The chronicle of Patti’s life from suburban kid to internationally known poet, artist, and rock star is quite interesting and never boring. She mingles with all sorts of people, from rock stars to royalty, and always manages to stay true to herself. I saw a bit of myself in her, albeit Patti did her dance on a higher level than I’ve managed to achieve, but we both crossed paths with a lot of the same people, which wasn’t hard to do if you were in Manhattan at that time.
I’m not going to give too much away, but there’s a great anecdote in the book about her meeting with Jimi Hendrix, who used to live in this area, and left for the 1969 Woodstock Festival from his house in West Shokan. As Patti relates it, she ran into Jimi shortly after he opened his recording studio, Electric Lady, and Jimi told her his vision for the place. “He dreamed of amassing musicians from all over the world in Woodstock and they would sit in a field in a circle and play and play. It didn’t matter what key or tempo or what melody, they would keep on playing through their discordance until they found a common language. Eventually they would record this abstract universal language of music in his new studio.”
“The language of peace. You dig?” “I did”, said Patti.
This is only one of the many fascinating stories she tells in this excellent, well written autobiographical tome. The pages are littered with the people who were part of her life: Janis Joplin, Bobby Neuwirth (another former area resident), Allen Ginsburg, Johnny Winter and his manager, Steve Paul, Andy Warhol, Jim Carroll, Lenny Kaye, CBGB’s and the bands who started there in the ‘ 70s, plus artists, fashion designers, museum curators, and just plain folks. Just kids, as Ms. Smith says. READ IT!
I finished the book in the morning, and as I was headed in to my store to open up, I was looking forward to writing about it. When I got to the store, I immediately switched on the radio, as I do every day, and what should be playing but Patti’s version of “Gloria”, the only other version besides the original Van Morrison recording that matters. This has always been one of my favorite Patti Smith tracks, probably THE best thing she ever did besides the amazing “Ask the Angels” from Radio Ethiopia. She puts a really cool spin on the song, and makes it her own. As I listened again, and after reading her book, I realized that the beginning, when she sings about, “leaning on the parking meter” was probably written about Mapplethorpe. There’s actually a part in the book when Robert is waiting for her outside of some event that they could only afford one ticket to, where he is described as leaning on the parking meter and smoking a cigarette. Anyway, I thought it was cool that the song was playing as I prepared to write this column.
Recommended live music events for this week:
TONIGHT! January 20 – The Malibooz with Walter (“Magnet and Steel”) Egan, with special guests, The Doughboys, (3 time winner of Little Steven’s Underground Garage Coolest Song of the Week and #3 Coolest Song of the Year) – Bearsville Theater
Friday, January 21 – David Sancious (former keyboardist and guitarist with Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Sting, Peter Gabriel) – Bearsville Theater
Saturday, January 22 – Eilen Jewell – Club Helsinki, Hudson, NY – Eilen is the best kept secret on the music scene. Great songs, vocals, and band. Her guitar player Jerry Miller is world class, as is Club Helsinki, and Eilen herself. Club Helsinki is housed in a beautiful 19th century building, is the best club in our area, and deserves your support.
Sunday, January 23 – Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings (This is the band that Amy Winehouse used for her multi-platinum album, “Back to Black”, and one of the finest soul bands operating today. Catch them if you can!) – UPAC
Tuesday, January 25 – Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt – The Egg, Albany. John Hiatt is an American treasure, and one of our absolutely best songwriters, and, HE ROCKS! Lyle Lovett is Lyle Lovett. Everybody knows who he is. He’s Julia Roberts’ ex.
See you next week.