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“Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” Has any debut album ever marked its territory with a greater opening gambit than that? Yes, it could only be Patti Smith, and how could I resist not going along to watch her recently when she came to town?  She had the Glasgow crowd – and probably every other crowd for that matter – at “Jesus”.


Horses turns 40 this year, and in its honour Smith is in the middle of a string of live performances, from Field Day to Glastonbury, Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo to Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall – a run of venues, grand, intimate, stately, that in its diversity encapsulates her particular role – an artist who is able to simultaneously hold both the Ordre des Artes et des Lettres from the French ministry of culture and a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


In 1967 Smith’s life changed when she relocated to New York City, and becoming romantically involved with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, whom she would later lived with at the infamous Chelsea hotel. In the years that followed she became an integral part of the downtown Manhattan scene that circled around Max’s Kansas City and CBGB and included Television, the Ramones and Blondie.


But it was that debut release of Horses in 1975 that positioned Smith as “punk’s poet laureate”.  She has described the album, with its distinctive portrait by Mapplethorpe, as “my aural sword sheathed with Robert’s image”. She chose her outfit carefully: a shirt she bought at the Salvation Army on the Bowery; the monogram on the breast pocket reminded her of a Brassai shot of Jean Genet. She wore it with her black jacket, a horse pin that Allen Lanier had given to her and her favourite ribbon.  Its release and her looks established Smith as an artist who believed she was serving something greater than herself.


Nevertheless, everything following the main set was an anti-climax. It’s impossible to top the tumultuous psychodrama of Land and the comedown of Elegie – that was touchingly dedicated to fallen comrades such as Smith’s late husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith of the MC5. But isn’t that fitting? Horses was arguably her one-shot flash of musical genius.


Olympus OM2-SP & 1.2/50mm Zuiko

Ilford Delta 100

HC-110 (Dil. B – 6 min)

Plustek 7600i & Vuescan