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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Was there ever a memoir as po-faced as Patti's?

Read the Patti Smith memoir Just Kids, which is candid, well-observed and well-written, as the reviews said, but did any of the reviews point out that it's completely lacking humour?

I don't expect a laugh riot but surely you shouldn't be able to look back at your formative years without either snapping into the foetal position under the duvet out of mortified embarrassment or dealing with the same feeling by having a bit of a rueful laugh at yourself. On the evidence of this book that never ever happened with Patti.

I remember seeing a TV interview with Ken Campbell back in the 70s where he said "anything that isn't in some way funny isn't true". I'd buy that.


  1. Agreed. I've always found her rather soulless and self-aggrandizing. The back catalogue's not all that (and a bag of chips - as the yoot say) either. Horses (gawd that drags on) and the rest seem to clatter about getting nowhere.

    Reading Legs McNeil's history of New York punk , Please Kill Me, Patti comes across as the scene's spare-part , who finally finds an angle, modelling her look on Keef.

    Pete Townshend's good for a lengthy theory about his back catalogue too. Although, I wouldn't be surprised to discover his earliest Rock Operas, weren't quite the high concept compositions we're told, rather, a few leftover scraps, odds and sods stitched into a long-form shape

  2. Who's Next is glossed over in a page and don't get him started on the 'pissing' artwork. Have Smith and Townshend not heard of ghosts?

  3. I haven't read it, but I'm guessing there's more on Lifehouse (he's always grinding on about bloody Lifehouse). Actually, Who's Next is my fave from the 'Orrible 'Oo

  4. Ms. Smith hid her lighthearted, fun-loving side for professional reasons, to be taken seriously as an Artist; a secret she shared with undercover japester "Laughing" Lou Reed - their Laugh-A-Loft parties were legendary affairs for the select few invitees - "funny hats" were de rigeur, and the whoopee cushion was a regular, inducing gales of laughter! Old Benny Hill shows were screened, the guests re-enacting the chase scenes to Lou's enthusiastic screaming feedback rendition of the theme music, with "Pottymouth Patti" sporting comedy breasts!

  5. Re Ken Campbell:

    Someone once said to me that those who feel about the world find it sad and those who think about the world find it funny. (or something like that)

  6. New York gave us Patti Smith whilst London gave us Wreckless Eric...I know which one I'd rather listen to (it's Eric)humourless doesn't even begin to describe her. She got lucky when she was in the next studio to Springsteen and she's been ploughing that furrow ever since.

    She also came over as mean-spirited and ruthlessly ambitious in the recent Blondie documentary.

  7. jones2:19 pm

    Not one tiny trace of humour, but, of course, much earnest droning on about "art' and her (and Mapplethorpe's) unceasing quest for fame and fortune, sorry, artistic validity. Had to admire their unerring ability to snare movers and shakers. Rod the Mod's autobiog is easily the funniest of recent rock memoirs, with Giles Smith helping greatly.

  8. Rod's is tremendous. Unapologetic, honest and a whole barrowload of fun. The aeroplane banner marriage proposal to the wrong woman a particular delight.

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  10. Rod is brilliantly ventriloquised by Giles. Unlike some other best selling rock memoirs.

  11. jones9:50 pm

    Giles's own autobiography - 'Lost in Music' - was also a tremendous read. Vastly superior to Hornby's 'High Fidelity', though it could only have sold a fraction of that number.
    As regards Rod, I'm not sure I've read a funnier line than 'at the raging peak of my knob-based graffiti mania..' By the end, I loved Rod even more than previously; whereas, with Keef, I despised him and his risible references to 'outlaws/gypsies/old ladies etc'