Concert Report

Patti Smith


May 13, 1978

Winterland has rightfully earned it’s reputation as the ultimate rock palace. Because it is constructed to have the large central floor there is a sense of unity in the audience, reinforcing the tribal nature of Rock’s rhythmic pulse. The acoustics are overwhelming in their intensity.

A local new wave band, The Readymades, opened the show. their music is compact and melodic, strongly influenced by the groups of the British Invasion such as the Who. In fact, their closing number was “The Kids are Alright,” and early Who single. The lineup consisted of two guitars (one a bright blue Richenbacher), a bass, drums, and keyboards. Lead singer Jonathan Postal put on a provocative performance. In Joel Selvin’s review of this same concert, he called them outstanding. I would agree; they have charisma.

The next act, The Greg Kihn band, was perhaps more technically complex, but I thought the lyrical content and basic structure of their songs rather insipid. I was too disconcerted to notice the lineup, because at this point I nearly suffocated in the crows. I was flush against the 5′ stage. I am 4’11”, and the surrounding people were also trying to get as close to the stage as possible, that is the surrounding couple thousand people. so, in a typical ‘teenager at a rock concert’ fashion I hyperventilated and had to be pulled up onto the stage out of the crows. and all this occurred after Patti Smith came on .

This stage rushing occurred because Patti Smith is a cult figure, a poet whose art student following is close to fanatic. I must confess that I am one of these fanatics. So of course I was wildly upset to have lost my place in the crows. I did however, get a good view in the long run.

Patti Smith aand her band are almost one entity; she has worked closely with them for several years. She and her guitarist, former rock critic Lenny Kaye, used to play solo gigs together in the early seventies; her poetry set to improvised rock guitar. I talked to Lenny and to Ivan Kral, the bass player, before the concert. They were amiable people who were surprised at the amount of attention the group was getting in the media and from the people. Lenny plays a Stratocaster, Ivan, a Les Paul. The drummer, Jay Dee Daughterty, is a superbly simple rock drummer in the tradition of Charlie Watts who is also proficient in reggae-influenced numbers. The keyboardist, Bruce Brody, who is the newest member of the group, replacing Richard Sohl, is a subtle and inventive player, although his improvisation is not as sparkling as his predecessors.

They opened the show with an intense, driving “Rock ‘n; Roll Nigger”, Patti’s analogy of the artist outside of society. It was a peculiar choice for an opening number, for although it is suitably rousing, it has gotten mixed criticism regarding the lyrical content: “Baby was a black sheep/baby was a whore/ you know she got big well she’s gonna get bigger/ baby’s got her hand got her finger on the trigger/ Baby baby baby was a rock ‘n’ roll nigger.” The song is obviously autobiographical, a “nah-nah” to all the critics who said she wouldn’t make it because she couldn’t sing.

But Patti can sing; her voice is actually quite miraculous. Previous to Patti, there had never been a true woman rock vocalist. all cries of “Janis!” must be hushed; Janis was a blues singer. Patti doesn’t sing prettily, but in an earthy, sensitive, chest voice alternating moans and growls and delicate floating sequences. Her trademark is her sudden screaming ends of phrases, reminiscent of James Brown, Tina turner, and Little Richard.

following “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger”‘s pounding ‘outside of society’ chorus as “Kimberly:, a song from her first record. It is a mesmerising melody with heavily accented drums and whirling keyboards. The next song, “Redondo Beach,” also from the first record, was a reggae elegy on the suicide of a young girl.

They performed several songs from the new record, “Easter,” including the title cut, a long a wandering tune about Rimbaud, “Till Victory,” a defiant anthem, “Privilege (Set Me Free), a desperate plea to God in which she recites the Lord’s Prayer, “Space Monkey (25th Floor)” on which she played lead guitar for about five minutes, ecstatically, “Ghost Dance,” the beautiful, African-like chant in which the backups are constantly ringing, “we shall live again”, and the profoundly sensual “Because the Night,” co-written by Bruce Springsteen, and currently #7 on the KFRC charts. It is the highest a new wave single has ever been on the US charts.

