I “discovered” the music of Patti Smith (now called by the press and people under the age of 40 as “THE GODMOTHER OF PUNK”), in 1978, the year that Easter, the Patti Smith Group‘s 3rd album came out. I was 17 years old, and a “real wild child.” I was outside the house I was sharing with some friends, a moldy pot of stew on the stove, mushrooms growing on the bathroom floor and silverfish skittering around between them, stacks of Playboy magazines, half-gallons of rum and vodka and Wild Turkey, a 3-foot bong that I took into the shower with me every morning (at least my body was clean), and a baggie full of Preludins (pharmaceutical speed). And my black cat Lester. And some great albums, like PSG‘s Horses, Radio Ethiopia, and Easter. I couldn’t get enough. Of any of it. Especially the song from Radio Ethiopia called Ain’t It Strange. Truly a shamanic piece of music. “I move in another di-men-sion!“, and in the song Radio Ethiopia she sings, or manages to slur the words out of her dimension toward ours, “Deep in the heart of your brain is a levahhhh. Innnnn the heart of your brain is a switchhhhh.” I would get up and put this on full-blast first thing in the morning, but in the course of the summer I became agoraphobic (couldn’t leave the house).
It wasn’t until I was 43 years old, some 26 years later, that I got the chance to see her in concert. I cried when she did Birdland, because back when I was 17 and listening to that song, I didn’t even think I’d be alive at 43, much less standing a few yards away from Patti Smith, who was singing one of my favorite songs. Please check out the video to the right. It has a few great shots of the young Patti, but the song is fantastic.
And if you have time tonight at 9:00 CMT, on PBS they’re showing Dream of Life, the biographic film about her. It’s beautifully done.