Sunday, March 23, 2008
To me, Easter Sunday and Patti Smith will always remind me of the other.
It was Patti Smith who punk'd me... in 1975 with the release of her John Cale-produced album Horses. I embraced the record for its French symbolist poetry references, its homage to rock n roll, beatniks and philosophy... for its iconic photography (by Robert Mapplethorpe)... for it being a record by a woman who wrote her own songs, marched to her own beat and spoke her mind regardless of whether or not her opinion would win friends or enemies.
When I started at UCLA, it was in the Spring quarter (rather than the Fall), as I had graduated early from high school and wanted to get that little head start on my college credits. I moved in to the dorms during Spring Break and since there was no one there, blasted my stereo and blasted Horses.
Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine... opens the album... Patti's Gloria with her version of Land of a 1000 Dances and Van Morrison/Them's Gloria at the end of the rabble-rousing track. Her reverent irreverence was punk attitude to me... a poet owning her words and shouting them over the controlled cacophony of a righteous rock n roll band.
A few years later, her third album, Easter made a dent in the mainstream charts with the single, Because the Night. The album's title track, Easter referenced Patti's (and my) favorite poet, the French imagist, Arthur Rimbaud's siblings, Isabella, Vitalie and Frederik. The speaker of the lyric is a rising sun/son Christ like voice -- Rimbaud or Jesus... take your pick. It an anthemic elegy and a lullaby at the same time.... not a raging riot of punk rock noise, but all the same, the words of punk rock's high priestess of cool....