Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Vinyl Vednesday 5/4/2011

[Vinyl Vednesday is a weekly feature about three favorite vinyl finds. It’s not meant to be a dick measuring contest, but it usually turns out that way. I’m reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids, about her time with Robert Mapplethorpe, whom she also commemorated on Coral Sea, right now, so this week’s edition is all about her. It’s weird/cool looking through the liner notes and realizing how many pictures Mapplethorpe took for Smith’s albums. E-mail with your own big finds!]

Patti Smith’s Horses (1975), Easter (1978), and Wave (1979) on black.

Place of Purchase: Horses came from Legends in the Plymouth Meeting Mall (R.I.P.), while Easter and Wave were purchased from good ol’ Siren Records in Doylestown.

Thoughts: It took me a while to get on board with Patti Smith. I bought Horses on vinyl because of Smith is just as important to the creation of punk as The Stooges or MC5, but her tunes, while primal, were not easy rockers. Iggy Pop just wanted to tear things down; Smith was an artist, and her tunes invoked a lot of strange imagery that put her in league with Jim Morrison. Punk rock was supposed to tear down rock ‘n’ roll in ’77, but Smith already did it in ’75 when she took Van Morrison’s “Gloria” and rewrote the whole damn song. The whole record is electrifying, but nothing tops that moment when she intones, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins / But not mine.”

Horses was and is a critical darling, but it didn’t exactly move units. Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Iovine came on board to make Smith a pop sensation. They almost pulled it off with “Because the Night,” a catchy ode to forbidden love, but Smith pretty much undoes Easter’s commercial appeal with “Rock n Roll Nigger.” That one will never be ready for radio. The record as a whole is louder than Horses, but it lacks some of the bite.

Easter is all over the place sonically. The songs certainly sound of a piece, but it certainly took cajones for Smith to get from poppy opener “Frederick” to the searing dissonance of “Seven Ways of Going.” That experimental sax solo devastates me. Know what else grabs me? The way Smith’s oscillates from a bark to a girlish coo. Compare the spooky spoken word on “Wave” to the masculine roar of “Rock n Roll N-WORD PLEASE DON’T HATE ME.” This woman was weirder than The Ramones and heavier than The Clash.

It all comes back to “Gloria,” though, at least for me.

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