Books About Patti

[comments by John D. deGozzaldi and Fiona Webster]
Patti Smith: Rock & Roll Madonna (1979)
Photo-journal by Dusty Roach
Dusty Roach and Books, South Bend, Indiana, USA
paperback, 95 pages

This book is in two parts. The first part is biographical, starting with Patti's childhood and ending with the release of Wave. The second part is what the author calls "A Critical Eye". In my opinion, this book has good points and bad points. It has the best collection of obscure photos [all B & W] that I have ever seen. Included is a baby picture, pictures of Patti as a little kid, as a teenager, in high school with classmates, and many tour/concert shots that I haven't seen anywhere else. I also found much of the author's critical viewpoint agreeable. However, it seemed to me that the biographical part was not the best. It was written in a style where names of certain people, records, songs, groups, etc. leap out at the reader in enormous capital letters. I personally found that rather annoying. There also were some inconsistencies here and there (such as the mention of the book Kodak in the text, but not in the list of Patti's books). I also felt that the author was attempting to place Patti on some sort of "above everyone else" level. These are my opinions, of course. Also included is a bibliography, an album discography (including the British Set Free EP, but no other singles or EPs), and a rather worthless bootleg discography.     --J.D.D.
Patti Smith : High on Rebellion (1988)
Babylon Books, Manchester, UK
paperback, 56 pages

This book is essential to any Patti fan. It starts off with a short biography that was well written (by "the Muir," whoever that is). In addition, there are a lot of photos and drawings and important reprints, such as that of the Nov. 29, 1976 "Hungerthon" Interview on WNEW FM, with Patti's follow-up statement, which was published in Yipster Times (3/77), and the 1973 interview in Interview magazine. [NB: all three now available on this website.] There are also reprints of book reviews and lists of articles from different magazines, including record and concert reviews with dates. There is also a huge list of bootleg records with tracks and sound ratings. I've noticed that some of the more current retrospectives published since Dream of Life make use of material from High on Rebellion.     --J.D.D.

Added comment from F.W.: neither Rock & Roll Madonna nor High on Rebellion are conventional-looking books with copyright pages, ISBN #s, etc. They are small-press publications that look like thick bound magazines, in a 8 1/2" x 11" format.

From the Velvets to the Voidoids : A Pre-Punk History for a Post-Punk World (1993)
by Clinton Heylin
Penguin USA (Paper);
ISBN: 0-14017-970-4 ;
Paperback - 384 pages (June 1993)
Dimensions (In Inches): 0.80 x 8.41 x 5.50

This must be the Beginning of any Serious Examination of "Punk" - the Cultural Phenomenon, the Music, the Performers, and the History. It's lack of detailed attributions is a major flaw, but there is no where else to Begin. It is one of the First books to document the early Scene at the Chelsea Hotel, including the contributions of Bob Neuwirth and Sam Shepard; it documents the supposed quarrel (truly Minor) between Patti Smith and Deborah Harry and it demonstrates that Roberta Bayley has been a prejudiced witness to Patti Smith's career from earliest days. All of Which is only Incidental to the main thrust of the book which details (more or less adequately) the New York City Pop Music Milieau from the mid-60's through the late 70's; From the early days of the Velvet Underground, Iggy Pop, the MC5, the New York Dolls, and the Modern Lovers, to Richard Hell and the Voidoids.
Simply Indispensable.
Punk Diary : 1970-1979 (1994)
by George Gimarc
St. Martin's Press;
ISBN: 0-31211-048-0 ;
Paperback - 263 pages Book & Cd edition (August 1994)
Dimensions (in inches): 0.80 x 10.01 x 7.05

"Opening appropriately with the August 1970 release of the second LP by the Stooges (from whom sprang Iggy Pop), Gimarc's chronicle of the punk era is a day-by-day accounting of the formation (and often demise) of dozens of punk rock bands, their RECORDINGS and PERFORMANCES [Gimarc's catalogue of such is Impressive if not quite Exhaustive.],... Although he does take a few important U.S. acts (the New York Dolls, PATTI SMITH, the Ramones, etc.) into account, Gimarc emphasizes UK punk,... informatively treating the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Damned, XTC, Elvis Costello, the Cure, the Jam,...
Absolutely essential reading for fans of punk/new wave bands."
Mapplethorpe: A Biography (1995)
by Patricia Morrisroe
Random House, New York
ISBN 0-394-57650-0
hardcover, 461 pages

This book is, of course, a biography of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, but the number of pages devoted to Patti Smith justifies its inclusion in this list. Morrisroe has obviously done a great deal of research. This book is well worth reading for its extensive (and so far as I know, factually accurate) account of Patti's life in New York in the late 60's to late 70's. Many people, especially Patti herself, have objected to the tone of this biography, finding it sensation-mongering, cold, and patronizing. (See, for example, Patti's comments to
The New Yorker, The Village Voice, and The Big O.) But read it with a good dose of salt, and you'll find much to appreciate in all the lively anecdotes.      --F.W.
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (1996)
by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
Grove Press, USA

This extraordinary history has a lot about Patti Smith in it -- she is covered second only to Iggy Pop. Includes lots of pictures.
Man Enough to Be A Woman (1996)
by Jayne County, Rupert Smith (Contributor)
Paperback (April 1996)
Serpents Tail; ISBN: 1852423382
Dimensions (in inches): 0.61 x 8.05 x 5.26

While Jayne County's Career is Eminently Worthy of Consideration, this Book, in addition, contains the only Known discussion of Patti Smith's work in Theatre - other than rare reviews of her single performance in Cowboy Mouth.
Patti Smith: A Biography (1997)
by Nick Johnstone
Omnibus Press, UK
ISBN 0-71196-193-X
paperback, 224 pp.

Respectful, Competent, but UnAuthorized biography. Available through Bookpage and Elsewhere.
High on Rebellion : Inside the Underground at Max's Kansas City (1998)
by Yvonne Sewall Ruskin
Introduction by Lou Reed.
Thunder's Mouth Pr; USA
ISBN: 1-56025-183-2 ;
Paperback - 224 pages (November 1998)
w/ 200 photos.
Dimensions (in inches): 0.99 x 9.49 x 8.64

Before Punk, before CBGBs, there was Max's Kansas City.... Everyone was there and Everyone is Here. Mickey Ruskin was da Man!
This Book is Easily as Important as McNeil and McCain's Please Kill Me....

back to babelogue