The Times has a really delightful review of Patti Smith's book about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. It's a reminder to me of how very fortunate--and accidental--my first exposures to music and culture were. Smith liked a little bit of everything and was influenced by a little bit of everything: she pointed me to Rimbaud (which I liked) and the Beats (which I didn't). She was a punk who liked Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones (she did more than anyone to push me to the Stones, who in 1995 had been a joke for 15 years. she made it possible to imagine they were something quite different in 1975). Most of all, she valued intelligence and knowledge and study.

I bought Horses, on cassette, for $5 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when I was in 8th grade. Aside from R.E.M., I didn't like anything interesting or unusual. Horses is a tough record to get: Smith's voice, like Bob Dylan's, is an acquired taste; the better songs are long, especially for punk, and often with little discernible structure. To like it, one has to accept the excess of it, the obsession with words. Then again, sometimes it all comes together quickly, as in "Free Money." It requires no more work than just to listen.

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