Until the end of the dancing

>> Sunday, January 08, 2012

Following along in the wake of yesterday's post: here's Patti Smith covering U2's "Until The End Of The World" and U2 covering Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot" (along with a fan-made video for it). Nice little symmetry, I think.

I have to confess, U2 was the backdoor through which I came to Smith. A friend played me some Patti Smith many years before I heard the U2 cover and I didn't grok it. I dunno, the context may have been wrong: people were trying to have conversations, I think there was dinner being prepared somewhere, and it wasn't really a good time for, "Hey, listen to this." Or maybe I was just stupid, that happens sometimes. Sometimes I can be kind of perverse and when someone says, "Hey, listen to this," some weird contrarian bell rings in my subconscious somewhere. Doesn't matter. Point is, eventually I heard U2's cover of "Dancing Barefoot" and I said, "Whoa, that's really cool--that's a Patti Smith song? I have got to hear the original." I heard the original and now I'm a devotee; that's almost redundant, I think you either hate Patti Smith for some stupid reason or you're a devotee; okay, so I'm talking out my ass, now, but I do feel strongly about the proposition that Patti Smith is made of awesomeness with awesome sauce on top.

Even before a friend tried to introduce me to Smith and we didn't get on, of course I was familiar with "Because The Night". I'd grown up with Springsteen, and then that terrible 10,000 Maniacs cover from MTV's Unplugged was a huge big deal when I was in... must have been college. Again, doesn't matter. Really, I was familiar with The Boss' version and then there was the 10,000 Maniacs version, which was spineless and bloodless, a jellyfish interpretation of a song that, when Springsteen does it and when Smith does it (their versions are slightly different), is full of bodily fluids. I like Natalie Merchant and I got along with The Maniacs okay, though mostly in small doses; she has a lovely voice and the band were decent enough musicians, but 10,000 Maniacs were just too clean a band to really know how to get away with a song that's entirely about bodily secretions (I really am putting this as tactfully as I know how, if only in a futile effort to keep this blog from getting the wrong kinds of hits via Google). Natalie Merchant croons "They can't hurt you now" she's like a schoolgirl doodling in a notebook; when Springsteen or Smith respectively shout and moan the line, either way it's like someone's gonna get cut if they even try to hurt whomever, now. I know, I know: a lot of people like the 10kM version. Well, they shouldn't.

U2's version of "Barefoot" is delightfully faithful; I mean, there's that distinctively Edge guitar, but Bono sounds like he wants to be wearing Patti Smith's pants so badly, and who could possibly blame him? Smith's "Until The End Of The World", meanwhile... sounds delightfully like Patti Smith. She could have written it the way she performs it. It's kind of awesome, really: everybody wants to be Patti Smith (except, possibly, Bruce Springsteen), but only Patti Smith gets to be Patti Smith; Natalie Merchant noodles in her notebook and Bono does a surprisingly good imitation, but Smith is the actual real deal between the fire and the cave wall, y'know? Given the chance to be Bono for three minutes and thirty-seven seconds, she basically goes, "Who the fuck wants to be Bono?" and again, who can blame her? "I'm Patti Fucking Smith," she's basically saying without saying it, "and I can't be anything else."

Damn straight she is, and damn straight she can't.


Nick from the O.C.,  Sunday, January 8, 2012 at 9:56:00 PM EST  

"Smith is the actual real deal between the fire and the cave wall"

fucking nice turn of phrase, that

Kathy Monday, January 9, 2012 at 9:02:00 AM EST  

I saw Patti Smith in Asheville years ago and that cemented my devotion. Best show I've ever seen.

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