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Punk, Patti Smith, William Burroughs & capitalism: A ‘conceptual conversation’ with RE/Search’s Vale

Vale with William Burroughs

This interview with V. Vale was conducted by Michael Lee Nirenberg, director of the 2014 documentary Back Issues: The Hustler Magazine Story

Early in my conversation with publisher and writer V. Vale he called me a “conceptual conversationalist,” although that moniker really belongs to Vale himself. Vale has had an interesting life. He was born in a Japanese-American internment camp in 1944, moved to Haight-Ashbury at the height of the 1960s counterculture movement, joined the original lineup of Blue Cheer, went on to publish punk zine Search and Destroy while working at beatnik bookstore City Lights, and then made his serious mark on the emerging post-punk culture with RE/Search.

For me, the seminal RE/Search journals which Vale has been publishing since the 1980s are a snapshot of culture at its most vital and ideas at their most radical. RE/Search was like early Interview magazine but the interviews were largely unedited, ran long, and each volume more or less tackled a particular subject. Some of the more well-known ones are: Pranks, Incredibly Strange Films, and The Industrial Culture Handbook.

Needless to say Vale’s work has been an influence on me. I met Vale at the New York Art Book Fair last year and interviewed him by phone on April 2, 2017. Below is that conversation edited lightly and segmented because Vale is a stream of consciousness type guy and you have to just roll with him. Enjoy.

On interviews and conversations

VV: So I invented a phrase for you while I was waiting for you to call; “conceptual conversationalist.” How’s that?

MN: That’s pretty good, man. All of a sudden I feel like I’m in a RE/Search interview.

VV: (laughs) Well that’s proper. It’s all useful. Conversations are two-way streets.

MN: I agree and I think that’s what attracted me to RE/Search throughout the years, and why I return to the volumes. I wrote out a dozen or so question but that doesn’t mean I have a script I’m going to follow. As you know a conversation takes you elsewhere.

VV: The holy grail of a conversation is when suddenly there appears a concept or an idea that neither person has contemplated before.

MN: Yeah. I agree with that and I think that’s when it’s the most successful.

VV: Whatever. I’m not a success or failure guy, I just observe what’s happening but that’s kinda rare and when it happens it’s a mini cause celebre.

MN: I think that’s a good point. I was wondering if everyone who has ever interviewed you has attempted to do a RE/Search interview on some level.

VV: I don’t really call them interviews, I call them conversations. That gives you a lot more latitude to go into some unexpected direction. Play and humor are like the supreme goal I suppose. I don’t know. I suppose I don’t know how to answer that one (laughs), I just try to have fun with whoever I’m talking to.

MN: Yeah, I think I do the same thing.

VV: Good! Hooray we’re on the same wavelength.

MN: Yeah, it seems obvious that humor is the thing that makes life bearable. And ideas.

VV: Well yeah… ideas. Especially ideas. Yeah, humor of course.

On Capitalism

VV: Oh yeah, ideas especially. The main idea always (laughs) is the overarching theme of how do we make this world a better place? How can we conceptualize a better world? How do we visualize a better world? For example I don’t understand why there aren’t more young artists making films about how life ought to be and dare I say a future that’s post-capitalism. I’m sure you know who (Slavoj) Žižek is and I think the best thing he ever said was, “You can imagine the apocalypse, you can imagine the end of the world, but you can’t imagine a world after capitalism.”

MN: Oh, that’s good.

VV: I’m a capitalist. I make books and hope someone buys them and I obviously need to make a profit so I can pay my rent, but I can’t imagine another system. Boy, if you can you will be the first!

MN: I struggle with this too. For all its flaws, the critiques don’t offer a way out. Look at the countries that went all in with socialism and communism. They started off as such high-minded concepts until they became religion.

VV: Even worse than religion (laughs). I think it’s all patriarchy, but yet I like most ideas of feminism which are actually the same ideas found in anti-racism i.e fighting privilege. There’s that famous saying you probably know which is “privilege confers blinders.” A lot of times if you have privilege you don’t feel it. It doesn’t even exist within the world you’re conceptualizing.

I always said my goal in publishing was (and I stole it from Hegel), “if you’re working, work for more freedom, more consciousness (that’s a great word) and more justice for more people.” The hard thing is the justice because then you get into the grimy world of lawyering and criminality and it’s just so much. Can you imagine if you were a heterosexual seeking a relationship with another heterosexual of the opposite gender. Let’s say complementary gender. I’m not a fan of opposite. I’m a fan of complimentary.

