Drawing from another planet: Patti Smith

Patti Smith 1975 by Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989
Patti Smith 1975 Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989 ARTIST ROOMS Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00185

I was a big fan of the musician/poet/artist Patti Smith when I was a teenager in the 70’s. Many hours were spent lying on the floor with the headphones blaring. I learnt a lot from her. French poetry for one which I had no idea about in my little suburban world. She worshipped Rimbaud.

Recently I read her memoir ‘Just Kids‘ on a plane going to Australia. It details her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe but I found it more interesting learning about how she worked creatively. She worked her butt off basically. And always stayed true to herself. And was fearless. She’s stayed that way too. I prefer her more sensitive, beautiful drawings more these days. Her voice is the voice of the earth but the drawings are from another planet. Though I still like to rock out occasionally to  ‘People have the Power’. A great, inspiring song.

Here’s the lyrics from her song ‘Land’ (1975). I was quite surprised by what I had been singing all those years ago. It’s pretty full on but I’m sure Rimbaud would’ve approved. He’s included in a couple of lines.

‘Land’  (from the 1975 album ‘Horses’)

by Patti Smith

The boy was in the hallway drinking a glass of tea
From the other end of the hallway a rhythm was generating
Another boy was sliding up the hallway
He merged perfectly with the hallway,
He merged perfectly, the mirror in the hallway

The boy looked at johnny, johnny wanted to run,
But the movie kept moving as planned
The boy took johnny, he pushed him against the locker,
He drove it in, he drove it home, he drove it deep in johnny
The boy disappeared, johnny fell on his knees,
Started crashing his head against the locker,
Started crashing his head against the locker,
Started laughing hysterically

When suddenly johnny gets the feeling he’s being surrounded by
Horses, horses, horses, horses
Coming in in all directions
White shining silver studs with their nose in flames,
He saw horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses.
Do you know how to pony like bony maroney
Do you know how to twist, well it goes like this, it goes like this
Baby mash potato, do the alligator, do the alligator
And you twist the twister like your baby sister
I want your baby sister, give me your baby sister, dig your baby sister
Rise up on her knees, do the sweet pea, do the sweet pee pee,
Roll down on her back, got to lose control, got to lose control,
Got to lose control and then you take control,
Then you’re rolled down on your back and you like it like that,
Like it like that, like it like that, like it like that,
Then you do the watusi, yeah do the watusi

Life is filled with holes, johnny’s laying there, his sperm coffin
Angel looks down at him and says, “oh, pretty boy,
Can’t you show me nothing but surrender ? ”
Johnny gets up, takes off his leather jacket,
Taped to his chest there’s the answer,
You got pen knives and jack knives and
Switchblades preferred, switchblades preferred
Then he cries, then he screams, saying
Life is full of pain, I’m cruisin’ through my brain
And I fill my nose with snow and go rimbaud,
Go rimbaud, go rimbaud,
And go johnny go, and do the watusi, oh do the watusi

There’s a little place, a place called space
It’s a pretty little place, it’s across the tracks,
Across the tracks and the name of the place is you like it like that,
You like it like that, you like it like that, you like it like that,
And the name of the band is the
Twistelettes, twistelettes, twistelettes, twistelettes,
Twistelettes, twistelettes, twistelettes, twistelettes

Baby calm down, better calm down,
In the night, in the eye of the forest
There’s a mare black and shining with yellow hair,
I put my fingers through her silken hair and found a stair,
I didn’t waste time, I just walked right up and saw that
Up there — there is a sea
Up there — there is a sea
Up there — there is a sea
The sea’s the possibility
There is no land but the land
(up there is just a sea of possibilities)
There is no sea but the sea
(up there is a wall of possibilities)
There is no keeper but the key
(up there there are several walls of possibilities)
Except for one who seizes possibilities, one who seizes possibilities.
(up there)
I seize the first possibility, is the sea around me
I was standing there with my legs spread like a sailor
(in a sea of possibilities) I felt his hand on my knee
(on the screen)
And I looked at johnny and handed him a branch of cold flame
(in the heart of man)
The waves were coming in like arabian stallions

Gradually lapping into sea horses
He picked up the blade and he pressed it against his smooth throat
(the spoon)
And let it deep in
(the veins)
Dip in to the sea, to the sea of possibilities
It started hardening
Dip in to the sea, to the sea of possibilities
It started hardening in my hand
And I felt the arrows of desire

I put my hand inside his cranium, oh we had such a brainiac-amour
But no more, no more, I gotta move from my mind to the area
(go rimbaud go rimbaud go rimbaud)
And go johnny go and do the watusi,
Yeah do the watusi, do the watusi …
Shined open coiled snakes white and shiny twirling and encircling
Our lives are now entwined, we will fall yes we’re together twining
Your nerves, your mane of the black shining horse
And my fingers all entwined through the air,
I could feel it, it was the hair going through my fingers,
(I feel it I feel it I feel it I feel it)
The hairs were like wires going through my body
I I that’s how i
That’s how i
I died
(at that tower of babel they knew what they were after)
(they knew what they were after)
[everything on the current] moved up
I tried to stop it, but it was too warm, too unbelievably smooth,
Like playing in the sea, in the sea of possibility, the possibility
Was a blade, a shiny blade, I hold the key to the sea of possibilities
There’s no land but the land

Looked at my hands, and there’s a red stream
That went streaming through the sands like fingers,
Like arteries, like fingers
(how much fits between the eyes of a horse? )
He lay, pressing it against his throat (your eyes)
He opened his throat (your eyes)
His vocal chords started shooting like (of a horse) mad pituitary glands
The scream he made (and my heart) was so high (my heart) pitched that nobody heard,
No one heard that cry,
No one heard (johnny) the butterfly flapping in his throat,
(his fingers)
Nobody heard, he was on that bed, it was like a sea of jelly,
And so he seized the first
(his vocal chords shot up)
(like mad pituitary glands)
It was a black tube, he felt himself disintegrate
(there is nothing happening at all)
And go inside the black tube, so when he looked out into the steep
Saw this sweet young thing (fender one)
Humping on the parking meter, leaning on the parking meter

In the sheets
There was a man
Dancing around
To the simple
Rock & roll

You Tube clip of Patti Smith singing ‘Land’in 1976. Well part of the song.

Here’s her 2015 live version.

Patti talking and painting.

‘Fantasy, if it’s really convincing can’t become dated for the simple reason that it represents a flight into a dimension that lies beyond the reach of time.’

Walt Disney



  1. Good morning, dear!

    Patty Smith – she was along my roads as well …

    In her voice always was a dying – but not death as the dark-grave-death. That dark-grave-death she did by living her physical life. That dying in her voice was like the drawing you copied …

    Thanks for your yesterday’s answers. I’ll give you response on one of the next days.

    You’re still in Australia ?
    Give regards to that huge/giant country
    and dearly ones to you.


  2. Thanks Karen for your kind regards. I’m back in Stockholm now looking forward to the snow. That’s a really interesting comment about Patti’s voice as ‘dying’. I hadn’t thought of it. Do you mean her voice breaks down and new symbols are revealed through it? I think of everything as symbols.

I'd love to hear what you think.

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