated from his New York offices and that the street art team based there didn’t know the wall’s importance to L.A. music fans.

A multimillion-selling artist accidentally using a memorial to a beloved local singer to promote the revival tour of a classic album is unfortunately ironic.  For Smith fans, it could underscore a cultural generation gap where a small independent album like “Either/Or” is as canonical to them as “The Wall” is to the mainstream.

Waters, who headlined Coachella in 2008 and brings his "Wall" tour to the Staples Center on Nov. 29, wrote a similar apology on his Facebook page Tuesday. He hoped his team wouldn’t be singled out among many others who have regrettably used the wall for non-Smith-related art or tagging.

“It’s not like this was some pristine monument and Roger Waters is the Big Bad Wolf who covered it up,” Waters said.

The pasting is made of biodegradable material, he said, and will be easily and quickly removed out of respect for Smith fans. But in hindsight, Waters felt the Eisenhower quote, about both the personal, economic and social costs of waging warfare, wasn’t too far afield from the work of Smith, a singer who articulately documented intimate emotional pain.

“That’s why I was so incensed when I read that article that said I paid someone to disrespect Elliott Smith,” Waters said. “I admit I didn’t know his music, but I’ve talked to people who do and it’s clear he was a young man who felt deeply, and any empathetic person wouldn’t have an issue with publicizing that quote.”

“I would guess, and this is only a guess,” he said, “but it’s my guess that he would have been sympathetic to that message.”

-August Brown

Photo: LA Times

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Comments () | Archives (11)

an unfortunate event for which Mr Waters has apologized.

Let's face it, pasters are in a rush to put up the posters and don't seem to care what they cover. Tthe marketing firm should make good and clean up the mess! Companies need to plan their campaigns more carefully in the future and control their people.

The biggest crime here is that Roger Waters was unfamiliar with Elliott Smith's music, or that anyone who considers himself a fan of songwriting could have missed out on Smith's music.

Lets be real, street gang taggers (not to be confused with graffiti artists) ruined that memorial a looong time ago. Maybe it was time to move on, I mean you still have Smith's music.

I love Elliot Smith, but when he passed in '03 it was pretty ridiculous how everyone and their mom knew or was connected to Elliot Smith in one way or another in Los Feliz/Silverlake.

They should rename Silverlake to "the six degrees of Elliot Smith".

This is terrible. Both the fact that Roger Waters had no idea who Elliott Smith was and his insincere apology, highlighted by his comment, "It’s not like this was some pristine monument and Roger Waters is the Big Bad Wolf...." Would Waters denigrate the shrine for John Lennon or Jim Morrison's grave site and express a similar level of ambivalence? Of course not. Waters can only hope that when he leaves this earth, whatever monument is left of him, isn't wheat pasted over to drum up publicity for a decades old album.

I sentence you to be EXPOSED before your peers!

'He hoped his team wouldn’t be singled out among many others who have regrettably used the wall for non-Smith-related art or tagging.

“It’s not like this was some pristine monument and Roger Waters is the Big Bad Wolf who covered it up,” Waters said.'

You bastard. Because other thoughtless people exist, it's ok for you to be thoughtless too?

Add this to hiring people who litter the desert by air dropping political leaflets and hiring careless people to hold on to your flying pig at Coachella to your own selfish bone-headedness.

R.I.P. Elliott.

it would have been nice for the article to have actually printed the Eisenhower quote that was mentioned in the article a few times....

Speaking as an LA street artist - who gives a crap? Hipsters need to stop being so precious about their mural. It's not like coca-cola put a poster up - this is Roger Waters - dedicated humanitarian who has been opening ears/eyes/minds/hearts since before they and Elliot were born. It was an anti-war comment! It was an honest mistake! Fine that there were some comments on it but weeks later people are still talking about this? The economy is collapsing, thousands of people are being murdered by the U.S. military abroad. Find a real target for your anger! This goes for the community and the journalists making a mountain out of a molehill. I can't even believe I had to take out time to write this...

Roger Waters is a hypocrite of the tallest order. If you listen to the Wall DVD commentary of Roger and Gerald Scarfe talk as the movie rolls, you will hear that Roger, is at heart, a facist. It was his idea to use real skinheads to shoot parts of the movie. It must be really difficult to find actors, who have no dialog, to play the roles themselves. He also mentions how he loves (in concert) to sing the song, "In the Flesh." I wonder why.

He also knows nothing about politics; hence, his far left leanings. He's never had a real job in his life, so he knows nothing what it's like dealing with human beings and all their foibles.

Stick to music, Roger. It's the only thing you know about.

Yes, it's tragic that his father died in WWll, but what would his alternative have been to that war as Britain was being bombed back to the stone age?


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