MN: Yes and relativity.

VV: Yes. Can you just imagine a world in which you try to act in perfect justice with another partner? I’m a huge fan of having a partner for a simple reason which is the hardest thing you can do. I’ve never had a job and I managed to support myself mostly and the hardest thing to do is guess what? Make next month’s rent.The other person (your partner) has to worry about the same thing. Take my word for it. It makes life a helluva lot easier and bearable.

More with Vale after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
A young Patti Smith and Jonathan Miller star in a 1971 BBC doc about New York City

Jonathan Miller became famous in the cast of the great 1960s comedy show Beyond the Fringe, sharing the stage with Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, and—I can’t tell if a heart emoji would be out of place here—playwright Alan Bennett. To this day, Dr. Miller is well-known in the UK as a public intellectual, prominent atheist, TV documentarian and opera director. (During the early 1980s, Miller was briefly famous in America, too, as the host of the popular PBS history of medicine, The Body in Question, and as the author of the best-selling book of the same title. He was often a guest on Dick Cavett’s talk show for an entire week at a time.)

In 1971—YouTube says ‘72, but I’ll take Miller’s biographer’s date—Miller returned to New York, a city he’d first visited when Beyond the Fringe played Broadway a decade before, and he brought a BBC camera crew. West Side Stories: Two Journeys into New York City juxtaposed his impressions of New York City and those of a very young Patti Smith.

She looks and sounds like Rimbaud if he just stepped away from a stickball game, which is to say she’s already, as Oliver Stone made Ray Manzarek say, “making the myths.” Patti talks Godard, rock journalism, “slopping the hogs,” spending the whole day on 42nd Street for fifty cents, and the first porno double feature she watched (Orgy at Lil’s Place and Blonde on a Bum Trip), all with unusual verbal facility and charm for a 24-year-old.

In my whole life, no matter where I lived—Chattanooga, Chicago, South Jersey—I was always an outcast. Y’know, even in my own neighborhood, even in my own family. I looked different than my whole family. I always felt alien. Not that I wasn’t loved, but people thought I was weird-lookin’ and skinny and all that. I had an eyepatch which I’ve since got rid of. And I never had no friends or boyfriends. When I came to the city, my whole life changed.

The uploader of this footage, YouTube user Pheidias Ictinus, claims it was the cameraman’s idea to interview Patti:

This film was made by the director Tristram Powell. At the suggestion of his cameraman he went to meet Patti and she ended up as an integral part of the film he was making with Jonathan Miller. The decision was made on the fly, during filming in New York, it was not part of the original concept. That’s what you call creative freedom.

Who would Jonathan Miller’s cameraman tell him to interview in today’s Manhattan? Some tech guy? I can’t wait to turn on the TV in 2047 and hear some tech guy reminisce about New York on the roof of the Chelsea Hotel. Lord, take me now. . .
Watch after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘Dream of Life,’ impressionistic study of Patti Smith
01:51 pm


Patti Smith

Fashion photographer Steven Sebring exhaustively documented Patti Smith’s wanderings for 11 years after her return to public life in 1995. Of his movie Dream of Life, which came out in 2008, Sebring says, “I want to turn people on to Patti Smith.”

Dream of Life is mostly black-and-white, quite impressionistic in style, and (unfortunately) stints on live performances of Smith on stage. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating portrait of one of the most important figures of the NYC downtown scene that blossomed in the 1970s.

Camille Dodero wrote an amusing stanza (in Smith’s voice) about this movie in the Village Voice. It goes like this:

As long as I can remember I sought to be free
Bob Dylan once tuned this guitar for me
My mission is to give people my energy
Fred, Jesse, and Jackson are my family tree
New generations, rise up, rise up, take to the streets
Me and Flea talking about pee.

In Dream of Life Patti jams and reminisces backstage with her old lover Sam Shepard, visits her parents in New Jersey and has some burgers with them, and has an amusing conversation with the bassist Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Her admiration for Allen Ginsberg, Rimbaud, and Dylan is a constant. And I’m pretty sure she invented the Salvation Army look that has been fashionable for some time.

