I Haven’t Fucked Much With The Past, But I’ve Fucked Plenty With The Future

I had forgotten just how much I love Patti Smith Group Easter, for some reason it just hadn’t occurred to me to play it for about a year now; that happens sometimes.

Patti Smith Group Easter 01

When people talk about Patti Smith I am arrogant enough to think they get two things wrong.  First off the first four LPs are credited to ‘The Patti Smith Group’ and you can really hear they are a group and not just Patricia Lee Smith’s hired hands.  Secondly, people fixate on Horses, ground-breaking, incomparable classic that it is and Easter never seems to quite get its’ dues as the PSGs’ rockingest, stompingest long player.

I am the sword, the wound, the stain.
Scorned transfigured child of Cain.
I rend, I end, I return.     

Patti Smith Group Easter 04

Thanks Patti, now where was I? ah yes, rock.  Lenny Kaye is all over this Easter wang dang doodle, slathering some great raw, lascivious guitar all over it – just check out the totally rocking ’25th Floor’ which comes on like a tougher Blue Öyster Cult*, before lurching into one of those exhilaratingly pretentious poetic rants on ‘High On Rebellion’.  It’s the first PSG LP which caused me to reach for my air guitar, rather than my air mic** and Easter is doubly great for that reason.

What I feel when I’m playing guitar
Is completely cold and crazy,
Like I don’t owe nobody nothing
And it’s just a test just to see
How far I can relax
Into the cold wave of a note      (High on Rebellion)

Patti Smith Group Easter 07

I agree that Easter is the Patti Smith Group’s second best album, but, hey, by definition that still puts Easter up there as one of the very best LPs of the late seventies.  Smith gives this album such drive, attitude and strength, laying waste to any idea of the N.Y rock scene being a guys and dolls thing.  I have always loved the way she hedges her literary leanings with real grit and spit, if you were looking for a tower of truly righteous female power, then welcome to the mother lode!

Patti Smith Group Easter 06 (2)

Easter kicks off with the confident strut of ‘Till Victory’ which sees the group channelling a great melodic bombast, complete with some very Springsteen-esque key changes and driving pomp – you really can hear the influence of producer Jimmy Iovine on this one.  Springsteen was recording next door cutting Darkness On The Edge Of Town and one day he let Iovine, who was working on both LPs, share a song with he was struggling with.  The upshot was twofold – Smith put her own lyrics to it and created her biggest ever hit and … the first time I ever heard it was track 1, side 1 of this mixtape the future Mrs 1537 sent me 14 years later.

Patti Smith Group Easter 05

‘Because the Night’ has been my favourite love song ever since^; it is such an honest aching portrayal of all those emotions, almost too much to listen to sometimes.  By cutting out any artifice Smith created real art here, all the joy that comes from all the risk, it’s all here and delivered perfectly.

Patti Smith Group Easter 09

Which is all a polar opposite of my next favourites ‘Babelogue / Rock n Roll Nigger’.  The former is a spoken word rant delivered over a recording of a crowd at a PSG gig, Patricia babbling about gigs, piss and seed, it’s deeply silly in some ways but totally and utterly galvanizing in others – it absolutely electrifies me!

I haven’t fucked much with the past,
But I’ve fucked plenty with the future.

‘ … Nigger’ is just a straight up rocker, it shocked me when I first heard it as a callow youth but listening to it now I just hear an anthemic rocker and Smith just using the N-word so repetitively that it robs it of all meaning – clever arty stuff.  It reminds me of being a kid and repeating words, breaking them down into sounds until they just become a noise, I concede I may have been a bit of an odd child.  Anyway, any song that namechecks Jimi Hendrix, Jackson Pollock and, umm, grandma is doing just fine by me.

Jimi Hendrix was a nigger.
Jesus Christ and Grandma, too.
Jackson Pollock was a nigger.
Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger,
Nigger, nigger, nigger.

I am also taken with the haunting folk-out of ‘Ghost Dance’ where the band get all faux Native American on our asses, to great effect.  The playing on this track is particularly great as it is on the jerky punk funk of ‘Space Monkey’.  Hell, it’s all good and when you’re done rocking out to the likes of ‘Privilege (Set Me Free)’, you can sink into the title track’s gently uneasy appropriation of catholic imagery and Arthur Rimbaud^^ and swoon to the really rather gorgeous ‘We Three’.

Patti Smith Group Easter 08

It’s all here and wrapped up in another fabulous potent image of Smith on the cover, armpit hair, nipples and all – I’ve rarely seen a cover portrait capture the sound and rebellious swagger of a whole album so well; hats off to Lynn Goldsmith.  The lyric sheet is as arty and daft as you’d expect – snatches of the lyrics, Mapplethorpe photos, gnomic utterances and biblical quotes-a-go-go.

Patti Smith Group Easter 06
‘Whine of a fart’ – why have I never, ever noticed that before today?!! That’s my next LP named.

Look, if you like gnarly rock with arty lyrics – buy Easter.  If you like strong women artists who never compromise, or cheapen themselves to get their message across – buy Easter.  If you’re left-handed – buy Easter.  If you love love – buy Easter.  If you love a slice of NY cool served up by skinny boys in tight jeans – buy Easter.  If you’re right-handed – buy Easter.  Buy Easter.  Buy Easter.  Buy Easter.

Patti Smith Group Easter 02

Easter is just flat-out great at times, but don’t just take my word for it ask Jesus Christ, Jackson Pollock, Jimi Hendrix and grandma too, they are all radiating now.

