Patti Smith at Readings ~ theatre notes

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Patti Smith at Readings

The scene at Readings yesterday, where I was the "conversation" bit of "Patti Smith in conversation". Somehow Readings managed to cram 220 people in between the bookshelves. It was a chance to get up close and personal with Patti Smith and director Steven Sebring, who made the extraordinary film portrait of Patti's life and work, Dream of Life, which is showing at ACMI as part of the Melbourne Festival.

I am not sure I've ever been more nervous before an event: I'm generally proof against the glamour of celebrity, but Patti Smith is more than a celebrity. As I said in my introduction:

She’s one of those people who is impossible to summarise, a rock star and poet, a visual artist and performer, an artist whose life and work have been a constant quest for freedom, for change, for beauty, for life itself. There are a few adjectives I associate with Patti Smith. The first is “visionary”. The second is “revolutionary”. The third is “ecstatic”. The fourth is “cool”.

It seems, to anyone looking at her biography, that Patti Smith was there whenever anything was happening. She lived with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe when he was an unknown art student, she wrote and performed the play Cowboy Mouth with Sam Shepard, was there at CBGBs with William Burroughs when the punk revolution was happening, she hung out with Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan and Gregory Corso. She is a mother. She has lived enormously and suffered great losses. But she was always, from the beginning, a poet.

She was there. And then she was here. The conversation ranged from William Blake, Oscar Wilde, Susan Sontag and Mikhail Bulgakov to noses and her mother's collection of china cows (140). She finished by pulling out a guitar and singing My Blakean Year. She dedicated the song to me. I was floored. And that legendary voice soared unadorned through the hushed book shop, and everything was absolutely now.

It was a fine moment.

If you missed the Readings appearance, you can catch Patti Smith and Steven Sebring at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy, today from 1.30 to 2pm.

And if you missed that, you can read Chris Boyd's interview at The Morning After.


Anonymous said...

Nice one, Croggers!

Barry Alpert said...

Congrats on the dedication. She & Steven Sebring passed thru Wash DC but their public appearance badly mishandled by the staff of the film festival presenting them. I did witness a startling early performance in March 1976 within a raw cafeteria at Philistine University. At a free performance within the Kennedy Center this century she was quite impressive, and she surprised me with her reference to a rare bookshop in the area into which she must have walked while "strolling incognito" around the city.

Anonymous said...

I think CBGB's was kind of derivative, I never associated 'people' with it, I just thought it was a bad idea. There was no ideology with it. We use to ask 'what dos it mean'?

It wasn't like being bottled off-stage in Detroit, that was a lump of granite you can build on. Een the Whisky a Go Go, was something again, byt CBGB's there was 'no hook' to hang there.

Somne of us had doubt about Andy, and it was thought that it might be neat to try to celebrate 'anonymity' by selling twenty millon records or 'buying MGM'.

That was the reverse take on it. Some of us, did buy up huge chunks of 1960's back catalog, I tried to leverage two of the old majors in London.

If we became 'the same' as the cashed-up, at least we did it together. The lawyers and accountants were left standing to guard 'the treasure'.

Patti Smith, on the other hand, was probably the most impressive talent I can recall from that period, I actually listened to 'horses' all the time, I knew at the time the album was going to stay important.

People ask about that era, and I can remember very little, I do remember thinking Patti Smith was an extraordinary telant, independent of circus or reactive spin.

Yvette Doll

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Alison Croggon said...

In line with the comments policy (available from the sidebar) any further libellous or personally abusive comments will be summarily removed.

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Alison Croggon said...

Yes, that meant you, Yvette Doll. And believe me, I've checked my facts.

Alison Croggon said...

...and please consult this and this and this before calling me a liar again.

Trolling also not permitted on this forum.

Chris Boyd said...

How about some on-topic comments please! There are plenty of other more appropriate posts for comments about Bill Henson et al.

I had no idea you were doing this AC. What a blast. I ran smack bang into Lenny Kaye near the Spiegeltent on Friday avo. I didn't accost him, just did the nod thing. Spent enough time in New York not to be a groupie. (LOL)

Minutes later I was being introduced to a Sweet Young Thang by the name of Jordan. Say what? Yup, the slightly brutalised Jordan Beth Vincent.

I'm hoping that the Readings Q&A was be a bit more sophisticated than the one after Dream of Life. I hear the so-called Qs were either gushy or inane or mildly offensive.

The concert, last night, is the highlight of my festival, so far.

Inkster said...

“visionary”, “revolutionary”, “ecstatic”, “cool”. In a word, Blakean!