Friday, December 31, 2010
I was given the paperback version of Patti Smith's "Just Kids" by my wife for Xmas was instantly drawn to reading it (as opposed to putting it on the pile till Summer as usual). And I am loving it!
Most of all I'm in love with the language which hits me like Leonard Cohen's -- obviously coming from the perception of and expressed via the verbal prerogatives of a poet. I don't mean that everything is expressed in overwrought poesy, but that many things viewed from that skewed, penetrative perspective that belongs to the poet.
But I'm happily wallowing in her her chronicling of the 60/70's boho culture in NYC -- when it was significantly populated by working and lower middle class kids with artistic ambitions taking advantage of cheap rents in crappy apartments and plenty of menial jobs to pursue their dreams of becoming vital artists, rather than a buncha
trustafarians. The sense of style also highly beguiling -- when "style" just meant applying artistic ambitions to your basic living enviroment, dress sense etc. utilizing thrift store finds and the basic precept that every moment of your life should be lived as excitingly as you can manage.
Being a consumerist swine this is leading me to inventory my Patti swap: alla albums in the most updated versions I could manage, vintage vinyl bootlegs. 12" singles with non-LP B-sides, "Piss Factory" single (but the Sire re-issue, not the original on MER), Lenny's release of Patti and he in '71 and an autographed copy of her "Witt" book of po'ms that Jim Testa found cut-out at Strand Books. A signed David Gahr print of her and Sam Sheppard posing on a balcony at the Chelsea Hotel.
I recall the first time I saw her -- Spring '75, playing George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, a "hometown" gig for Lenny Kaye who's from North Brunswick (I'm pretty sure). This is just before they had a drummer and right after they'd released "Piss Factory" on their own MER label. Still one of the best gigs I've ever seen. They manifested the aura that ANYTHING was artistically possible at any moment -- in the best sense there was no rhyme or reason to the set, nothing was pro forma or predictable. Patti and co. flowed like Mercury from sweet and sassy Ronette street pop to Keef Richards toughiness to mad poetess and traced the line of ecstatic visionary that slithered through all of those. I've still got a handbill from that show with biographical notes that someone had scribbled on the back to prep me to interview her. And THAT'S a whole other story.
The New Brunswick connection was a funny thing. Years later Ivan Kral and his wife ran a video store in New Brunswick, Tony Shannahan, Patti's regular bassist once she came back from Detroit, lived around there and used to run the "Slaves of New Brunswick" revue on Tuesday nights at the Melody Bar (the house DJ was a cat named Matt Pinfield) -- he'd play a set and then back all comers. Every so often we'd be walking down Route 27 and Lenny Kaye would come running up to say "hi."
The pic this is illustrated with is by Robert Maplethorpe. It's pretty close to the Witt cover. if you can afford it you should buy some Maplethorpe art.