GHOSTS OF DEAD GIRL FRIENDS/Patti Smith

  

 

  

GHOSTS OF DEAD GIRLFRIENDS

 

Ghosts of Dead Girlfriends

they haunt me still,

(it’s worse than when they’re alive.)

Even though they can’t ask for money,

or even ask me to drive

them

into the Dark Night

to some distant suburb

where some dodgy deal’s going down.

They’ll make it feel Real

while you’re there at the wheel,

when they’re gone you feel like a clown.

 

The Ghosts of Dead Girlfriends,

they haunt me yet,

it’s worse than when they’re Alive.

Screaming at me like they’re mentally ill

while they casually run up the phone bill.

And I wish I could catch them

in a big demon-net,

and carry them down to the sea,

and then with a shout,

I would fling them all out

and maybe then I’d be free.

Yes maybe then I’d be free.

O maybe then I’d be Free!

***

(*to be sung to the tune of a rousing sea-shanty!)

***

***

 

BOOK OF THE WEEK;

JUST KIDS” by Patti Smith (Bloomsbury Publishing,2010)

 My Personal Assistant was fortunate enough to be gifted with a copy of this book signed by the Great Lady herself, and subsequently lent it to me for review on a number of proviso’s (no eating, drinking or smoking whilst reading, no folding the corners of the pages down to mark the place, etc, etc) .

Be that as it may, I’ve been a fan of the Inspired One since her first album, even before I heard it. For I first read of her in a small Time magazine review, accompanied by a tiny photo of the iconic cover of Horses. Interesting, I thought. Soon after I heard “The Land” on 4 Triple Zed (then Double Zed) late one night. I knew it was her before the announcer said who it was coz it sounded like I hoped it would sound. Indeed it did. Fervent, raw, primitive and Inspired. Went out and bought the album the next morning. On the bus home, looking at that classic Mapplethorpe photo of Patti, androgynous & anonymous against a plain white background.

An endlessly simple photograph that expands in your mind like a corridor of mirrors. A photograph that helped define her image as much as the music did. Perhaps only Robert Mapplethorpe could have taken that photograph, being as he was both a photographic genius and her paramour & confidant.

So I was interested to read this book, an autobiography of her early years as a young artist in New York City, before Fame came and found her. It is also the story of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, indeed their story is at the heart of this book.

From a chance meeting their relationship quickly blooms into love, a seemingly perfect romantic/artistic dyad, where each takes turns playing both muse & mentor to the other. They inspire and inform each others’ work.

Together the two young innocents explore the New York 60’s artistic underground, and develop as artists and individuals. Living for a period in the legendary Chelsea Hotel, where Patti camped more or less permanently in the lobby with her diary, it seems like they met anyone who was ever anyone in New York City. From drag queens to dope fiends, from rockers to artists, they met every poet, poseur & pretender. From Andy Warhol & Lou Reed to Jimi Hendrix and Allen Ginsberg, Patti met them all. William Burroughs thought she was a pretty boy at first, but got over his disappointment and they became friends anyway.

In the process of all this personal growth and artistic & social turmoil the couple have a crisis. Robert gradually realises and accepts that his sexuality was basically gay. And not your vanilla gay either. No no. As fans of his photography would know, young Robert was into the full bondage and leather scene.

Naturally Patti struggles to deal with this revelation. As she describes herself then:

I prided myself on being non-judgmental, but my comprehension was narrow and provincial…I thought a man turned homosexual when there wasn’t the right woman to save him.”

Patti tells us of her struggle to grow as a person and accept Robert for what he was. Not only did she succeed, but she drew on Roberts experiences to create an integral element of her art, the psycho-sexual imagery that appears in her early poems and  most famously in the-boy-looked-at-Johnny  sequence in Horses.

Happily, their Love, respect and affection for each other was such that their relationship continues, though in an altered form. The sexual link between them steadily diminishes but the emotional and artistic bond remains strong. They continue to live and work together, but each is also free to explore in other directions outside the relationship. Each has a string of other lovers and work partners, but they are always there for each other when needed.

Ultimately, perhaps inevitably, they increasingly go their separate ways over the years. Patti goes on to become a famous Rock Goddess and Robert becomes an Icon of Contemporary Photography. Still the link remains and they continue to stay in touch when she retires from being a Rock Goddess to become an Earth Mother, until ultimately comes Robert’s tragic demise from AIDs.

Patti Smith tells her story honestly, simply, humourously and compellingly. In some ways her story is the story of every young bohemian who escapes from a small town or the suburbs to follow their dreams, and runs away to the Big City to become a famous artist and make their fortune. Like all Innocents in the Big City, she loses her Naivety, but she never becomes cynical, and for that alone Patti Smith deserves our respect.

Towards the end of the book, as both Patti and Robert’s careers are starting to take off and they are increasingly pursuing their separate paths to Fame, they come together again to do the photo shoot for Patti’s first album, the historic “Horses” album.

I was full of signs,” she writes gnomically, “he was full of light.”

Robert took 25 photo’s that afternoon. Later he glanced through them and with his legendary Eye-for-the-Shot immediately selected the photo that became the front cover.

This is the one with the magic,” he said. He was right of course.

I recommend this book with the same words. This is the one with the magic.

 

***

The Reverend Hellfire.. he walks amongst us!

***

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~ by reverendhellfire on May 15, 2011.

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