Apocalypse Then

Patti Smith revives Horses on stage and disc to honor its 30th anniversary

I read somewhere that you were equally inspired by John Coltrane and Johnny Carson.

PS My two Johnnys [laughs]. Johnny Carson taught me how to spar, to not be daunted by hecklers. 'Cause I got heckled a lot in the early years—really a lot. From Coltrane I learned about a more spiritual kind of improvisation. Coltrane, like, talked to God, visited the universe, went really far out, but then came back. From him I learned you could cast a line very far out, but you still have to reel yourself back in.

You guys were such an integral part of the scene, but you don't really appear too much in [the punk oral history] Please Kill Me.

Patti Smith
photo: Melody McDaniels
Patti Smith

LK Well, that book isn't really about music. I'm as big a fan of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle as anybody. But we had a very strong work ethic. We didn't have time or energy to waste chasing drug demons. You don't hear too many scandal stories about our band. And if you do, they're probably not true.

The Ramones template would become punk rock, and Lord love it. But for us [punk] was always a sense of the new, of possibility—that you could get up on that stage and take the accumulated weight of rock 'n' roll history and perhaps find a piece of that history for yourself.

The end of the cover of "My Generation" from the London show, where you mention George Bush and our collective responsibility for what he's doing, really brought things up to the moment, I thought.

PS Well, we like to have a good time and celebrate. But rock 'n' roll is our cultural voice. I saw it evolve in my lifetime—I'm gonna be 59 in December—and it was revolutionary, in every way. It gave young people an outlet to channel all this new energy that didn't really compute with the generations before them.

I mean, look at what's happening in Paris right now. Part of me wishes I could just go into the streets and say, y'know, "What the fuck? Here—here's a Marshall; here's a Strat." That's the beauty of rock 'n' roll: It's a voice.

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