I've been using Patti Smith as my work soundtrack this week. It's just the thing to boost the dopamine in my adderall-addled brain up into the happy zone where I'm capable of pretty much anything.
While I was looking around last night I stumbled across her MySpace page and learned that she's coming to the Showbox on August 11th with her longtime guitarist Lenny Kaye. I bought two tickets.
Smith is best known for her 1975 debut album Horses, but I'm more of a Radio Ethiopia guy. Released in 1976, this next effort was far more raw, dissonant, and experimental, and made all the more remarkable by the fact that the top Billboard release of that year was The Wings' Silly Love Songs.
Although a few of Radio Ethiopia's songs have tight pop rock structures, most are more improvisational, leading reviewers to charge that Smith lost control of her band. Lenny Kaye's guitar and Smith's ad libbed heroin inspired mutterings on the ten minute title track just kind of blow my mind every time I hear it. Critics gave the album a thorough trashing and hated this song in particular, but they're all idiots. To me, Radio Ethiopia is the 70s high water mark of rock & roll.
Born in 1946, Patti Smith blew into the seventies as the intellectual punk poet androgyn who would redefine cool for the next several generations. She was lovers with Robert Mapplethorpe (who shot the iconic photo of Smith that graces Horses), Jim Carroll, and Tom Verlaine. Smith wrote songs for Blue Oyster Cult, and in the early days earned an income as a rock journalist for Creem. She is the grande dame of punk rock and, as she's returned to the stage over the last decade, wears the role with great dignity and grace.
Maybe it's my age talking, but I swear she's sexier at 60 than she was at 29. Take a look at the clips below of her doing Free Money in 1975 and Dancing Barefoot in 2006 and tell me you don't agree.