Watch ‘Dream of Life’ after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Patti Smith on Bob Marley, comics, and opening her own pot cafe when she ‘grows up,’ back in 1976

‘The Two Faces of Patti Smith.’ photograph by Guillemette Barbet and art design by John Holmstrom.
Over the weekend I was yet again getting in some good quality time with my lovely copy of The Best of Punk Magazine and came across an amusing and highly entertaining interview by a musician and performer that undeniably embodies the word “hero” the multi-talented punk powerhouse Patti Smith.

In the interview that appeared in Punk (Volume One, Number Two from March of 1976) Smith agreed to talk to the magazine in the backroom of legendary Long Island club My Father’s Place where she sat on the grungy floor before her gig later that night. Of the many highlights and wide variety of topics covered in the lengthy chat include her love of comics, Bob Marley, her vivid dreams about Jimi Hendrix and her not-so-secret plan to hijack The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (who Smith very much admired) and turn it into “totally stoned TV every night.” If you are at all a fan of Patti Smith (who was 30 at the time of this interview), prepare yourself to adore her even more. Here’s Smith on her love of two things that go great together—comics (or “comix” as Punk likes to spell it) and rock and roll:

I was a painter. All I cared about was art school and painting. I used to be an artist before I became an artist. You know the French love comic strips. Comix are considered art. Comix are art. I mean the only two arts—comix and rock n’ roll are the highest art forms.

If that last passage got you daydreaming about what it would be like lounging around with Patti Smith in France in some cafe reading comic books and while listening to Alain Kan belting out David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” then get in line. As the interview progresses Smith talks a fair amount about Bob Marley while lamenting the current “grass shortage” in New York (never forget!) and her dream of opening a pot cafe that pretty much sounds like the best plan ever:

I’m gonna have a cafe when I grow up where it’s just gonna feature coffee and dope and mint tea and great music. What I’m gonna do is work to legalize marijuana and hashish. We’re gonna start a string of cafes where you smoke, drink coffee and listen to great music—like McDonald’s.

More Patti Smith, after the jump…

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Patti Smith’s review of ‘The Beach Boys Love You’

The Beach Boys Love You, from 1977, is not everyone’s favorite Beach Boys LP, but it is Bucks Burnett’s. The onetime manager of Tiny Tim believes Love You is of a piece with another ‘77 record that nearly everyone regards as a classic, David Bowie’s Low. Burnett wrote in a recent Facebook post:

My bizarre theory is that the two albums are almost interchangeable. Here it is, ugly medicine in a plastic spoon; this was Brian Wilson’s Berlin trilogy, in one album. Low is Bowie’s Love You.

If you aren’t familiar with The Beach Boys Love You, it’s called that because it was dedicated to Brian Wilson by the other members of the band. One might question whether the album was really the other Beach Boys’ to make a present of in the first place, since its major selling point was that Brian Wilson himself not only produced it, but had written or co-written every song. (“Happy birthday, honey. Here’s that delicious cake you made!”) But it’s the thought that counts, right?

Many of the songs—especially those credited to Brian alone—are marked by an unconventional approach to lyric writing, compared to the way the art is generally practiced by the human people of the planet Earth. Take the often-mocked (but lovely) “Johnny Carson”:

He sits behind his microphone
(John-ny Car-son)
He speaks in such a manly tone
(John-ny Car-son)

Ed McMahon comes on and says “Here’s Johnny!”
Every night at 11:30, he’s so funny.
“It’s nice to have you on the show tonight
I’ll see your act in Vegas—outta sight!”

When guests are boring, he fills up the slack
(John-ny Car-son)
The network makes him break his back
(John-ny Car-son)

Ed McMahon comes on and says “Here’s Johnny!”
Every night at 11:30, he’s so funny.
Don’t you think he’s such a natural guy?
The way he’s kept it up could make you cry.

Who’s a man that we admire?
Johnny Carson is a real live wire.

I think Bucks might be onto something. As far as I can tell, Beach Boys fans who hate this record just can’t stand the words, while I find them oddly affecting. Who but Brian Wilson could have seen his own body torn on the gears of showbiz in the image of Johnny Carson, of all people, or heard “such a manly tone” in the Tonight Show host’s voice? Is the objection that these lyrics give too clear a view into Wilson’s pain and confusion? Whatever: I don’t recall anyone disputing this album’s musical merits, and in my opinion, reconciling oneself to lyrics such as “Honkin, honkin’ down the gosh-darn highway / Tryin’, tryin’ to get past them cars” and “Love is a woman / so tell her she smells good tonight” is an excellent form of spiritual discipline.

