monster with a heritage

[from "Patti Smithís Intuitive Mania," by Lisa Robinson, Hit Parader, March 1978]

Over a glass of Metaxa in New Yorkís Russian Tea Room, Patti Smith said, ďWhen I was younger, all I cared about was doing a book one day and having my drawings in a gallery. It was my whole life and my whole dream. But in the past couple of years, all I can think about is my band. Now I have a big book coming out, I have a gallery, and yet, the thing I seem to care the most about is playing the guitar.Ē

During the six-month recovery period from her Tampa stage fall, Patti finished her book (titled babel and to be published by Putnam in January) and arranged to have her drawings shown at NYís Robert Miller Gallery.

Now, as she prepares to record her third album and think about serious performing again (with the exception of a few impromptu gigs at local clubs, Patti wasnít well enough to undertake full-fledged touring), she talked with a gleam in her eye about her guitar playing.

ďI practice all the time. It used to be just intuitive mania, but now Iím so much into it, I feel like a monster when Iím playing guitar.

ďAt this point thereís still nothing that makes me feel more ecstatic than when I think I do something really good on guitar. And not like Eric Clapton good--I mean like some kind of feedback that would make Hendrix go--Ďwait a minuteí--you know?Ē

As for the sound she gets from her guitar (a Fender Duosonic) Patti claims, ďThe electric noise is getting more musical. Iíd say instead of white noise, itís more like eggshell. Did you know I made Guitar Player magazine? Me and Lenny (Kaye) were among the top 100 guitar players. Itís in alphabetical order, so Iím right near Keith Richards...

ďWhen I performed recently in Philadelphia at a radio benefit it was the first time since my fall that I was on a high stage, and I was a little afraid. I was sweating and I felt dizzy and weird. But I was curious to see what would happen. I thought I would be more conservative after my fall, but I think Iím crazier than ever. I have some fear, but it just doesnít outweigh my desire to be a maniac.

ďMusically, we are getting more sophisticated. Iím getting more sophisticated even though I donít want to. It just happens--itís like when you play long enough, you learn stuff. I can sing better, and itís happened in spite of myself. So with the guys, weíll grow and get stronger, be more sophisticated, but I think also I might start doing solo records.

ďOur record is late because we have to find a new keyboard guy. I told the guys that maybe we should just be the four of us (Patti, Lenny Kaye, Ivan Kral and Jay Dee Daugherty). We should go out with three guitars and drums and be the most unlistenable punk rock band of all.Ē

ďI really like these punk rock bands. I like that kind of music, I like that kind of energy. I identify with that kind of mania and I like the political and aesthetic aspects of it. Our band has pursued a more musical direction and since Iím part of the band I submit to that and try to grow with them. But there is a part of me that doesnít want to grow at all. Thereís a part of me that wants to be a maniac all my life.

ďIím still excited about this new time in rock and roll. I donít even care if CBGBís winds up as a tourist trap. I mean I care, but that stuff always happens. At least thereís some excitement, and I know that we inspired a lot of those bands. Just like I know that every new wave band owes half their heart to the Ramones. They may not say anything about it, I mean those kids arenít going to give credit...they have to maintain their swagger, they have to kill off their ancestors...

ďBut I come from being an artist, and part of the greatness of art is the heritage of art. I would never want to see the Louvre burn down. I love history, Iím not ashamed of that. Iím not ashamed of loving Hendrix or Rimbaud, thatís part of my style. Part of the style of these kids is to dump on the heads of anybody over 19. Sometimes I get real mad and want to give Johnny Rotten a spanking...but I understand them, I think itís cool.Ē

Copyright © Lisa Robinson 1978

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