December 24, 2009

"My husband and I both wanted our children to have a traditional childhood, which didn't include being dragged from place to place on the road. So we decided to live a simpler life."

So said rock and roll icon Patti Smith.


blake said...

I might know who she was if she hadn't retired.

The Crack Emcee said...


One of my favorite Punk Rock stories is about Patti Smith, touring Europe, and singing "Rock 'N' Roll Nigger" in front of the American flag. Because it usually incited riots, her bandmates didn't want to keep unfurling the flag as the finale, but one night Patti just went off on them: "What's wrong with you guys? Aren't you American?" she shouted, and demanded they perform as instructed. She finally dropped out of Rock 'N' Roll to pursue life as a (more conservative) wife and mother.

Anyway, none of this surprises me. Patti's one of us:

A Rock 'N' Roll Nigger.

KCFleming said...

The traditional family is truly subversive to authoritarians.

ricpic said...

Because of Because The Night I forgive Patti Smith her hellaciousness in the looks department.

chickelit said...

I happened to see her last concert before her "retirement" in Florence, Italy (September 1979). She unfurled a huge American flag at the encore and the crowd went mental, storming the stage. For a period of 20 or 30 minutes, she looked and acted like a nervous hostage, even as she mocked her captors. Eventually, the situation calmed.

Don't ever let anyone say that such anti-Americanism began under Bush.

Robert Cook said...

I saw the Patti Smith Group perform in Florida in 1978 for $2.00, (with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as opening act!). They were of the great concerts of my experience. She opened with her poem "Babelogue," which seques into "Rock 'N' Roll Nigger" as it does on her album EASTER. It was as exciting an opening as I've seen. She also sang a wonderful version of "Be My Baby."

I was sorry when Patti left music, and I haven't really returned my attention to her upon her return, but she will always have my affection and admiration.

Robert Cook said...

"The traditional family is truly subversive to authoritarians."

The untraditional family even more so.

The Crack Emcee said...

Robert Cook,

There's no such thing as an "untraditional family". It's like "alternative medicine":

If something works, it's just "medicine".

You subversive types really need to get off your own bullshit, cause I ain't having it. You wanna change the world? Start being part of it.

Robert Cook said...

"You subversive types...."

Who, me? No sir. Not at all.

Fred4Pres said...

My wife and I look like Patti too with all the stuff that still has to be done this Christmas Eve.

Which allows me to segway in with Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah (even if I am late) and Seasons Greetings to Ann, Meade and all of you! I truly hope you have a great time over the next week and a wonderful 2010.

The Crack Emcee said...

Robert Cook,

"Who, me? No sir. Not at all."

Fine, you pushovers for subversive types,...

Your comment is like that D.C. mayor signing the gay marriage bill in a church - it's just snark designed to tweak others.

And it's exactly what we don't need more of.

The Crack Emcee said...

Happy Everything to you, too, Fred4Prez.

Lem said...

Merry Christmas to you all … including the heathens ;)

rhhardin said...

I broke out Leonard Bernstein's Messiah, since everything was played at the right tempo, that being the version I grew up with; but the modern YouTube singers are so much better that I put it away.

Hogwood, Comfort Ye.

vbspurs said...

OT: Bernie Madoff fell out of his prison bed. Now I don't know about you, but when I fell from my bed once, my knees were sore for a few days, but that's it. Ole Bernie suffered facial lacerations, broken ribs, and a collapsed lung after his "fall". Aww.

Ken Pidcock said...

I know the Althouse crowd hasn't much to do with PBS, let alone P.O.V., but I notice that there a few commenters expressing admiration for Patti Smith from back in the day. I share that admiration, believe me, but...

Do not watch this documentary.

It is the most dreadfully self-indulgent and boring bit of film you will ever see. You'll end up asking yourself, "What right does she have asking people to watch this?"

Anonymous said...

No Burning Log cafe tonight?

Anyway, Merry Christmas to Althouse and Meade on their first Christmas together. (Did you get a special Hallmark ball to hang on your tree?)

And Merry Christmas to all you commenters and lurkers out there. In the words of Tiny Tim: "What do you mean I have to wait 2 years for my leg operation under Obamacare? What happened to all of the orthopedic surgeons?"

Robert Cook said...

:Merry Christmas to you all … including the heathens ;)"

I am a heathen...I'll cop to that. You forgot to wish a Merry Christmas to the cranks.

The Crack Emcee said...

Merry Christmas to Ann, Meade, traditionalguy, Synova, Pogo, Victoria and all the rest - and yea, that includes you, too, Beth - from:

The Macho Response

Sure, you couldn't guess that, huh?

Lem said...

You forgot to wish a Merry Christmas to the cranks.

You leave my birthers alone.

I want to send a special shoutout to the Palins.. The next presidenta of the United States.

Lem said...

Oh yea.. Merry Christmas to Althouse & Meade.. the Bushes.. Rush Limbaugh and Nancy Reagan.

Lem said...

I'm trying to keep my list as least controversial as possible ;)

Lem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blake said...

Merry Christmas to all. And God bless us, everyone.

RLB_IV said...