Patti Smith looked into this controversy at the time, and “you’re into it or you’re not” was her conclusion. From the October 1977 issue of Hit Parader, here is the confirmed Johnny Carson fan’s review of The Beach Boys Love You:

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Patti Smith covering Nico is unforgettable

This all begins with a chance encounter on an airplane, when singer/pianist Jesse Paris Smith—daughter of ur-punk high priestess Patti Smith—encountered Stephan Crasneanscki on an airplane bound for New York City. Crasneanscki is the founder and leader of Soundwalk Collective, an acclaimed experimental music trio known for incorporating field recordings and other concrète elements into lush ambient music, and that meeting led to the conception of Killer Road, a 2014 multimedia performance with projections by Tina Frank, that endeavored to examine the work and death of Christa “Nico” Päffgen, the singer best known for her work with the early Velvet Underground, and who died in a bicycle accident in 1988.

That performance has been turned into a studio album for Sacred Bones, also called Killer Road and due out on September 2nd. The album variously features Nico cover songs and poems with Smith mère reciting/singing the lyrics. The songs that have been pre-released suggest that the album will likely be a stunner—a video for the title track, again by Tina Frank, was released in July:

Over the weekend, a new video was issued, for “Fearfully in Danger,” a cover of a song from Nico’s final studio album Camera Obscura. The track underscores the connection between Nico and Smith, who related “…when I was young … I had no ambition to be a singer – I was simply trying to deliver my poetry – as [Nico] did – in a unique way.” The harmonium played on the song once actually belonged to Nico—it was rescued from a pawn shop by Patti Smith herself, in 1978.

Watch more after the jump….

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘I don’t need no f*cking shit’: Patti Smith on getting bleeped
02:09 pm


Patti Smith

We’re big fans of the Blank on Blank series of animated versions of interviews of prominent people like Tom Waits, Martin Scorsese, Hunter Thompson, and Nina Simone. PBS Digital Studios are responsible for producing these, and they’re always very diverting.

The interview excerpts are always very well-chosen—by which I mean they’re interesting and lend themselves well to animation—and the animating style, mostly by Pat Smith, is always very lively and appropriate to the subject matter.

Blank on Blank just released an interesting new one that derives from an interview Patti Smith gave in London in 1976 to Mick Gold, a journalist who wrote for CREEM and Melody Maker and that year also published Rock on the Road, a collection of photo essays about rock music.

It’s amazing how much stuff they manage to cram into this 5-minute video. It’s ostensibly about Smith’s annoyance at having her re-working of Pete Townshend‘s “My Generation” bleeped because she changed one of the lines to “I don’t need no fucking shit,” but it wanders freely from there to cover Smith’s early interest in the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud (I think this is the edition she was talking about), her collegial relationship with Bob Dylan, and her learned ability to inhabit a dream state whenever she chooses.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Poem for Keef’: Patti Smith’s poem for Keith Richards, 1978

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Patti Smith pays homage to reggae genius Tapper Zukie
09:45 am


Patti Smith
Lenny Kaye
Tapper Zukie

Robert Mapplethorpe’s cover for the Mer Records reissue of Man Ah Warrior

Since its founding in 1974, Lenny Kaye’s Mer label has put out a total of five records. Of these, two are by Patti Smith, one by Kaye. The other two releases belong to the only artist on Mer who wasn’t in the Patti Smith Group: toaster, DJ and producer Tapper (a/k/a Tappa or Topper) Zukie.

Smith has said that she practiced reciting her poems over Zukie’s first album, 1973’s Man Ah Warrior, before she worked them up as songs. Presumably, she heard the album through Kaye, who writes that he brought it back to NYC from a “West London back alley reggae stall” when it was brand new. Three years later, when both Zukie and the Patti Smith Group had achieved cult fame in the UK, the “M.P.L.A.” singer joined the band onstage in London. Kaye: November 1976 at the venerable Hammersmith Odeon, Tapper Zukie joined the Patti Smith Group onstage for a babylon-burning rendition of “Ain’t It Strange,” and we became friends. Tapper came to visit us in New York, preparing a dinner of roast fish just after he got off the plane; and we released Man Ah Warrior on our Mer label. He opened for us at the Rainbow Theater in London the following year, and with such hits as “M.P.L.A.” and “Go Deh Natty, Go Deh” and the sinuous “Pick Up the Rocker,” encapsulated a moment where two different musics with the same sense of apocalyptic vision and revolutionary spirit could go forth and conquer.


