M Train

M Train is the literate reverie that Patti Smith has composed of her life.

I read pages here and there. I’m struck by how Smith has attained a level of income from doing her art that allows her travels and a life of leisure.

As a fitness buff, I’m no fan of her obsessive toast-eating for breakfast, which she details everywhere she goes.

Though I might be biased because I love Patti’s music and own her Land 2-CD retrospective. Yet I’m certain a casual reader will be jealous of Smith’s easy breezy life as retold in her latest M-emoir.

Where is the pain? Where is the hurt? Is it fair to review a book this way? I’ve hung on reading this book for two months now. I like it because I don’t do envy. So for me it’s something to aspire to: a look at how life could be when I retire.

I started reading this book on a train. I tell readers of this review: take it for what it is: an iconic artist’s paean to herself. For this we should be glad.

I say: readers: take up your pen, your camera, your paintbrush. Beauty lies in the act of creating beauty.

All our lives should be as thought-filled; as happy and peripatetic as the life limned in M Train.

We can all take a tip from Smith: a dose of the wonder of life will heal whatever ails us.


Never Broken

I started reading the Jewel memoir Never Broken and I’m at the part where it reads like a tragic storybook.

This is a beneficent cleansing for the singer-songwriter it seems.

Jewel is clear: she chose not to drink alcohol or use street drugs. I get the image of tentacles: of other people hooking into the singer to grab her and use her for their own purposes.

Jewel took her life into her own hands. Her self-confessional voice might rub other readers the wrong way. Yet I was taken by her honesty and courage in recounting her backwards childhood. We must remember that she writes with the clarity of an adult looking in the rear-view mirror of what happened: with the confident eye of a woman visualizing a vulnerable girl.

Simply reading the foreword should prompt you to buy the book, for it gives hope to those of us scaled over in pain. You see: Jewel–a multi-million selling artist; a blonde girl that gets attacked because she’s blonde–lived in pain.

This is a different kind of memoir though–it transcends her misery. The motto she gives us all could be: tune in to your feelings. Turn on your gifts to use them to heal.

Most of all:

Where you’ve been doesn’t have to be where you remain.

Kudos, Jewel!

Girl in a Band

I finished reading Kim Gordon’s memoir Girl in a Band in five hours over the course of one day.

It’s a brilliant book, evocative of a time and place I was accidentally a part of. Kim Gordon and I have certain things in common:

Our sun sign is Taurus (I was delighted to see her wearing a Taurus tee shirt on the book cover.)

I played Sonic Youth on the radio when I was a disc jockey in the 1980s. Kim Gordon recorded this radio station promo: “Listen to WSIA, 88.9 FM because WSIA pushes Sonic Youth.”

I accompanied a fellow DJ to the apartment at 84 Eldridge Street to interview Julie Cafritz who was in the band Pussy Galore for an article in a fanzine my friend was starting. We were disc jockeys together at the college radio station.

Like Kim Gordon, I was a middle-class white chick who leaned to the left of the dial and wanted to escape her ordinary upbringing. Years later I lived the artist’s life in the City that had always enchanted me. Like Kim I’m an artist as well as a writer.

I loved Girl in a Band.

Since this is a review of the book, I want to quote one sentence that’s the selling point for buying the memoir or installing it as an e-book on your device.

Kim is quoted:

“Still, I’ve always believed–still do–that the radical is more interesting when it looks benign and ordinary on the outside.”

In my own memoir, Left of the Dial, I talk about riding the subway and wondering what the woman seated across from you in a Calvin Klein suit is like on the inside.

I ran with a counterculture crowd in college yet it was the music that connected me to them not the drugs. I loved life too much to want to spiral out of control.

My other connection to Kim Gordon is unusual. Her brother Keller was diagnosed with schizophrenia long after his parents reluctantly got him help after years of doing nothing as his personality continued to unravel. My mother got me help within 24 hours and I’ve been in remission 23 years now. With a change of circumstance, I could’ve been Keller and he could’ve been me. Keller now lives in a residence and Kim flies out a couple times a year to visit him.