Merry Christmas to Althouse and Meade on their first Christmas together as husband and wife.

Merry Christmas to all who gather at the Althouse Salon. May you continue the lively discussions
through out the new year.

Peace and good will to all.

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Wince said...

Wow, memories. I was backstage for three dates in two cities when Smith returned to the stage as support act for Dylan's theater tour in 1995.

As I remember, Smith’s teenage kids were on her bus, along with Michael Stipe. R.E.M. had just completed their first return to the stage after five years. Smith had been an influence on Stipe ever since he was a teenager who saw her on SNL. They became close friends, especially after Fred Sonic Smith’s death, so he tagged along as moral support, ex officio photographer and chaperon to her kids. Stipe later published a book of photographs, Two Times Intro, documenting the tour. Tom Verlaine of the band Television was also on the tour.

The first night I was unaware Smith was the support act. Expecting a typical Dylan gig, in walks Smith, Stipe and Verlaine, adding a whole different vibe. And the tour was so low key with so little entourage, there was hardly anybody backstage. So, when they weren’t on stage, everybody was pretty much just hanging out in the corridor, although as usual Dylan pretty much kept to himself in the dressing room.

In fact, this was the occasion when Dylan was sneaking around incognito under a hooded sweatshirt in a way that reminded me of that composite sketch of the Uni-Bomber.

Just before the tour, Smith collaborated with R.E.M. on the haunting, off beat spoken word dirge...

E-Bow the Letter

Look up, what do you see?
All of you and all of me
Fluorescent and starry
Some of them, they surprise

The bus ride, I went to write this, 4:00 AM
This letter
Fields of poppies, little pearls
All the boys and all the girls sweet-toothed
Each and every one a little scary
I said your name

I wore it like a badge of teenage film stars
Hash bars, cherry mash and tinfoil tiaras
Dreaming of Maria Callas
Whoever she is
This fame thing, I don't get it
I wrap my hand in plastic to try to look through it
Maybelline eyes and girl-as-boy moves
I can take you far
This star thing, I don't get it

I'll take you over, there
I'll take you over, there
Aluminum, tastes like fear, take you there
Adrenaline, it pulls us near
I'll take you over there
It tastes like fear, there
I'll take you over

Will you live to 83?
Will you ever welcome me?
Will you show me something that nobody else has seen?
Smoke it, drink
Here comes the flood
Anything to thin the blood
These corrosives do their magic slowly and sweet
Phone, eat it, drink
Just another chink
Cuts and dents, they catch the light
Aluminum, the weakest link

I don't want to disappoint you
I'm not here to anoint you
I would lick your feet
But is that the sickest move?
I wear my own crown and sadness and sorrow
And who'd have thought tomorrow could be so strange?
My loss, and here we go again

(repeat chorus)

Look up, what do you see?
All of you and all of me
Fluorescent and starry
Some of them, they surprise

I can't look it in the eyes
Seconal, spanish fly, absinthe, kerosene
Cherry-flavored neck and collar
I can smell the sorrow on your breath
The sweat, the victory and sorrow
The smell of fear, I got it

I'll take you over, there
Aluminum, tastes like fear,
Adrenaline, it pulls us near
I'll take you over, take you there
Aluminum, tastes like fear, there
Adrenaline, it pulls us near
I'll take you over take you there
It tastes like fear
It pulls us near
I'll take you over take you there
I'll take you over
It tastes like fear, there
It pulls us near
Pulls us near
Tastes like fear
Tastes like fear
Nearer, nearer
Pulls us near
Over, over, over, over
Over, over, over, over
Yeah, look over
I'll take you there, oh, yeah
I'll take you there
Oh, over
I'll take you there
Over, let me
I'll take you there
I'll take you there
There, there, there, baby, yeah

Jason (the commenter) said...

blake: I might know who she was if she hadn't retired.

Here's a good place to start: Pissing in a River

LonewackoDotCom said...

If Patti Smith was attractive and could sing, it'd go something like this.

P.S. Guess who's being a Grinch this Christmas? Why, none other than world-renowned pundit and liberal doyenne Ariadne Huffanan.

Salamandyr said...

Merry Christmas Althouse & Meade. And Merry Christmas to the rest of you. Hope you get something under your tree that you were wanting.

Penny said...

"I might know who she was if she hadn't retired."

But, blake? She says she knows you?

lucid said...

Fabulous, wondeful Patti Smith. Dream of Life contains some of the most beautiful, deeply felt rock anthems and ballads that I know. It is the most moving rock album that I know.

lucid said...

p.s. for at least several years, Smith has done a birthday concert at a fairly small venue in New York.

Beth said...

I might know who Mozart was, if he hadn't died.

Beth said...

Merry Christmas, everyone!

We went to the river parishes tonight, where they light bonfire towers all along the river so Pere Noel can find the houses down in the bayou. One bonfire was shaped like a fleur de lis: Geaux Saints!

blake said...


I've never claimed to be a pop music maven. (And yeah, it's all pop to me.) If Patti Smith is the Mozart of pop music, I guess I'll have to live with that shame.

Beth said...

My traditional and untraditional sides both wish you a merry Christmas, Crack. Peace on Earth.

