Thursday, May 13, 2010

This Is By No Means Definitive...

Starting a new section: "This Is By No Means Definitive..." will be dedicated to espousing some pressing concern that may just be a passing thought or something which I will come to regret in the future. Its just a way of saying something.

So to kick it off: This is by no means definitive...

...but I think that the most reactionary high-profiler in the history of punk might have been Patti Smith. A quote: "The masculinity in me gets inspired by the female. I fall in love with men and they take me over. I ain't no women's lib chick. So I can't write about a man, because I'm under his thumb, but a woman I can be male with. I can use her as my muse. I use women." I think her work bears the mark of anti-feminism and traditionalism that seems to run throughout her live show career as well. She proved that later on by becoming a wife and mother to Fred "Sonic" Smith; as James Grauerholz, member of the Patti Smith Group, put it: "Because through all of the revolutionary I AM RIMBAUD, I AM BAUDELAIRE, I AM BURROUGHS, there was a very strong torch-singer type--a Billie Holiday. I mean, the art was there, but in principle she'd give it all up for a good man... All Patti's heroes were usually heroic men, but her women heroes tended not to be the... strong leader women--but the kind of uncredited, passed-over-by-history supporter women."

And then there's the matter of her unspoken live politics during the last leg of her last tour in '78; as Jay Dee Daugherty, drummer of the Patti Smith Group, put it: "... she was very much into making her own statement without much thought of how it would be perceived... In America, we would raise a very large American flag for a backdrop during the last song. I had mentioned previously that I thought that when we were in Europe we might want to eighty-six that. You know, lose the flag. It might be perceived imperialistically perhaps. And what I got back was, "What's the matter? Aren't you a patriot? Don't you like America?" There's the possibility that she was using irony to enhance her "art", but I don't think so. By this period, as Lenny Kaye puts it, "she didn't feel like Jesus died for somebody's sins but not hers anymore". I'm not sure she ever felt that way.

Patti Smith was a lousy poet, always emulating artists without interpretation. She was also an intellectual coward, and a traditionalist that the punks must have overlooked due to her overwhelming ability to perform. The real Patti? Still stuck in the Fifties.

1 comment:

  1. Of course, I might add that I'm simply speaking about the period, and not Patti Smith's political or social evolution since.