A bunch of Philly musicians are covering Patti Smith's Horses for Free At Noon this Friday
Patti Smith’s Horses

Here’s a gig you don’t want to miss, people. This Sunday, December 13th, is the 40th anniversary of punk poet Patti Smith‘s incredible debut LP Horses; to mark the occasion, we’re presenting a front-to-back performance of the album by some of the Philly music scene’s finest at WXPN’s Free at Noon concert. As the name implies, it’s a free show, and you can attend by RSVPing here.

Released in 1975, Horses was the introduction of a powerful new voice to the rock and roll universe – one that had been making noise on the New York underground for the for the first part of the decade. Smith established herself as a Lower East Side poet inspired by Arthur Rimbaud. She also loved music and published pages of her elegies to The Stones and Hendrix in Creem Magazine. As she began making connections in the punk world with folks like Tom Verlaine of Television, John Cale of The Velvet Underground and fellow journalist Lenny Kaye, her poetry and love of music began to merge. With Kaye, she founded The Patti Smith Group in 1974, and they performed propulsive rock to accompany her unhinged recitations and improvisation.

The following year, her debut was released on Arista Records, and it was a collection of songs delivered from an abstract, introspective and personal point of view, songs that weren’t necessarily intended to reach a mainstream audience, as Smith told NPR in 2014.

I was consciously trying to make a record that would make a certain type of person not feel alone. People who were like me, different… I wasn’t targeting the whole world. I wasn’t trying to make a hit record.

Horses nevertheless became one of the most popular records in rock history, was celebrated by critics like The Village Voice‘s Robert Christgau and Rolling Stone‘s John Rockwell, is cited as an inspiration by Michael Stipe and Courtney Love, and is preserved in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.

In short, it’s an incredible album. But chances are you don’t need me to sell you on Horses. Here’s your guide to who will be performing it this Friday.

1. “Gloria” – The album opens on the iconic lines “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine,” a quote from Smith’s poem “Oath” that dissolves into an interpretation of a hit by Van Morrison’s Them. This Friday, Philly’s Madalean Gauze will be the one delivering those lines. She’s crafted a powerful voice of her own on the Philly scene these past couple years, and celebrates her debut LP Singat Boot and Saddle on December 17th.

2. “Redondo Beach” – The album continues with a reggae bounce and a suave vocal melody over lyrics about drowning and suicide. This fusion of heavy themes and poppy melodies will be handled this Friday by Candice Martello of Hemming, who walks the same balance beam in her own songwriting. She also plays Boot and Saddle on December 22nd for Weathervane Music’s December residency.

3. “Birdland” – The first of the album’s expansive pieces delves into Smith’s poetic and literary interests, drawing on Peter Reich’s A Book of Dreams for lyrical inspiration and musically nodding to the world of jazz. This piece will be performed by Emily Zeitlyn of Arc Divers – her songwriting is narrative-driven as well, and follows in the footsteps of Smith’s fellow Chelsea Hotel-er Leonard Cohen.

4. “Free Money” – A rocker to close out the LP’s first side is a vivid description of living hand-to-mouth, scraping and surviving with aspirations of greatness. The song is a nod to photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Smith’s lifelong friend / roommate / lover / soulmate about whom she penned 2010’s excellent memoir Just Kids. It will be performed on Friday by Abi Reimold, a burgeoning Philly singer and photographer who’s getting ready to release her debut LP next year.

5. “Kimberly” – The midtempo opener to side two of Horses is an ode to Smith’s youngest sister, who the siblings “pitched in to raise” as Smith told it in Just Kids. The performance at Free at Noon will be delivered by commanding vocalist Rachel Browne of Anomie and Field Mouse, who also performs on Thursday night at the First Unitarian Church at a Girls Rock Philly benefit headlined by Speedy Ortiz.

6. “Break It Up” – This soaring, surreal, piano-driven number, written in collaboration with Verlaine, came to Smith in a dream where she imagined Jim Morrison as the Greek god Prometheus; Philly’s Jennifer Pague of Vita and the Woolf is not one to shy away from heady allusions in her music, and she’ll be performing this song at the tribute on Friday.

7. “Land” – The driving, abstract and enthralling epic on the album’s flipside is very much an opus fueled by sex, drugs and rock n’ roll; it also gets scriptural and ponders nature and mortality across nine-plus minutes. Cat Park of Amanda X will tackle this beast like a freaking champ.

8. “Elegie” – The moving denouement of Horses is Smith’s tribute to the late Jimi Hendrix, and quotes his song “Are You Experienced.” It brings the album to a chilling close, and will be performed Friday by Cynthia G. Mason, whose haunting voice made a welcome return to the Philadelphia music scene this year with the EP A Cinematic Turn.


Ross Bellenoit, guitar – A longtime Philly musician and guitarist whose collaborations have spanned the folk, rock and jazz scenes, and who just released a new album called Invisible Voice. The man is also an understated wizard with effects pedals. He’ll bring both the rock and the texture.

Todd Erk, bass – The longtime low-end man for a spectrum of artists from Birdie Bush to Auctioneer and Jesse Hale Moore. He also performs with Bellenoit and Zeitlyn in Arc Divers and will most likely be wearing a trucker hat onstage.

Matthew Landis, keys – A player with both The Minor Arcana and World / Inferno Friendship Society, a poet and an huge, huge Patti Smith fanatic with an encyclopedic knowledge of this record. Dude has been an enthusiastic driving force on this project.

Richard Straub, drums – The dummer for jazz-funk septet Darla and disco punk trio W.C. Lindsay explores his inner classic rocker for this gig. At rehearsal this week, he totally nailed all of Jay Dee Daugherty’s frenetic fills and his beats will keep Free at Noon on its collective feet.

[RSVP for WXPN’s Feee at Noon tribute to Patti Smith’s Horses here]

Related Content
View All Related Content

No news added recently