I played the Sonic Youth song “Schizophrenia” on the radio. I played their anthem “Cotton Crown” on the radio. I was able to do what the lyrics to “Cotton Crown” suggested: I took control of the chemistry, and I manifested the mystery.

Girl in a Band is a brave book. Kim Gordon is in her sixties now. I own a number of Sonic Youth CDs and every so often I play one of them when the mood strikes me.

Grazie Kim for telling your story with honesty and courage. Cheers to the next chapter in the story of your life.

Stealing All Transmissions

Stealing All Transmissions: A Secret History of the Clash is the hidden biography of the Clash–the British punk outfit who dubbed themselves: The Only Band That Matters.

I used to play the Clash on the FM radio in the 1980s when I was a disc jockey at WSIA, 88.9 FM the college radio station on campus where I attended school.

One sentence sums up why everyone should buy this book to recollect and reminisce if you were there–or to pay homage to the Clash if you weren’t:

“The Clash struck intricate poses, onstage and off, but rarely–if ever–did those poses contradict Strummer’s early proclamation about their politics: ‘We’re anti-fascist, we’re anti-violence, we’re anti-racist and we’re pro-creative. We’re against ignorance.'”

Is it any wonder that as a young person I heard salvation in the music played on college radio? The other teens went dancing at the Park Villa on a Saturday night. I stayed home with my ears tuned to FM radio left of the dial.

I’m going to install the Clash CD London Calling in my iTunes library.

I recommend that everyone listens to this band. Their album Combat Rock is also good even though it’s a departure from the classic rip-and-tear punk ethos.

As a kindred spirit who is pro-creative I recommend installing iTunes on your computer.

Rock on.

Barbed Wire Kisses

I’ve read The Jesus & Mary Chain: Barbed Wire Kisses biography of this seminal 1980s feedback-driven band of UK mates.

I played their music on college radio when I was a disc jockey in the 1980s.

I bought their album Psychocandy and listened to it after midnight in the dark of my bedroom. I had a Psychocandy poster that I hung on my wall.

Their song title, “Just Like Honey,” is a chapter title in my memoir.

The book is revelatory. Jim and William Reid are the brothers who founded the band along with Doug Hart and Bobby Gillespie. I bought all of their albums through the 1990s.

Their music really was psychocandy for a young girl like me who crossed over a year later and then lived to come back. Their lyrics were brilliant.

The Jesus & Mary Chain have been around for 30 years now: a great feat in the fickle music industry.

When lame music like Kongus, Imagine Dragons, and Milky Chance clog up the airwaves on so-called alternative stations, I would rather listen to the Jesus & Mary Chain: true originals.

I had no idea The Jesus & Mary Chain were The Next Big Thing in music in the 1980s. I just liked their sound and played their songs on the radio.

That was the Golden Age of college radio: the 1980s. I recommend Barbed Wire Kisses to anyone who was there, and to you even if you weren’t.

Hundreds of girls took on the world just the girl in “Just Like Honey” did in the 1980s.

Read. Listen. Repeat.

Christmas Music

I find no joy in Christmas music.

The 80-year old guy driving the car is deaf, so the radio is turned up loud enough to be heard in Texas. (We’re driving through New York City.)

I’ve heard all 56,001 versions of “Jingle Bell Rock.”

I had no idea Cousin Brucie was still alive. Is he 100 years old?

I detest the chirpy music coming out of the radio at Christmas. I just don’t get the attraction to hearing music by singers whose voices don’t sound human. I don’t want to hear syrupy or sugary voices chiming out Christmas tunes.

The only Christmas song I find hilarious is the Blink 182 rock song where the leader singer talks about winding up in jail with “Bubba” on Christmas Day. Bubba gives him a package.

Easily 10 years ago I heard on an alternative radio station a parody of “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” The lyrics talked about “chipmunks roasting on an open fire.” The song was not right yet I recommend you search for it on YouTube to listen to it at least once.

Rudolph’s nose is so red because it’s been a white Christmas.


I find no joy in Christmas music.