I didn’t see Patti Smith today when she played at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco, but I’m told my roommate Arielle did. Of course I had to Google that shit. I found this video of her performing her iconic version of the Van Morrison’s 1964 Them hit, “Gloria,” at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in 2010. I know it’s hot fanboy-on-fanboy action and all that, but check out the second comment on YouTube, about the guy who ran into her coming out of a shop in the Castro, for a cute tale of a humble rockstar. That’s why Patti’s still punk, no matter how huge a hippie she is (and probably always was, in some ways, since labels are sour to an artist destined to live forever).
…and since we’re on the topic of Patti Smith being perpetualy and eternally bad-ass no matter how deep she travels into Bob Marley territory, here is a deathless blast from the good old days, her Jimmy Iovine-produced album version of “Because the Night,” which someone on Youtube has laced over photos of Smith by Robert Mapplethorpe, her boyfriend. In my mind, this song stands up against any top 40 hit from the ’70s AND any underground NYC punk hit (yes, even including “Marquee Moon,” even “Little Johnny Jewel,” even Iggy’s beautiful 1978 version of “China Girl.”)
And just on the off chance anyone out there doesn’t know it (kids! I’m talkin’ ta you!!), “Because the Night” was cowritten by Smith and Bruce Springsteen. For years, occasional holier-than-thou wannabe-artpunk douchebags would express disbelief when I told them this, because Bruce was not considered cool. Au contraire, posers; there’s a whole page in the Cool Encyclopedia for both of these people.
Springsteen does a blistering version of the song with the E Street Band in the amazing box set Live 1975-1985. Here they are performing it live in 1980:
Here, Springsteen, Smith, and U2 perform “Because the Night” at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame:
Lead photo: Patti Smith, Germany, 1978, by Klaus Hiltscher