Smith seriously injured herself in Tampa on January 23, 1977, when her ecstatic spinning during that night’s performance of “Ain’t It Strange” took her over the lip of the stage. She fell fifteen feet, fracturing two of her vertebrae and smashing her face on the concrete floor. Shortly after the accident, she told a Sounds writer that writing the poem “Tapper the Extractor” during her hospital stay aided her recovery:’s the best poem I’ve written for a real long time. Tapper’s poem kept me from losing consciousness; it’s all about ‘the thread of return.’ ...Yeah, the thread of return kept me here.


The back cover of Zukie’s Man from Bozrah LP, featuring “THE TAPPER EXTRACTS”
This poem, or a version of it, appeared as the liner notes of Zukie’s outstanding 1978 LP The Man from Bozrah, where it was credited to “PATTIE [sic] SMITH & L. Kaye”: 

“one does not hold the key, he extends it”

Zu-Kie, the Tapper of precious blood, looks down at his mother bending over the river beating the clothes w/a stone. in/space the Tapper extracts; the sky full of numbers . . . the mute procession of the 12 tribes . . . the insatiable dreamer that totems the manor . . . the rude Zugernaut . . . a Mesopotamia hotel . . . Taj Mahal . . . keeper of bees . . . aluminum comes exuding the icing of light. awareness is relative and anyone relating to the Tapper feels the fluid of the future flooding his veins . . . the screen projects deliverance . . . vague silver members . . . the lost years of Jesus + Cleopatra . . . Tablets unearthed from the dawn of time . . . a rose glow . . . searchlights over the labyrinth . . . rube flux and a vibrant twist of thread . . . .

Tapper, the extractor, ties it all together. like a playful cat he taps the raveling ball . . . sending it in/space like a corvette over Detroit landing on the throat of the babbeling son of ritual.

he cried ah/men oh/men
his bodily fluids coagulate into a smooth stone
etched w/the synchronizing symbols;
words of power/words of light
cries from the valley of the forgotten
the gentle panorama/the shackles of slaves opening like a laughing wound
the shining faces of the liberation
the ma/sonic key of the Tapper is turning
the ball of thread is unraveling . . .
the walls of the labyrinth are splitting . . .
and the people are rushing . . .
Rushing like the blood of the lion merging w/Zu-kie, the Tapper of blood, looking down at his mother bending over the river and his father working in the Field.

A slightly longer and differently punctuated version of the poem, in which “Zu-kie” is spelled “zookey,” can be found in Smith’s Babel.

After the jump, hear the two sides of Zukie’s Mer single, “Viego” and “Archie, the Rednose Reindeer”

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Shane MacGowan perpetrates ‘Cannibalism at Clash gig,’ 1976

On Saturday, October 23, 1976, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London hosted a show by the brand-new punk sensation known as the Clash. It was an eventful evening by any reckoning.

The openers were Subway Sect and Snatch Sounds, who seem not to have made much of an impression. At that point the Clash and the Sex Pistols were in a category of two in terms of being at the absolute pinnacle of delivering pissed-off punk music and generating the electric excitement of punk (and the associated publicity too). The night before and that night too, Patti Smith was playing the Hammersmith Odeon but managed to make her way to the ICA so that she could dance onstage to “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” As will be easily imagined, the audience was in a rowdy mood and the alcohol was flowing freely. The show had been billed as “a night of pure energy,” and it surely lived up to that.

In the November 6, 1976, issue of the New Musical Express ran an account of the show written by Barry Miles, who preferred to go simply by “Miles” as a nom de journalisme. The cheeky, startling headline of the piece was “CANNIBALISM AT CLASH GIG,” with the subtitle “But why didn’t anybody eat MILES?” At the top and the bottom of the writeup were two pictures, taken by Red Saunders, of Shane MacGowan and a renowned punk fan named Jane Crockford, unflatteringly nicknamed “Mad Jane.” The pictures show indistinct mayhem as well as a generous portion of blood flowing from MacGowan’s right earlobe. Interestingly, both of the subjects were, or would be, in notable bands of their own; MacGowan was in the Nipple Erectors and (of course) the Pogues, while Jane was in the Bank of Dresden and the Mo-dettes.

