People say you never forget your first crush (sure you do). People say lots of things. I interviewed Patti Smith for an underground rag when I was just twenty-two and she was this young punk rocker poet. The backstage area was filled with parasites, and the stage manager was all coked up and cranky, but Patti was sharp and funny and maybe I was a little smitten. Remember, this was before "punk" became such a marketing ploy (Green Day, anyone?) and long before Patti was coronated Queen Grandma of Punk, Emeritus, and the scene was still pretty fresh. At that point, there was still room for experimentation and beat zen poetry as well as Fender guitars, at least in small shitty clubs that stank of beer. Most people didn't get it, and it would be years before they claimed they did. It came as a shocking, healthy reaction to all the overproduced stadium rawk clogging the arteries of America with Fleetwood Mac-and-cheese, and Eagles Easy Listening, at a time when the spark and rebellion of rock and roll had turned into formulaic poses for unadventurous sheep. To appreciate it, you must first wash all that out of your hair, and throw away decades of MTV crap, Ramones T-shirts at the Gap, yuppies with timid gel spikes in their hair playing air guitar in the boardroom. Give it a good toss. Turn back the hands of time, time, time. People say time is on your side. People say lots of things.
Dedicated to my cousin Gerard Rizza, a young New York poet who was crazy about Patti Smith and a great many other things.