So, somebody asked me about my Patti Smith top five. Can you people see just how cruel that could be? I mean this is Patti Smith!!! The woman I voted for in the Sounds poll for 1976 as the sexiest woman, man, androgyne or any other kind of gender. The woman I worshipped when I was a downtrodden, broken up bullied and gender dysphoric fifteen year old. THAT Patti Smith!
First things first then, thinking of the ones it absolutely hurts to leave out. Naturally that begins with Piss Factory. There was no rap in those days, or if there was, I'd never heard of it, and I heard this, poetic, beautiful, ripped still bleeding from the pages of Babel (and that, OMG THAT was the book it really hurt to sell when I was so desperate for food that I walked with a suitcase full of books from Leytonstone to Barking to Rodney's, a shop I knew would give a good price. Selling that book was like ripping out my own heart). So that's the first, number one I guess.
1 Piss Factory
So then what comes next. Another beautiful lyrical injection of Patti's words perhaps? Something iconic? Oh and yes of course, I remember watching Millennium as Land was shot as a 9 minute music video while Lara Means lost her mind. It's also the reason I bought Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons' book "The Boy Looked at Johnny". This is a rollercoaster, steam roller, JUGGERNAUT of a song, that rolls over Georgia and leaves smoking ruins in its wake. Of course I love it. I hate it too (of course I do, I wish to Gahd I'd written it!) but mostly I love it.
Two monsters of songs that bleed into my skull and leave my brain wrung out and bleeding with the pain of such an early comparison with all the shit I'll ever write myself. Even though this comparison was what brought me closer than anything else I have ever thought of experienced to suicide. They are just too beautiful. I am reluctant to include a song that Patti didn't write for herself, even though she took this into the charts and made 1977 more tolerable for me than it might otherwise have been. It was decades before I found out that she had written this with Bruce Springsteen. In the end though, I couldn't leave this one out even though my heart will bleed to leave out others in its wake.
Desire is Hunger is the fire I breathe
Love is the banquet at which we feed
And this was recorded AFTER she recovered from a broken back.
3 Because the Night
You all know where I grew up by now. The place that I call Deliverance. Listen to the lyrics to this one. Feel the rhythm. Dance to it and feel the taste of human flesh as it clings to your teeth. Feel the lust that binds you, the sex that makes it feel okay before they rip the flesh from you in sacrifice.
And I laid upon the table, another piece of meat!
4) Summer Cannibals
And now we come to the final place and I know that when I say 'hurts to leave out' this time, I mean it. I am so torn about this. There are at least three songs that are holding me hostage and demanding that each of them get the last place. Well sorry songs, much as I would love to, you can only have one. And I guess that the big time sensuality of Distant Fingers beats out both the spiritual excess of Dancing Barefoot and the politico-economic clarity of Glitter in their Eyes.
5 Distant Fingers
Hurts to leave out... and this time it's not just a formality. I Can hardly bring myself to leave out the aforementioned Dancing Barefoot - a glorious song about woman as angel and woman as drug. And of course Glitter in Their Eyes - a lovely song about the theft represented by international trade agreements.
Yes but that's not all, I ache to leave out: Ask the Angels; A Room In Lebanon; People Have the Power; Privilege (Set Me Free); Tramping; Peanuts; Ain't It Strange; Boy Cried Wolf; Space Monkey; Waiting Underground; Frederick; Kimberley; I think you get the picture. It broke me as a child to know that I could never grow up to be her, even if I could find some musicians to work with that even half understood what was in my head. I hate and love and worship and wish... but that is sharkbait.