Wednesday 19 November 2008

Killer Opening Songs (Patti Smith - Gloria)

'Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine'. If there's a more powerful opening line of a Killer Opening Song in a debut album, K.O.S. would love to know. Answers on a postcard, please. This opening salvo from Patti Smith's first album 'Horses' paved the way for punk rock. Although it would be a tad bit unfair to box Patti in this category. This is a performer who has always defied labels. She is a poet, a singer-songwriter, an activist and an artist. Through her music she has married two old American traditions on integrating beat poetry with three-chord rock.

Patricia Lee Smith was born in 1946 in Chicago, Illinois. She was raised in a religious household and as she was growing up she found the world depicted by the Bible too confining. Hence the aforementioned opening line in her version of the Them's Gloria was a response to her theistic upbringing.

Patti has often been called the 'Godmother of Punk', which K.O.S. finds somewhat limiting as Smith's music has always been slightly different from the DIY style favoured by bands like Sex Pistols and The Buzzcocks. Also, Patti's dalliances with poetry and art have placed her musical oeuvre in a more aesthetically position, raw and feisty lyrics notwithstanding. In fact, K.O.S. would go as far as to claim that hers was a more experimental take on rock music that veered more towards the ecclectic British bands from the 70s prog rock movement (minus flowers on heads and flying pigs) than the amateurish attitude of most punk performers of that era.

To back this up, readers and fellow bloggers need only look at the cover of Patti's already mentioned opera prima, 'Horses'. The photo was taken by Patti's long-time friend, Robert Mapplethorpe using natural light in a penthouse in Greenwich Village. It has since become one of rock's iconic images.

Patti continues to tour, compose, paint and her activism shows no signs of abating either. A couple of years ago she curated London's Southbank's Meltdown Festival, where she performed the album 'Horses' in its entirety.

Killer Opening Songs is proud to profile this artist as part of its series about musicians whose introductory tracks have become musical landmarks.

Note: It was hard getting hold of a clip of the song 'Gloria' on youtube. So, on this video Patti Smith performs two songs, 'Gloria' and 'We're Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together' by The Velvet Underground. I hope you enjoy it.

Copyright 2008


  1. Me siento bien cerca de ella, sobre todo de sus letras que dan amparo a la marginalidad y que incluyen al excluido. La sociedad tiene que arreglarselas para darnos a cada uno un lugar.
    EL pasado año estuvo en una gira adaptando poemas de Rimbaud, a los que unía con su música.
    Si hay algo que me cuadra de Patti es su homenaje a Kurt Cobain, de quien ha dicho: "Maybe Kurt Cobain died for my sins".
    A mi si me importa, porque creo que nuestro peor pecado es callar y una sola canción puede decir muchas cosas.
    Patti Smith - Smells Like Teen Spirit

  2. Thank you for highlighting Patti. I am a HUGE fan of her late friend, the brilliant photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Both of these artists have been grossly misunderstood.

  3. I think Robert Mapplethorp is a great artist; I was fortunate enough to catch an exhibit in New York this summer.

    Patti Smith, however - I'm not gonna lie - she doesn't float my boat. I guess Yoli was talking about me.

    I had to have a talk with myself and decide whether to keep silent Southern style, as in "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say it", or to express my opinion. Which do you prefer, Cuban?

  4. 'Vivir 489 años', está bueno de título de un cuento.
    Me anoto a la Patti Smth, está super bien!!!
    ¿cómo pueden gustarme tanto las canciones en inglés?
    En yoruba me pasa igual. Un abrazo desde Madrid, envidio tu bilingüe culture, debe ser muy frío Londres...

  5. Yes, dutchbaby, bring the troops on :-)! This forum respects all opinions and ideas (with a modicum of decency, of course), so let's hear you ranting and raving against Ms Smith :-D!

    Asere, tanto esa version de Patti como la de Tori no son mis preferidas. Incluso me gusta mas la 'unplugged' de Nirvana. La cancion tiene rabia y enojo y las dos versiones anteriormente mencionadas le quitan un poco de efecto al track.

    Agree with you, yoli, Robert was not very well understood by his contemporaries. Also, he came about at a time when you had Mick Rock already doing very glamourous album covers. I love Robert's work but I admit I have never seen it hanging in a gallery, only in catalogues and on websites.

    Thank you all for your comments.

    Greetings from London.

  6. Hi, thank you for your comment. We all know, how terrible and terrifying a world can be without music, poetry, dance and everything else artistic what people can produce to make others and themselves happy and content.

  7. Patti is good and this song has merit, but it would has been much better without Van Morrison's music. I think she didn't really need it.

    Al Godar

  8. Thanks for your kind comments. Al, I think her version is a hell of a lot more different from Van's. He depends more on guitars, she depends more on vocals (hers). There are two other good versions by The Doors and Hendrix.

    Greetings from London.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. How refreshing to have a forum where descending opinion is welcomed! We haven't had that in our White House for eight years! Thanks!

    No ranting or raving required, just not my cup of tea.

  11. It's been 30 years (or so) since I've seen that album cover - my favorite! back then. Thanks for the reminder.

  12. Hi, dutchbaby, thank YOU for your feedback.

    Hi, Tasch, welcome to this forum and I'm glad you liked the post.

    Greetings from London.

  13. It's very too cool ! Patti Smith is a great singer !

  14. Thanks, web, for your kind comment.

    Greetings from London.

  15. It's true, she does defy labels. We went to a small concert she gave last year in Granada, in former Garcia Lorca's summer house. She sung, playing her guitar then recited poetry. She was great and funny but we ticked a bit when she kept reading Lorca in a Spanish audience

  16. Hahaha, yes, I think I would have got up myself and said to her: 'Excuse me, Ms Smith, you do understand that Lorca WAS Spanish and that you ARE in Spain?' :-)

    Greetings from London.

  17. Ciao Cuban,

    Patti Smith l'ho vista live a Torino questa estate. E´ un artista molto particolare. Il suo because the night e´ diventato un Inno oramai. Semplicemente grande.



  18. Gracias, salva por tu comentario.

    Saludos desde Londres.

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