Patti Smith by Gerard Malanga

I love this photo of Patti Smith waiting (posing?) on the platform at the 68th Street/Lexington subway station. Gerard Malanga took it in 1971.

A friend recommended Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk, where I saw this photo and just pored over it. There’s something so appealing about Patti Smith’s look here. One thing I’m really hung up on these days is how modern some of the early 70s and early 80s looks are. For instance, and I’m hardly the first person to remark upon it, but these “lost” 1982 shots of Madonna from OUT magazine are strikingly contemporary in feel.

But back to Patti Smith. She doesn’t come out so well in the book, funnily enough. In the memories of her contemporaries, she was a very different Patti Smith than the one she seemed to be in her memoir—which of course you’d expect. It seems she pissed off a lot of people, and a lot of time has passed. I found this nice interview with her by Thurston Moore from a 1996 issue of Bomb Magazine.

TM The only other time I saw you was in Bleecker Bob’s in the ‘70s. You walked in eating pizza and wearing aviator glasses and Bleecker Bob showed you an Ian Dury picture sleeve and you said, “I don’t listen to music by people I don’t wanna fuck.”

PS (laughter) Yeah, that was me.

TM One time I went to see you at CBGB and it was totally packed and you guys were wearing these black leather pants, you were totally bad-ass. It was a pretty intense scene, I was standing there biting my lower lip and you looked at me and bit your lip right back at me like, “I’ll show you how to bite your lip. Kid.”

PS I was kind of mean. I’m so glad I’m nice now.

TM Well, I didn’t think you were mean.

PS Well, I spotted you.

I’ve been reading the book to get more flavor for my novel, and have picked up many useful things. For instance, details about the music scene in 1975 that my character’s brother would be involved in. So, you know, vivid descriptions of where/how people bought drugs, the mix of venues apart from the obvious, etc. The fact that it’s all delivered through interview transcription is just fabulous. I highly recommend it, even for people who, like myself, don’t identify as huge punk fans generally.


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