Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Review #101: Patti Smith - Hey Joe (Single) (1974)

HEY JOE (Single)

Year: 1974
Genre: Blues Rock
Label: MER

9 Minutes (Short)
My Rating:

Patti Smith is often considered the "Godmother of Punk". She was born in Illinois to a poor family, and raised in New Jersey. She worked in a factory during high school, left her religion, and after graduating high school, she went to Glassboro State College. She began to pursue the arts at this time, painting, writing poetry, engaging in performance art. She also frequented the early CBGB (which would later be the most famous 'punk club' in the world). As a big fan of rock n' roll, she eventually became the singer for the band Blue Öyster Cult for awhile. She was even a rock journalist, and she got her writings published in magazines such as Rolling Stone.

In 1974, the Patti Smith Group was formed, which played rock & roll music Patti wrote herself, and, well, punk rock! "Hey Joe" was their earliest release, and it's more of a blues-rock record, as Patti would not really set out her punk rock sound until "Horses" came out a year later. The A-Side is a cover of "Hey Joe" by the Leaves, and the B-Side is a completely original song called "Piss Factory". Let's hear it...

1. Hey Joe
Patti made sure to make her version of the song very distinct from the original. The song starts out with her giving a spoken intro about Patty Hearst, a girl who was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, and was a member of their ranks during the time that this song was released. A reference is made to a photo taken of her "with a gun in her hand". This song is slower and clamer than the original. The chords are piano-dominated, but there is a clicking noize being made by the guitar, and a soft bass drum can faintly be heard in the background. Lyrically, the song is similar (with a few additions) to the originally, but placed in the context of Patty Hearst, who was at this point with the Symbionese Liberation Army. The singing style is supposedly common of the beatnik poetry style, which I haven't heard a ton of, but from what I can hear here, it is real fuckin' furious and I think it's actually a tad cooler than just yelling to the rhythm. There is an insane guitar solo going on in the background towards the end... it's like a bunch of spaghetti created by the sounds of a guitar just... doin' stuff, I guess. Because of its low budget and the fact that it's from 1974, the quality is rather murky, but it's okay, because it adds a certain aura to the sound... something almost aquatic, vague, but re-assuring. The song ends by fading out...

2. Piss Factory
Patti wrote this song completely. The main musical instrument here is a piano, but trust me, it's full of energy and furor... this song's about when Patti was 16 years old and working in a factory, and the depression, anger, and frustration with the life she was living, until she discovered and stole a poetry book by Arthur Rimbaud called "Illuminations". Patti goes on about how she wants to go to New York City to be a "big star" and never return. You can hear the determination in her voice... sometimes it sounds like she's just yelling, and at others, it sounds like she's kind of singing to the music. Later on you can hear a little more lead guitar (which sounds great on this single). The song fades out at the end...

I think this is a great first release... for any band, really. I don't listen to a whole ton of piano-oriented rock, but this music is really good! After this, Patti would go on to release an album called "Horses", which is in a sense the earliest punk LP, and after that, many more. She is still performing and making music today, but I have not heard much of her work beyond this 7" single so far... new discoveries, y'know? Anyway, it's a great single, and I recommend it to just about anybody who likes rock n' roll. Period.

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