By this time, I had more than familiarized myself with the origins of punk. Caught up on Iggy & The Stooges, The Velvet Underground and explored the 60’s garage rock of The Seeds, The Electric Prunes, 13th Floor Elevators, MC5, etc.
One album I hadn’t purchased yet which I heard a lot about was Patti Smith “Horses.” I noticed John Cale of The Velvet Underground produced it. Cale produced The Stooges first album, brilliantly, and I already had respect for his work with The Velvets. It was time to get this album I had heard so much about.
My first listen to Patti Smith was a shock to my system. This was off the wall. It had a familiar sound that I heard out of Television, but this chick was crazy. She was rambling poetry, shrieking and stuttering. It had amazing energy, but I wasn’t really sure if I liked it. In fact I found her disturbing. Up to this point I had an immediate reaction to the punk stuff. It hardly took any additional listening. Patti didn’t hit me the first time.
By this time, her next album “Radio Ethiopia” came out. I bought it right away. I thought, maybe it’s a bit easier to get into. I was wrong. It was even more bizarre than Horses. I felt compelled to keep giving her a chance, but I still wasn’t invested in Patti.
I was encouraged by fellow punk fans to keep trying “Horses” After the fourth or fifth listen, it started to click. This was such a deep, interesting album. Eventually it became another album I could not get off my turntable.
Patti Smith played NYC a lot. I finally went to see her. After her live show, I was not a fan. I was in love. Her live performance was phenomenal. She played for over 3 hours and her ability to connect with her audience was on the level of Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger. That good. I have been a huge fan ever since. Seen Patti Smith about 7 or 8 times. She is an emotional artist, so if she is in the mood, she will be amazing, but sometimes she gives less than her best. This always bothered me, but at least she is honest.
I remember when her third album, “Easter” hit. She did a cover of a Bruce Springsteen song called “Because the Night”. By this time, WNEW radio in New York had been one of the few stations playing punk. Vin Scelsa, one of my all time favorite DJ’s, (still on WFUV, Saturday nights at 9pm – Idiot’s Delight) was raving about this new song by Patti Smith. I remember this very specifically. He played “Because The Night” It blew me away and Vin was so taken by it, he played the song at least 5 times in a row. Something that was never done on radio, and still would never happen today. Vin was floored. So was I. “Easter” cemented my love for Patti Smith.
“Horses” is by far her greatest accomplishment and over the years I realized how brilliant that album is and why it belongs in the top 50 of all time by many. I would recommend it to anyone, but buckle your seatbelts and give it a few listens before you run away.
Highlights are “Gloria”, “Free Money”, “Land”, “Horses”, “Redondo Beach”. Oh Hell, the entire album is amazing.