The surprise of the evening came when she sang Debby Boone’s (Pat Boone’s daughter and contemporary female counterpart) “You Light Up My Life,” I refer to Joel selvin’s review: “Archetypically, Patti Smith is as remote from Debby Boone as it is possible to be in the already diverse world of popular music, but smith was trying to make a point about her maturation as a rock artist to the near sold-out throng at Winterland.”

Onstage Patti is remarkable. Her delightfully androgynous interpretive gestures and ecstatic dances are utterly genuine and spontaneous. she talks to her audience, singles people out; she truly communicates, a unique phenomenon in this age of aloof rock stars. I talked to her very briefly at the Mabuhay Gardens the following night. I could write for pages about her sparkling artistry, but this is supposed to be a brief concert report. At any rate, the concert was the best I’d ever been to, as Selvin says, “right up there with classic performances by rock greats like the Rolling stones or The Who.

And for the record, to prove that she is a true rocker, Patti performed incredible cover versions of The Who’s “The Kids are Alright” and “My Generation,” Them’s “Gloria,” and Elvis’ “Jailhouse Rock.” Patti Smith is Rock ‘n’ Roll.

West Coast Visit

Hail, all Bay Area friends and bloggers, I’ll be staying with my momma in Oakland from January 5 to January 11. Let’s go out and play! E-mail me if you’re up for it…

Song of My Own Self, cont.

(The Chanukah Section)


Feh! The big chutzpah of the cockamamie schmendrik stands open and ready,

The dried spiel of the michigas loads the slow-drawn megillah,

The clear sheyner punim plays on the brown gray and green schmates,

The kholems are pack’d with the ongepatschkie tumul.

I am there, and OY do I help, I came stretch’d atop of the mishmash,

I felt its soft jolts, one tsures reclined on the other,

I jump from the goyim and seize the tuchis and latkes,

And roll head over tsibile and tangle my hair full of shpilkes.


Alone far in the wilds and mountains I kvel,

Wandering amazed at my own nakhes,

In the late afternoon choosing a safe spot to pass the lox,

Kindling a fire and boiling the kasha varnishkes,

Falling asleep on the gather’d schmutz with my matzoh and gefilte by my


The shikse convoit is with her mishpoche, she shvitzes sparkle

and glick,

My eyes settle on the shlemazl, I bend at her prow or plotz joyously from

the mikvah.

The dreidl and treyf clam-diggers arose early and utzed for me,

I tuck’d my hair in my wig and went and had a good time;

You should have been with us that day round the chickensoup pot.

I saw the marriage of Moshe and Devorah,

the bride was a shayna punim,

Her father and his friends sat near cross-legged and kibitzing,

they had hats like hockey pucks and large thick beards

hanging to their chests,

In a bank lounged the bride. The groom was drest like a crow, his

luxuriant beard and curls protected his neck, he held his bride

by the hand,

She had long eyelashes, her head was a wig whose coarse straight locks

descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reach’d to the seams of her stockings.

The runaway luftmensch came to my house and futzed outside,

I heard his pupik crackling the twigs of the woodpile,

Through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsy and


And went where he sat like a nudnik shlemiel and led him in and assured him,

And brought bobkes and fill’d a tub for his zaftig body and kreftig


And gave him a room that enter’d from my own, and gave him some

coarse clean noshes,

And remember perfectly well his revolving eyes and his awkwardness,

And remember putting creamed herring on the galls of his neck and ankles;

Bubule! He schtupped me a week before he plotzed,

I had him schmooze with me on Shabbos: my tsimmes simmered in the yenna veld.


one year ago today:

Thursday, December 19, 2002

      ( 2:20 PM ) Nada


The impulse to decorate is, as always, very strong. One idea (please don’t steal it, but if you can think of any practical ways to implement it please let me know) is to do a series — I’m not sure of what — could be poems, or fashion items, or paintings — of urban wildlife: pigeons, squirrels, sparrows. Imagine, a 50’s style shirtwaist dress whose full skirt is imprinted with a faux sumi-e of sparrows on winter branches! It almost makes my heart palpitate to think of it. Allison Cobb (or was it Jen Coleman?) commented to me, on hearing my idea, “why not rats?” I suppose there would have to be rats, too. For irony as well as diversity.

