In these days of the ubercorporate, an event like Patti Smith performing poetry and songs in a venue such as the Jeffrey Archive Room of Glasgow’s Mitchell Library is something to be savoured. She has an art exhibit there also which runs until May 1st. By the time this appeared on my radar, the show was sold out but lucky for me that Mr Francis Macdonald had a spare ticket… (cheers Frank).
So yeah, tales of dodo birds, lambs and hanging out in Rome when the Pope died. A recitation of “People Have The Power” and an acoustic closer of Hank Williams, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Die”. A great cultural event by a fine orator. Perspective is a peculiar thing and her similarity from certain angles to Joey Ramone reminded me that it’s been five years this past weekend since he passed away.
Twenty nine years and 11 months ago, I set out from the same starting point, Larbert station. Heading for London on an overnight train with a likeminded crew to hunt down records and magazines that you could only get there. One of these was Patti’s French “My Generation” 45 in a picture sleeve from Bizarre Records in Praed Street. This was before “punk broke”. Anywhere. When an MC5 or Stooges t-shirt meant something. Generally that it was home made.
So here’s an American icon that is still going strong and who has something to say. I could have listened to her talk about when she lived in Detroit and the how network cancelled her two favourite shows, Martial Arts Theatre and Kung Fu Theatre, all night. She’s lived and has many stories to tell. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to ask my question that I need an answer but all is not lost. Yet. In Ben Vaughn’s sadly unfinished documentary about Jerry Blavat, she refers to a record he played with the explanation, “bagpipes, bagpipes”. I need to find out what that is and to score a copy. Almost nothing else matters at this point in time.
As a postscript to all this, I had to share a train home with a shedload of Kaiser Chiefs fans. All the way at the other end of the new wave tunnel, their cut and paste, pastiche new wave antics have all been heard before but they’re doing it for the kids. Generally those with a zip attention span who’ll be changing horses sharpish any minute. Probably. I’m not altogether sure of anything right now but it was something to see an elder stateswoman in a venue like that. It infers that all is indeed not lost. Not completely. It might seem like all the wrong people have the power but the good guys could still overcome.
And that’s as optimistic as I’m prepared to be in this disenfranchised state…