In Bob Gruen’s must-own book The Clash he gets Mick Jones and Paul Simonon to comment on the show:

Mick: That was the night of Shane MacGowan’s earlobe, wasn’t it? He didn’t really have it bitten off, you know. Isn’t that the same show where Patti Smith got up on stage during our set?

Paul: That was the ICA—it was called A Night of Pure Energy. My haircut’s gone very mod; it had flopped down from all the jumping around onstage. In the beginning all that jumping about was a way of dodging gobs and missiles generally. There’s Joe with his sharks’ teeth—when I first met him they looked just like a real sharks’ teeth.

Gruen notes of the MacGowan incident that it gave the Clash “their first significant press coverage.” He also quotes Joe Strummer as saying, “Without Mad Jane’s teeth and Shane’s earlobe, we wouldn’t have got in the papers that week.”

In The Clash: Return of the Last Gang in Town, Marcus Gray writes about that evening:

When the Clash started playing, a couple in front of Miles and Red were obstructing their view of the band. Apparently intent on attacking each other while laughing like maniacs, they refused to move out of the way. So Red took pictures of them. “I had no idea how famous those photos were to become.” The NME used them to accompany Miles’s report under the headline “CANNIBALISM AT CLASH GIG”: “A young couple, somewhat out of it, had been nibbling and fondling each other amid the broken glass when she suddenly lunged forward and bit his ear lobe off [while the crowd] watched with cold, calculate hipitude.” ... the Clash gig was a wild night fuelled by speed and alcohol. The bar staff entered into the spirit of the evening to such an extent that they gave away a further £80 worth of booze ... and the twosome Miles and Red observed, Mad Jane and Shane MacGowan, were by no means content to loiter at the back of the queue.

“Me and this girl were having a bit of a laugh which involved biting each other’s arms till they were completely covered in blood and then smashing up a couple of bottles and cutting each other up a bit,” Shane informed ZigZag’s Granuaille in 1986, setting the record straight on the occasion of punk’s 10th anniversary, and, in the process, offering another insight into the mythopoetics of punk. “That, in those days, was the sort of thing that people used to do. I haven’t got a clue now why I did it or why anyone would want to do it, but that was how teenagers got their kicks in London if they were hip. Anyway, in the end she went a bit over the top and bottled me in the side of the head. Gallons of blood came out and someone took a photograph. I never got it bitten off—although we had bitten each other to bits—it was just a heavy cut.” As Shane noted, though, the anecdote was exaggerated with each telling. “It’s like the old story about the bloke who catches the fish. He says that it weighs this much and it’s that big, and within a couple of days it’s a whale.” Over the years, few have been prepared to let the fact that his earlobes are both present and correct stand in the way of a good story.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Miserable in Manchester: Amusing letters and music reviews from a young Morrissey

Morrissey, the writer
A young Steven Morrissey contemplating the state of punk rock
Recently, I spent some time collecting for you my dear Dangerous Minds readers, numerous amusing pieces of personal correspondence (adorable typos and all) from a young, pre-Smiths Morrissey. Even back then, Morrissey was busy cultivating the melancholy persona that we all know and love today.
The home address of a teenage Morrissey
The home address of a teenage Morrissey
A page of a letter from Morrissey to his pen pal, Robert Mackie
Part of a letter from a young Morrissey to his pen pal, Robert Mackie, October 22nd, 1980
In addition to excerpts from many of his pen pal letters to Robert Mackie, I’ve included a few of Morrissey’s letters to various magazines and several of his reviews of bands like Depeche Mode and The Cramps that appeared in the weekly British newspaper, the Record Mirror from 1980.

