33 1/3: Patti Smith’s Horses by Phillip Shaw (Continuum Books)


Horses is one of the 100 or so albums that actually deserves to have a book written about it. Everything about it, from its innovative blend of poetry and garage rock, to the iconic cover art, has become interwoven into the fabric of rock and influenced countless bands since. Phillip Shaw’s 150-page mini-book on Horses dissects the influences, both musically and lyrically, that helped Patti Smith and her band shape the songs on Horses. Shaw shows how Smith used events from her life or other people’s songs as a springboard for her own creations (like “Kimberly” and “Gloria”). Where the book falters is that it lacks insider perspective, with none of the people who made the record contributing first-hand insights (there are some quotes reprinted from other sources). Without that crucial element, this is strictly a fan essay, which is intriguing, but can hardly be called the final word on the album. There isn’t much here that couldn’t have been learned from the multiple Patti Smith biographies in print, Please Kill Me, From Velvets To Voidoids or the liner notes from the expanded edition of Horses.
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