Horses by Patti Smith

12 December 2019

Punk and poetry. Now, those are two words you don’t often hear in the same sentence. For most people, punk brings to mind the throbbing drumbeats of Tommy Ramones or Johnny Rotten’s raucous snarling. They think of ripped all-black outfits, overdosing on drugs, and the kind of music that causes hearing loss by age 30. On the other hand, poetry reminds people of the natural haikus of Matsuo Basho or the surreal poems of T.S. Eliot. They think of The New Yorker, a brief unit in high school English class, and that unread but prominently displayed collection of poems on their bookshelf. Punk and poetry don’t seem to have much in common. But, on Patti Smith’s debut studio album Horses, the two genres merge into a unique and beautiful sound. Patti Smith proves that punk and poetry can coexist and maybe they aren’t as different as you’ve always assumed.

Produced by The Velvet Underground alum John Cale, Horses is a modern art exhibit. It can be vague and confusing at times, but it’s somehow so emotive that your lack of understanding becomes inconsequential. It can be devastating, but it’s the kind of devastating that makes you want to shout for joy because it reminds you that you are not alone in feeling this way.With the simple but radical cover of Smith dressed androgynously and staring with a quiet defiance into the camera, Horses is an album of subtle ingenuity and undeniable uniqueness.

Horses by Patti Smith Essay Example

The eight-track album opens with an adaptation of the song “Gloria” by Van Morrison’s band, Them. From the opening line, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine”, Smith pulls the listener along through sexual desires for a mysterious woman named Gloria. Her voice twists and contorts into moans, snarls, and screeches, animating the song into a story of confidence and lust.

On the other hand, the third track on the album, “Birdland”, is pure poetry set to music. The nine-minute song was inspired by A Book of Dreams by Peter Reich, the son of psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich. “Birdland” begins with Patti Smith simply speaking the lyrics with a soft musical accompaniment. The influence of the French Symbolism movement in poetry is evident in lyrics like “it was as if someone had spread butter on all the fine points of the stars ‘cause when he looked up, they started to slip”. Smith also references the English poet William Blake with the eloquent line, “and he saw the lights of traffic beckoning like the hands of Blake”. Eventually, “Birdland” evolves into singing, swelling into crescendos and then ebbing into decrescendos in such a way that the listener feels like a boat at the mercy of Smith’s words.

“Free Money”, the fourth track on Horses, is a much more traditional rock song, as it is less than four minutes long and contains no references to obscure poetry.Focusing the tension between on poverty and big dreams, “Free Money” is a song of desperation and hope. Smith wrote the song about her mother’s desire to provide for her children despite economic hardship, as shown in the moving line, “oh baby, it would mean so much to me, oh baby, to buy you all the things you need for free”. With swirling beats and passionate lyrics, “Free Money” is the catchiest song on the album, the kind of song that compels you to sing along or get up and dance.

The next song on the album, “Kimberly”, is named after and written about Smith’s younger sister. Although it does not contain as much musical creativity as the rest of the album, it is filled with beautiful lyricism. Smith tenderly describes young Kimberly with the line, “your soul was like a network of spittle like glass balls movin’ in like cold streams of logic”. Another haunting and memorable line, “I feel like just some misplaced Joan of Arc”, fuses the sense of not belonging found in many punk songs with Smith’s fascination with religion.

The nine-minute-long seventh track, “Land” is undoubtedly the best song on Horses, blending poetic lyrics and upbeat riffs.“Land”, dedicated to rock icon Jimi Hendrix, includes three separate parts: “Horses”, “Land of a Thousand Dances”, and “La Mer”. “Horses”, which starts similarly to “Birdland” with Smith speaking the lyrics over minimal music, is a disturbing and ominous segment about the rape of a boy named Johnny by another unnamed boy. It quickly morphs into “Land of a Thousand Dances”, which bizarrely swirls mentions of Johnny, the names of upbeat 50s and 60s dance moves, and invocations of the poet Arthur Rimabud into a frenzied pandemonium. “La Mer” completes the song with several layers of Smith’s voice creating a psychedelic, dream-like sound.This part of the song recalls the previous sections with references to Johnny, dance moves, and Rimbaud, but it mixes them with lyrics about the sea, suicide, and religion.

Patti Smith’s Horses is an album that defined the punk genre of music and proved that poetry and punk are not mutually exclusive categories. It is a raw, honest, and original album that is avant-garde yet unpretentious. And it might just be the perfect proof for your skeptical parents that punk rock truly is art.

A limited
time offer!
Save Time On Research and Writing. Hire a Professional to Get Your 100% Plagiarism Free Paper