#710: 1979, Patti Smith Group, Dancing Barefoot

by Jackie_South on June 21, 2013

We’ve finally reached the end of a double of theme weeks, so normal Songs to Learn and Sing returns to normal service.  This pick results from two events this week.

On Tuesday, George East posted on our first 700 songs, and included a list of the thirteen artists who had featured five times or more.  See if you can spot a pattern:  The Beatles(9), Johnny Cash (7), The Clash (7), David Bowie (7), The Smiths (7), Neil Young(6), The Jam (5), The Rolling Stones (5), Bob Dylan (5), Steve Earle (5), Drive-By Truckers (5), Blur (5) and Billy Bragg (5). Yep, other than (the sorely missed) Shona Tucker’s bass-playing for the Drive-By Truckers, it is an entirely male list.  So this pick at long last puts a woman in the pantheon of five-song artists.

More importantly, on Wednesday George and I went to yet another gig in the long series that make up Mr East’s pre-nuptuals, as Ray North has previously written about.  In this case though, it was by someone of whom I am the bigger fan, Patti Smith, at the Shepherds Bush Empire.

Strangely, it is the first time I’ve seen her live, which is just wrong.  Patti herself seemed to have an absolute blast, giggling and excitedly chatting between songs in a way you wouldn’t necessarily expect of a sixty-six year old godmother of punk.  We may be only half way through the year, but this will almost certainly be my top gig of 2013.  Most of the set comprised the Seventies back-catalogue, although Patti withdrew from the stage two-thirds of the way through to let her veteran guitarist Lenny Kaye and the lads let rip into a fantastic medley of late-sixties garage rock.

Gloria was probably the highlight, segued in via Land. There was a great rendition of Pissing in a River, a stonking Because the Night and Kimberley.  The once critically-slammed Radio Ethiopia got a fair bit of play: not only Pissing in a River but opening with Ask the Angels and later Ain’t It Strange.

And then there was Dancing Barefoot: to my mind Patti’s singing at its most beautiful.  The punk edginess has receded for a focus on lyrics and melody; some of the synth brings to mind what Blondie and other New Wave acts were doing at a similar time.  The lyrics are not the grit of earlier Patti – this is a simple love song inspired by her new man, Fred Sonic Smith. But the imagery is peerless and the poetry laid over the song at the end is simply sublime.

It has had some dubious covers over the years: The Mission, U2, Shakespears Sister, as well as some more creditable attempts by First Aid Kit and Allison Moorer.  This is though clearly a case where the original is the best.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

George_East June 21, 2013 at 9:08 am

Agreed – absolutely stellar gig. Patti was bonkers but brilliant. The Land/Gloria end to the main set was as good as anything I’ve seen live. Other highlights for me that you didn’t mention were a cracking cover of Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues (the origin of punk guitar?) and a superb Rock N Roll Nigger for the encore (the punkiest Patti ever got?).

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Geoff Elliott June 21, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Jimi Hendrix, was a ******, Jesus Christ and Grandma too!

Wish I’d been there. Like you Jackie, I’ve never seen her live and been a fan forever. And Dancing Barefoot is my favourite of her songs.

I’m going to get my music fix next weekend. Some very large fields in Somerset beckon. I understand that mr East is getting wed the same weekend. I’ll be raising a pint of Brother’s cider to him and the new Mrs East!

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George_East June 21, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Thank you Geoff.

The gig really was superb. Next time she is in London we should all go. Enjoy Glasto….

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