I’m especially fond of the then teenaged Morrissey’s review of a live gig in April of 1980 by The Cramps at Manchester Polytechnic (which you can read below) that he wrote for Record Mirror in which he muses “Is it true that guitarist Ivy Rorschach sets fires to orphanages when she’s bored?” If only. What follows makes for some fantastic reading, enjoy!
A review of a live Cramps gig at Manchester Polytechnic that appeared in Record Mirror on April 4th, 1980
A review of a live show of The Cramps at Manchester Polytechnic that appeared in the Record Mirror, April 4th, 1980 written by a 21-year-old Morrissey
More Morrissey, after the jump…

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Poet, high priestess of punk rock Patti Smith turns 69 today
10:48 am


Patti Smith

Poet, shaman, high priestess of punk rock… Patti Smith turns 69 today. Celebrate with this professionally shot clip of the Patti Smith Group performing a rather incendiary—you might say Dionysian—rendition of “Radio Ethiopia” at Stockholm’s Konserthuset on October 3, 1976. This gets to the essence of what makes Patti Smith so great, and what made her work seem so exciting, inspiring and utterly revolutionary at the time.

Radio Ethiopia is the name of our new record and it represents to us a naked field wherein anyone can express themselves. It’s a free radio, ya know. We’re the DJ’s. The people are the DJ’s. When we perform “Radio Ethiopia,” I play guitar. I don’t know how to play guitar, but I just get in a perfect rhythm and I play, I don’t care. And the people are allowed to do as they wish. If it’s a really good show, there’s like a thousand, 10,000, 50,000 people. 50,000 minds, 50,000 sub-consciousnesses that I can dip into. I mean, the more people submit and the more I submit, the greater show it’s going to be, the greater we’re going to be. I mean, I don’t like audiences who sit there and act cool like this—“pfft”—because nothing’s going to happen.


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Patti Smith and Ray Manzarek’s 1974 tribute to Jim Morrison
07:51 am


Patti Smith
Jim Morrison
Ray Manzarek

Patti Smith visits Jim Morrison’s grave, 1976
Patti Smith released her first single, “Hey Joe” b/w “Piss Factory,” in August 1974; her second appearance on record came later that year on a song by Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek. Billboard’s review of Manzarek’s second solo album, The Whole Thing Started with Rock & Roll Now It’s out of Control, advised retailers that it was strictly for the FM crowd:

Don’t expect much AM action on this one, but watch for plenty of FM action, especially with the likes of Flo & Eddie, George Segal, Mike Fennelly, Joe Walsh and Patti Smith along for the ride. A strong set, and lots of fun as well.


The sleeve credits Smith as “Poetess” for her appearance on the Doors-ish blues number “I Wake Up Screaming.” Two minutes and seven seconds in, Smith reads Jim Morrison’s “Ensenada”—mind you, not the “Ensenada” published in The American Night, in which “Dog licks shit / Mexican girl whore sucks my prick,” but the seven-line “Ensenada” from The New Creatures which Morrison sometimes recited during Doors performances:

the dead seal
the dog crucifix
ghosts of the dead car sun.
Stop the car.
Rain. Night.

The album version of “I Wake Up Screaming”:

A live performance from Roslyn, New York in 1975, minus Patti but with extra Lizard King:

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Patti Smith’s ‘Career of Evil’ with Blue Öyster Cult

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
A beautiful story about Patti Smith from last night’s reading in Illinois
06:32 pm


Patti Smith
M Train

Patti Smith is currently promoting her latest memoir M Train. During last night’s reading at the Dominican University in Illinois, Smith was reunited with some very personal belongings, as disclosed today by a member of the audience who posts as “maxnix” on the Steven Hoffman Music Forums.

maxnix “wanted to share a quick story . . ” and posted details of this beautiful moment during Smith’s reading:

The family and I went to see Patti Smith last night at Dominican University in Illinois, reading from “M Train”, telling stories, etc. I have seen her do this several times, and it’s always a lot of fun and a moving experience. Usually, she takes a break and takes (and tolerates!) a few audience questions . . mostly “what’s your favorite poem” and the like.

Last night, however, a woman stood up and told Patti that she had a bag of clothes that belonged to her 40 years ago and would like to return it. Smith (and everybody) looked totally confused, but asked the person to come up to the stage and hand her the bag. Patti looked inside and just froze.

Turns out that 40 years ago the band’s truck was stolen in Chicago, all their equipment/clothes/personal things basically everything they owned. These clothes among them. So Patti pulls out these items of clothing and talks about them (the shirt she wore on the Rolling Stone cover, the Keith Richards T-Shirt you’ve seen her wear in a hundred photos) and then gets to the bottom of the bag. Here was a bandana that her beloved late brother had worn and then given to her, and she starts to weep. Before long, half the audience was crying with her.

