Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Heading for a spin....

I'm laying on the sofa, wrestling with the knotty problem of a sesame seed, part of my Omega sprinkles, inconveniently wedged between the back molars. I should be working but I'm not. I'm reading. Reading my book and listening to Lauren Laverne on 6 Music. Dancing Barefoot comes on the radio:

'She is benediction
She is addicted to thee
She is the root connection......'

This is one of my most favourite songs. Ever. This is the song I will take to the desert island. I want this song played at my funeral. I love this song. I have seen Patti sing this song many, many times. I have seen her standing on stage, removing her shoes and socks, dancing like a red Indian......that's a native American to you.....to this song.

The September sun shines through the yellowing leaves of the plane trees outside my window, the trees that obscure my view and usually keep me in the dark, are sparkling. I should be outside on such a day, enjoying the glorious end of so many wet weeks; the dying days of the season washed up on the beach, summer spluttering it's last before the fall of autumn wraps it up for winter in the amber glow of oranged leaves and smokey bonfires, while fingers, sticky with the butter drips of crumpets, reach for cashmere blankets they wished they'd purchased in the summer sale.

'Here I go and I don't know why
I fell so ceaselessly.....'

But I'm not outside in the sunshine. I am instead, transported to New York, September 1996, to the grassy knoll near the Summer Stage in Central Park. People, strewn across the park, sprawl on the grass, listening in the dark, to Patti Smith. I'm late: the child, the babysitter, it doesn't matter, I'm here now. This is the first gig I will write about while I live in New York. I will even interview the guitarist, Zeke Schein, when I discover he has stepped in last minute and usually works in Matt Umanov's Guitars on Bleaker, spitting distance from my apartment. But I don't know this yet. Right now I can hear the music but I'm too late to meet my mate Dave. He's already on the other side of the fence. I join the line, my hand is stamped, I'm in.

'She is sublimation
She is the essence of thee...'

The Summer Stage is a small, intimate, outdoor venue. Patti, untimely widowed, has recently returned to performing, just as I arrived in New York. How lucky am I? Dave and I have seen her read her poetry on this stage already, and, beaming with motherly, musical pride, introduce her young son Jackson. Armed with his guitar he played what I imagine was his favourite song of the day, 'Smoke On The Water'. The boy was good. But where is Dave tonight? We have no mobiles to navigate us through the shiny, happy people. I buy a beer in a plastic beaker and stand in the crowd, alone, and I think: I will not move, Dave will find me. I look up and Dave walks towards me, smiling, and Patti is singing.....

'I'm dancing barefoot
Heading for a spin
Some strange music draws me in
Makes me come on like some heroine.....'

Top tip: Read 'Just Kids' by Patti Smith and get to unravel the life and times of Patti and Robert Mapplethorpe while you hang-out in the lobby of The Chelsea Hotel with Bob and Janis and Andy and Sam and............


  1. Just read, Just Kids - fantastic! Keep meaning to blog about it.

  2. Lovely post. I would like to hear more of the Edinburgh festival, and especially about your show.

  3. Great post.
    The Chelsea Hotel..I'm off to revisit my Leonard Cohen CDs.Thanks for the reminder!

  4. You do write really well. Lovely post. xx

  5. I should be working, but I'm not either. I'm reading and replying to blogs! A much preferred past time to working! :-) Thanks for taking us with you to Summer Stage.

  6. I love that song!! Love, love Patti. I have Kids on my bedside table. Just started One Day by David Nicholls. I'm terrible about having a few on the go at once...

    I left you a message at mine re knitting xx

  7. Dear Jo, I've just phoned my friend Steven, he's a costume designer and the loveliest man you'll ever meet. He wants to get in touch straight away. Please can you email me your number to tinalindsay@mac.com. Thank you xx

  8. Wow, that is so beautifully written. Isn't 6 Music an absolute joy of a radio station? Inspirational and reminiscent at the same time, a wonderful balance

  9. Just recently discovered your blog and am quite belatedly catching up on all your posts. Finally moved to comment because I live in New York and saw Patti Smith in Central Park, too, a few years earlier I think. I sat on the ground with some girlfriends, right up front. It was beastly hot and completely magical. Very much enjoying your archives and looking forward to the rest of them.