Horses by Patti Smith
Far too many people I talk to have not heard of Patti Smith.
Patti Smith was one of the pioneering figures of the New York CBGB’s punk scene, often regarded as the ‘poet laureate of punk rock.’ She is my absolute musical hero – and her debut 1975 release, Horses, is my favourite album of all time.
While the cover – featuring an androgynous looking Smith with jacket slung over shoulder, looking into the camera with a defiant stare – physically epitomized ‘cool’, the music inside it was – and still is – daring, fresh and passionately raw.
Horses covers a range of themes such as suicide, lesbian love affairs, UFOs, religion, personal loss, social defiance and escapism. All of which Smith articulates in her empow- ered, original and unchallenged way.
From the opening sentence of the first track, ‘Gloria’ (a Van Morrison cover/the best cover song ever written), the album screams rebellious, literate beauty.
The controversial opening line, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine,” later followed by “People say beware/but I don’t care/their words are just rules and regulations to me,” defined the punk attitude she was so essential in influencing.
‘Land,’ another masterpiece on the album, is about a brutal school murder. The commanding, frantic and dizzyingly layered track features lyrics from ‘Land of a Thousand Dances.’
The last track, the live cover of The Who’s ‘My Generation’ is also a contender for best cover ever written. It’s a loud ‘fuck you’ to the world; extremely applicable to any defiant generation.
Patti Smith’s far reaching influence cannot be overstated, and if you haven’t listened to Horses – do it now. My words cannot do it justice. I’ve loved Horses ever since picking it up as a typically rebellious 17 years old, and my heart still beats faster every time I hear it.