Our lives these days our over-designed (determined) but under-decorated. Kazari! Embellishment! My whole being rails against minimalism, austerity, pruning. Or simply the unconsideredness of public spaces which could have been extraordinary experiences in form and pattern. I always think this on the F train, with its 1970s Denny’s orange/tan/woodgrain scheme. Why the lack of visual imagination? What a contrast to the tiles in the 6 train stations. 86th Street it particularly stunning. I find myself transfixed before those exquisite combinations of pale chartreuse, brick-chestnut, and grayed purple. And I suppose I feel the same way, though I often have to suppress it out of practicality/expediency, about those quotidian pigeons. Mina Loy understood pigeons better than any poet who has ever lived. I recently taught her poem, “Property of Pigeons” in an introductory college writing course in a fly-by-night college in Bensonhurst. I found that my undergrads (Russian, Chinese, African-American, Jamaican, Italian-American) were all able to enter this rather difficult poem with its weblike language — maybe because its subject is so familiar to us:

_Property of Pigeons_

Pigeons doze,

or rouse

their striped crescendos

of grey rainbow

a living frieze on the shallow

sill of a factory window

Pigeons arise,


on vertical bases

of civic brick

whitened with avalanches

of their innocent excrements

as if an angel had been sick;

all that is shown to us

of bird-economies,


inobvious as the disposal

of their corpses.

Pigeons make irritant, alluring


quilled solfeggios

of shrill wings winnowing

their rejoicing, cooing

fanaticism for wooing.

Their dolce voices


Too and fro, frowardly they live

banishing each other’s

gorgeous halters

in the feathery drive

of preliminaries

to their marriages.

Pigeons disappear,

their claws, a coral landing-gear,

dive for the altar-stair

to their privacies —

a slice of concrete

fallen on a cornice

leading into darkness;

the slit adjacence of houses

where the caressive dusts,

the residue of furnaces

upholster the gossamer

festoons of intestate spiders

for nuptial furniture

Pigeons through some conjurous procedure

appear to reappear

upon the altar-stair

at startling instants

in the immature

torsos of their giant infants;

timid and unflown

stark of plume

naive in nativity

to peer into a vast transparency.

Google gave me a little present when I tried to find this poem online in the hopes of not having to type it in myself. Although I couldn’t find the poem, I found a mention of it on the University of Princeton site in a paper on the _Selected Poems of Solomon Ibn Gabirol_translated by Peter Cole. It’s not clear to me who wrote the paper, but I learned that Solomon Ibn Gabirol was a Hebrew medieval poet. I couldn’t actually find the Loy citation, but I did find a section on ORNAMENT that dovetails (pun intended) beautifully with today’s message. Here’s the link: Go down to the section headed “EMBRACING EVASION: THE EXOTIC” to find exactly what I would have loved to have said if I were a scholar. I’m not supposed to quote it here, but please, please, go have a look! It’s not that I’m too lazy to paraphrase, but I haven’t eaten lunch yet and the passage is so well-written.

As to sparrows, I cannot rave enough about a volume entitled, _Triumph of the Sparrow: Zen Poems of Shinkichi Takahashi_ (trans. Lucien Stryk. Takahashi was a dadaist poet before he became a zen poet. Zen, he says in an interview in the back of the book, saved his life. In recent years he has been writing fewer poems and more books on zen, but he says, “When I was writing poems, almost daily, what fascinated me was the possiblity of anything, everything being made poetry. Though I was hardly conscious of having an aesthetic program. All I wanted, truthfully, was for the poems to express the world’s vibrancy.” I really really wish more poets these days felt the same way. Everyone’s either got a program or they’re being told to get with one.

I’ve got a program too, and it has to do with the notion of ornament that I don’t have time to flesh out today. I have to have lunch. But before I do I will leave you with one of Takahashi’s sparrow poems:

_Flight of the Sparrow_

Sparrow dives from roof to ground,

a long journey — a rocket soars

to the moon, umpteen globes collapse.

