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May 9, 2007


Over the past couple of days, I have become immoderately fond of Patti Smith's new album, Twelve. (First mentioned here last week, before I actually had it in hand. It is now, as a b-day present from my better half, and I'm on probably the dozenth listening, which seems appropriate.)

None of the songs on it come close to the effect of her early covers, which were William Burroughs-ian transformations of rock standards -- her "Gloria," with its cut-up of Van Morrison song and Baudelaire, for example, or the Symbionese Liberation Army reworking of "Hey Joe" (the B side of her debut in 1974, the great "Piss Factory" single).

That's okay. I really don't want her to try to do the same thing again. The wrenching surrealist duende of those recordings was great, and they still blow me away. But there's a lot to like about the texture of Twelve, which is much more gentle. There is a warmth and closeness to her voice amidst the arrangements. I feel tremendous affection upon hearing it again. As many times as I've ranted/chanted/declaimed along with her while listening to Easter --

what i feel when i'm playing guitar is completely cold and crazy, like i don't owe nobody nothing and it's just a test just to see how far i can relax into the cold wave of a note. when everything hits just right (just and right) the note of nobility can go on forever. i never tire of the solitary E and i trust my guitar and i don't care about anything. sometimes i feel like i've broken through and i'm free and i could dig into eternity into eternity riding the wave and realm of the E. sometimes it's useless. here i am struggling and filled with dread--afraid that i'll never squeeze enough graphite from my damaged cranium to inspire or asphyxiate any eyes grazing like hungry cows across the stage or page. inside of me i'm crazy i'm just crazy.....

-- it means a lot to hear her at the age of sixty, sounding happy and in her element, connecting with the music that made her (just as her songs helped so many other people fashion themselves) and that she honors.

One song here that I particularly enjoy (that is an understatement: we're talking serious endorphin emission at some point) is her cover of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." You can listen to it here. There's also video of her performing it live in April:

Now, a gloss on this rendition, by way of a statement of the terribly obvious: It is not the least bit cool to like Tears for Fears, although I guess there might have been some self-conscious and arch/twee "1980s revival" exception to that rule attempted at some point in the past twenty years.

Man, does that shit ever get old. The really lovely thing about Patti Smith is that she has never indulged in it, not for one minute. I feel a kind of awe when thinking about this.

More on that some other time, perhaps. But for now (and as evidence) here she is, in 1979, talking to preteen kids and singing "You Light Up My Life," no doubt with Fred Smith in mind:

Posted by smclemee at May 9, 2007 10:43 AM


Oh, my God! It warmed my heart to see a crowd of children applauding the name of Mick Jagger, and cheering for Patti! This, and seeing Kim Gordon and daughter appear on Gilmore Girls, made me look forward to sharing my old LPs with my little boy.

Posted by: Anthony Nassar at May 9, 2007 12:23 PM