Republican said...

Ugh. Another outdated over hyped has-been making a pretend comeback after nobly raising her kids. Blah blah. Hopefully shell be leaving soon to raise grandkids.

Freeman Hunt said...

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Balfegor said...

The untraditional family even more so.

Er, how? The reason the traditional family subverts authoritarianism is that it provides people with a defined tradition, with established roles and expectations, which provide them with a focal point for resistance against the kinds of social change modern authoritarians wish to impose. Precisely because "untraditional" families do not have these deep reservoirs of tradition, habit, and unconscious expectation, they're not automatic points of resistance against authoritarianism. They're not exemplars of a competing social order, because they're a rejection of the established social order. In 100 years, perhaps that will be different. But if those kinds of arrangements survive for 100 years, they'll be a tradition unto themselves.

Furthermore, in many ultra-traditional families, the age and independent tradition of the family itself stands as a kind of rebuke to the merely temporary power of this or that prince, dynasty, power, state, or ideology. The family is older than any such things, and its antiquity is a reminder that this too shall pass -- a reminder of the hardships that we have endured and overcome in the past, giving confidence that we will survive the present too.

And Merry Christmas, all.

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Freeman Hunt said...

The family is older than any such things, and its antiquity is a reminder that this too shall pass -- a reminder of the hardships that we have endured and overcome in the past, giving confidence that we will survive the present too.

Nicely put. Nice to think on too.

ricpic said...

Tremendous post, Balfegor.

AllenS said...

I read the article until I got to this: protesting the policies of the Bush administration, then I said, I'm outta here.

John said...

What Bush administration policies do you think she was protesting? And what do you want to bet whatever they were, the Obama administration has continued them.

traditionalguy said...

Best wishes to all for restored relationships in your families and a prosperous new year as we await the return of the Prince of Peace to the earth. It has been a pleasure to read all of the commenters at Althouse this year. And a special thanks to Crack Emcee for keeping me thinking straight in the midst of a world of distractions.

Skyler said...

It's good to know I'm not the only one that's never heard of Patti Smith. I guess I should wiki her. But since after reading the article and all these comments I still don't know who she is i figure my life will be fine without looking her up.

Michael Haz said...

I was searching the internet for discount Nike sneakers for my traditional family when I found this YouTube vid of Gilda Radner as Patti Smith.

MeTooThenMail said...

Long Time Reader, Maybe First Time Commenter.

(Can't remember.)

First: Merry Christmas, Festivus, what have you.

Second: Ms. Smith is a pretentious fraud. A very talented and influential musician, singer, songwriter, yes, but a fraud, as well.

As noted above (and please forgive my Humbug) which of the Bush policies did she so tirelessly work against and now with the election of Mr. Obama has she found it appropriate to cease?

2) Two wars? Support the troops, bring them home?
3) Deficit spending?
4) Poor economy (5% or less unemployment DJIA 13,000 vs. 17% U6 and all time highs for gold, devalued dollar)
5) Gitmo still open for business
6) Indefinite incarceration for "detainees?"
7) Overseas and domestic wiretapping?
8) Interpol now given immunity here in the USA and license to arrest US citizens? (A new one I know, but still reminiscent of BusHitler)

Need I go on?

Either she really opposed these and other issues as a matter of principle but remains silent now in an unprincipled fashion, or she only took up these issues for unprincipled reasons and she never did care about them.

The plain and simple truth is there is much confusion as to celebrity and stardom and what it means as compared to knowledge and wisdom in complex, dynamical, and often dangerous or precipitous systems.

That this should be obvious but is lost on so many is the main reason for the many historical cults of personality and worse.


Oh, and Merry Christmas, etc.

Just sayin'.

The Crack Emcee said...

If I stopped reading about everyone who claims not to like the Bush administration, I wouldn't have hardly anything to read. People, generally, are idiots - and, yea, frauds. But it wouldn't be so if more people called others on it.

Can't expect that from PBS, though - unless, of course, they're talking about the Bush administration.

The Crack Emcee said...


I don't have too many spiritual types in my life, except online, but you're waaay up there on my list of the good ones. I don't know how this is going to read, but I think you and I prove an atheist can, ostensibly, adhere to acceptable Christian values, and a Christian can be seen as something other than gullible. A true lesson for many.

Merry Christmas, TG, you mean a lot to me.

Michael Haz said...

No doubt Ms. Smith protested against the Bush tax cuts by doubling down on her federal tax payments.

Old RPM Daddy said...

Late to this party, as usual. Don't know that much about Pattie Smith, except that her version of "Gloria" knocked my sox off, and that her take on "Land of a Thousand Dances" contains what must be the only instance of the phrase "ptuitary gland" in pop music lyrical history.

Was she doing stream-of-conciousness lyrics when she recorded that?

Wince said...

As a follow-up, found a link Boston Phoenix writer Al Giordano's behind-the-scenes account of Patti Smith joining the Dylan tour, beginning at the home of Patti Smith's parents, Jehovah's Witnesses, on Thanksgiving Day 1995.

Provides a good flavor of the scene at the time, the people involved and the relationships between them.

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