Slow motion: twenty feet down, ten billion

years. Lightheaded, sparrow does not think,

philosophize, yet all’s beneath his wings.

What’s Zen? “Thought,” say masters.

“makes a fool.” How free the brainless

sparrow. Chirrup — before the first “chi,”

a billion years. He winks, another. Head left,

mankind’s done. Right, man’s born again.

So easy, there’s no end to time.

One gulp, swallow the universe. Flutter

on limb or roof — war, peace, care banished.

Nothing remains — not a speck.

“Time’s laid out in the eavestrough,”

sparrow sings,

pecks now and then.



write to me at


Language: slippery, unreliable, and ambiguous — just like a woman.

Language: slippery, unreliable, and ambiguous — just like a man.

I don’t understand those who protest fixity and oppression while asking for more of it.

A recap: In my talk, I described the personae that people my imagination and from whose perspectives I write. This is a problem? And I should lie about it? It is true that the workings of the imagination, conscious or sub-, can be offensive to some, and very often are; I perhaps have a kind of artistic Tourette’s syndrome, in that I very often blurt out what I am not **supposed** to say. I should, what, censor? Describe inaccurately? Keep silent? Far more “offensive” than my discussion of “hermaphroditism” — which was really a description of resistance to fixity! — was my statement about WOMEN and about ODALISQUES in particular.* This statement I was somehow “allowed” to make because I “belong” to the oppressed group in question — my “identifying with” or “becoming” the oppressor in that instance was a classic case of revolution failure a la Frantz Fanon. It is also a “problematic” dynamic of which I am utterly self-aware, and that I struggle with.

Really, it seems that there are those who, in order to further their own agendas seem to want to deny me permission to PLAY-ACT, although that is only what anyone is doing all the time. They seem to want to hygienicize my expression, but to what end? To make me dishonest? To make me compliant? Frankly, I feel violated. I feel like my statements have been hijacked.

Dear Readers,

I “won” my workers comp case.

“Won” is in parentheses because I am apparently not to get too excited about it. The other side — the insurance company — will appeal. And the judge’s opinion has to be confirmed by his review board. Therefore, I’ve been told I must wait about 30 days before getting excited or celebratory.

The trial was a harrowing experience. To their credit, my ex-supervisor and ex-personnel director. who were required to give their testimonies, were absolutely on the level. However, the lawyer for the insurance company was truly the incarnation of evil. Afterwards, I was sorely tempted to go up to her, look her in the eye, and ask her if she was indeed human.

How can people do jobs like that? How can she live with herself?

Wishing the best to Krishna, Ron Silliman’s* wife, for her treatment for RSD. I didn’t know that there was a specific hospital procedure for RSD, which I’ve heard is a truly torture-like malady. I hope the treatment is effective and painless.

Speaking of chronic pain, three news items:

Item 1: My actual workers comp trial (as distinct from mere hearings, of which I’ve had several, all a stupendous waste of time) is this afternoon. I’ve been waiting for it since I filed for workers comp in APRIL of 2001. My lawyer is encouraging, as I’ve got several doctors corroborating & supporting my case. Like most judicial fishponds, however, workers comp is well-stocked with Republicans who like to play pocket pool with insurance carriers. Wish me luck!

Item 2: I’ve ordered, but not yet received, a device that sits on top of the computer like a webcam. It picks up the reflections of a little mylar bindi you put on your forehead, and lets you control the cursor with very very subtle movements of the head. To those who would say, “OK, but then wouldn’t you get RSI of the head?”, I’d venture, “perhaps not, as we tend to keep our heads still and locked when we use computers, and that contributes to the problem. Being sure to move our heads might actually be beneficial.” I’ll let everyone know whether this technology works or not.

Item 3: I’ve started drinking yerba mate instead of my beloved black and green teas. I’ve noticed a definite reduction in muscle tension and overall anxiety. Yerba mate seems to give a steadier and calmer sort of high, making me at least as alert as when I drink caffeine (as opposed to “matteine”). Good for digestion too!

*I urge everyone to read Ron’s beautiful erotic poem in the newest Shampoo. Drew Gardner’s poem in the same issue is also a masterpiece and NOT TO BE MISSED.