Over the holidays in December, I read Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids. (It was officially published in January, but a friend at the publisher slipped an advance copy my way a little early.) I’d never listened to Patti Smith’s music, and the book was all about her early life in New York in the ’70s with Robert Mapplethorpe, before either one of them got famous. It was a great read and I recommend it whether you’re a Patti Smith fan or not.
I was curious about her music, too, especially her “seminal” first album, Horses (1975). I thought of buying it, and still hadn’t gotten around to it as of yesterday, when another friend (not the one who gave me the book) and I were having a conversation about artists we were interested in, but hadn’t yet bought for ourselves, for whatever reason – mostly not wanting to shell out for something we weren’t sure we’d like. It just so happened that he had Horses, and I had some Bouncing Souls albums (check them out! Great band, just went to one of their twentieth – twentieth! – reunion shows last year, they are amazing live), so we arranged a trade.
As much as I liked her book, I wasn’t sure I’d like Smith’s music, so I started listening to Horses on the subway this morning. For those who don’t commute by subway in New York, just believe me that it’s not the ideal environment for listening to music. The trains are loud, the stations are loud, the announcements are loud, other people’s headphones are louder than yours. When you’re standing on the platform and the train comes in, you can’t hear anything else. Also, I was reading a book, and not even trying to focus entirely on the music; I just wanted to get familiar with the sound of it, let it start sinking in on a subconscious level first, and really give it a good listen (or several) later.
But Patti Smith is really hard to tune out or ignore. Right away I liked the first track, “Gloria.” I kept getting distracted from my book (the newest from Elizabeth Gilbert, who I adore) by a strange instrument or a lyric that leaped out (“I lit a match and the void went flash” from “Kimberly”; “There must be something I can dream tonight” from “Elegie”). Horses doesn’t sound like any other music I own…and I like it.
Now, in the spirit of Just Kids, I’m going to go play in the park.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
What I’ve been reading: Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert
What I’ve been listening to: Third Eye Blind and Ursa Major, Third Eye Blind; Agony & Irony, Alkaline Trio; Horses, Patti Smith