I am in memoir reading mode, having just finished Patti Smith’s sweet book about her and Robert Mapplethorpe coming of age in 1970’s New York. Born in 1963 I missed the boat showing up at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s long past their hey day. I am now reading James Wolcott’s memoir Lucking Out, which mines the same time period from a different perspective.
I wasn’t a hip kid and definitely was’t the coolest musically when it all began. I was an early Dylan and Deadhead with an initial aversion to Led Zeppelin and the like but it pretty much changed one day in 1978 when my sister came home with three records, Kaya by Bob Marley and the Wailers, a record I can’t remember, and Easter by the Patti Smith Group.
The cover affected me even before I heard the record—who was this chick with underarm hair flashing before my fifteen year-old eyes? I fell in love and never looked back.
I have always been a hippie, what can you do? Even as I came to worship The Clash, The Buzzcocks, and the Sex Pistols I never felt any anger about it all. I was clearly anti-establishment but I didn’t really have the energy for the rage.
The thing that struck me most about Patti Smith’s story is just what a hippie she was as well. Hippie and punk are silly terms when it comes down to it but she just strikes me as way more hippie beat poet than punk. And the image of her and Mapplethorpe sitting around listening to Tim Hardin (a particular favorite of mine) and Dylan just cements why it was so easy for me to love her and her music.
My list of Greatest Records Ever Made is ridiculously long but Horses has never left it these thirty odd years later.
I started watching videos of Patti Smith Group as I neared the end of the book and was particularly pleased to share them with my daughter Ida, whose recent transition from Katy Perry to Joan Jett is making me very happy (Though she is also obsessed with Wicked and I need to get some Sondheim in there).
I can only hope that someday she sees in Patti Smith the same things that I did back in 1978 and still do in 2012.
And then I found this…