Naturally, people in the audience were asking where/why/how?? but Patti just put her hands out and said she doesn’t care how, she’s just so grateful to have these priceless items back. Amazing. The rest of the program, after she piled everything on the podium, she couldn’t stop touching them, eventually slowly slipping the bandana into her pocket and proceeded to do a ripping version of Because the Night with her son on acoustic guitar.

What a night.

Read the whole forum discussion here. Below Patti discussing M Train on Democracy Now!.

H/T Mark Hagen

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Poem for Keef’: Patti Smith’s poem for Keith Richards, 1978
12:40 pm


Patti Smith
Keith Richards

There’s a delightful slapdash quality to the magazine Rock Scene from the 1970s. The magazine, which was edited by Richard Robinson, featured contributions from Alan Betrock, Lenny Kaye, Leee Black Childers, and Lisa Robinson. I can’t speak for the intentions that went into Rock Scene, but to me it reads like an attempt, largely successful, to offer the demographic that gravitated towards, say, the Stones and the Ramones a Tiger Beat all their own. A typical issue from May 1977 name-checked the following acts on the cover: Ted Nugent, Blue Oyster Cult, the Heartbreakers, Aerosmith, Television, the Sex Pistols, and Gene Simmons. That mix of mainstream hard rock and cutting-edge impulses from the world of punk was typical of the magazine—most importantly, the Bay City Rollers, Donny & Marie, and Leif Garrett, to cite a random issue of Tiger Beat from the exact same period, were nowhere to be found.

The cover of every issue trumpeted the number of pictures to be found within (“OVER 150 PHOTOS”), and If they were grainy b/w pictures that were laid out in half an hour max, all the better. Rock Scene, which came out every two months, spent as much time documenting the insider-ish parties backstage at Max’s Kansas City or CBGBs as the gigs themselves.

The February 1978 issue of Rock Scene contains a startling artifact that, well, scarcely exists in Internet terms. (At least, none of the many Google searches I’ve tried was able to find it.) The cover of that issue promised “PATTI SMITH: POEM FOR KEEF” and damned if there isn’t a poem by Patti Smith about Keith Richards tucked in there on page 13.

By the way, the legendary Stones guitarist and songwriter is mentioned in three places in this issue (at least as pertains to the poem)—cover, table of contents, and on the page with the poem—and every time the final “S” is left off of his last name, as in “Keith Richard.”

The poem is called “Wreath.” I’ve done a little checking in the various poetry collections under Smith’s name, and it apparently isn’t included in any of them. It’s not in WITT (1973; a longshot to be sure) or Early Work, 1970-1979 (published 1994). The best chance would likely have been Babel, published in 1978 and covering poems of the previous five years, but it isn’t in there either.


on the hills of rif we come to greet you
through the halls of myth we choose to roam
crown of thorns
shroud of love
our gifts we offer
and the waters of life
of health
of stone
on the hills of rif we call, undefeated
crown of thorns
kreed of love
and language comb
on the hills of rif we rise
salute you
ja-kiss your face of light and bone

Click on the image for a larger version:

I found this issue of Rock Scene at the Rock Hall’s Library and Archives, which is located at the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts on Cuyahoga Community College’s Metropolitan Campus in Cleveland, Ohio. It is free and open to the public. Visit their website for more information.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Rad American Women A-Z’: A feminist alphabet book for the little riot grrrl in your life
10:19 am


Patti Smith
Angela Davis

Angela Davis
I’ve been noticing a recent (though long overdue) trend in woman-centric education tools for the tiniest of tots, but frankly, a lot of them are super lame. I don’t really think preschoolers need to learn about Hillary Clinton, she’ll be ruling over them soon enough. They’ll get it by osmosis…

The new alphabet book—Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future! is a breath of fresh air on that front. Combining figures from the arts like Patti Smith and dancer Isadora Duncan with human rights activist Yuri Kochiyama, and the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller, the book goes for the deeper cuts and avoids a wholesome/boring lecture on “foremothers”—plus, the graphics beat a princess theme any day. Considering how many times kids request the same book, I’d say it’s a good move for parental sanity.

Carol Burnett

Isadora Duncan
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
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