We’re ascending through the hollow mountain.
We are peeking.
We are laughing.
We are kneeling.
We are laughing.
We are radiating at last.                (High on Rebellion)

861 Down.

*Allen Lanier being Patti’s boyf (as my daughter would say) at this time, he lends his keys to ‘Space Monkey’.  Smith having contributed lyrics to the ‘Cult cause as well.

**if called upon, possibly to save the planet, I could rock a great version of either ‘Piss Factory’ or ‘Gloria’ on a karaoke machine.

^pushing ‘Bathroom Wall’ by Faster Pussycat back into second place.

^^John’s older, far less-military brother.

37 thoughts on “I Haven’t Fucked Much With The Past, But I’ve Fucked Plenty With The Future

  1. Yup! I like this album and I like Smith and the group. Good piece. I seen her on Jool’s show a few years ago. She was still doing it. ‘Because The Night’ is a fave. Two outsiders make magic on that one.

  2. Spurred by this post, I listened to Patti all day at work today. I’m too intimidated by her genius and aura to write much, but note that Easter was my first and is my favorite, even over crowd choice Horses , which I also dig (meaning the album not as in “a Pony” – although I also dig that, and the animals as well, for that matter).

    My intros to her were Gilda Radner and BÖC, although I had no idea I was being introduced at the time. Have you read any of her prose?

    1. I have read ‘Two Kids’ and it is brilliant. I’m a really big fan of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography and so it was really interesting on that front too. It’s a book I’d recommend heartily.

      I love how rocky Easter is. Plus Because The Night just reduces me to mush, even though I’m a renowned international hard man.

      1. Yeah man, Just Kids is excellent. It was the first I read by her and, while I’m not particularly Mapplethorpe aware, I was moved by the memoir, but even more so by the sense of insight into how her unique “artist” mind works. I’ve since read M Train, which is also memoir and which I can’t recommend strongly enough, and Woolgathering, which is more poetic and whimsical maybe(?), but also just wonderful writing/thinking.

        As an aside, Richard Hell seems to hold something of a grudge against her based on his treatment of her in his book I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp. Oh, oh, wait, and, and Hell’s Go Now is also an amazing read with wonderful wordcraft!… Damn, somebody should blog about these books…

  3. So, just for clarity, you’re telling me I should buy this? Another record? Really? Another fucking record!? Man, I never learn. I hereby declare that I shall not visit your site again for 24 hours.

    As for PSG and Easter… firstly, I am not awfy familiar with Patti Smith. Even, truth be told, Horses. I just couldn’t really dig it and I’ve never went back to it. I’ve always been struck by this cover, though… quite something. Can’t say I know anything other than Rock N Roll Nigger, cause I think that was on the Natural Born Killers soundtrack.

  4. Jeez, Joe, I wish you wouldn’t prevaricate about whether you like an album or not. Just tell us what you think, man.
    While totally aligned with most of your energetic discourse, I do struggle with ‘poetic rants’ a bit, meaning that I’ve always respected Patti more than actually enjoyed the music. Having said that, I don’t own Easter, something that I’d remedy given the opportunity just for her wonderful version of “Because the night”.
    Terrific stuff Mr ’37.

    1. Sorry Bruce, I guess I should just get off the fence once and for all and tell the world whether I like Easter, or not. It is only my inherent modesty that stops me pushing my opinions forwards like that.

      No poetic rants? how about ‘poetic pants’ then – I could review all my favourite spoken word LPs whilst only wearing my undies? It’ll break the internet!

  5. Oh, I absolutely agree with you regarding Easter. Horses is better, but Easter is almost just as good, and it is the Patti Smith record I usually point people to as I feel it is more accessible than her debut. Speaking of her, I have only listened to her first four albums. I should get to the others soon.

      1. Oh, absolutely! I am carrying a portable digital TV to work every day so I don’t miss a game. Luckily, the boss does not mind! =D

        The only thing I am not enjoying so far is Brazil’s performance, but hopefully that will change by Friday.

      2. From afar my view is they need to stop falling over looking for free kicks so much and actually play more – they look so great when they do.

      3. I agree completely! That seems to be a habit they develop when playing the national league and are completely unable to drop when they go to Europe.

      1. It was sweet, we were right down front. The band came out and started jamming on some riff or other, and she walked out and when the yelling subsided a bit she stepped to the mike and started reading from Howl… all this before singing a note. GodDAMN!

  6. I’ll ask Grandma to clarify!
    Patti Smith was a favourite of Creem Magazine back in the day! Thats where I read about her and so many acts that weren’t Metal!

      1. I used to by Creem when they would feature of course some Hard Rock on the cover. That would be it for coverage in that issue for Hard Rock. But I wouldn’t toss it away as I would read other articles about bands I wouldn’t perhaps listen too like Rundgrens Utopia/Devo/Marshall Crenshaw/Costello etc.
        But also discovered bands like The Cars/The Knack/Springsteen buy reading Creem.
        Course when Hair Metal took over in the mid 80’s every couple of months Creem would release an all hard rock issue called ..
        Creem Metal…

      2. I do have The Mighty Scrapbooks of Rock, where I’d cut various pieces out… not that I’m a nerd at all, honest!

      3. Creem was my drug; Circus was too polite and glossy. I tossed ’em all away upon moving away to college maybe, just one more dumb decision in an endless string. I did keep one edition though, and still have it. It is the Jan-Feb 1982 “Guitar Heroes of Rock ‘N’ Roll (from A to Z)” special edition, with the “Keith Richards Dynamite Poster.” Dismayingly it contains no entry for Lenny Kaye…

      4. So what is the Keith Richards Dynamite Poster? I wish I’d kept all my Kerrangs from the late 0’s – the writing was brilliant at times. I did cut bits out and put them in the Mighty Scrapbooks of Rock though.

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