I always regard Horses as a punk record, but that undermines its importance to the genre. Released in December 1975, it hit stereos nearly a full two years before the Sex Pistols released Never Mind The Bollocks. That would make this pre-punk, or very late-in-the-day proto-punk, sitting on the line between angsty ‘70s singer-songwriter rock and the burgeoning underground club scene in New York City.
It’s a strange record to listen to. It’s definitely a lot more subtle, more literate, than the American punk that would follow it. The one misconception about punk is that the genre is littered with stupid people, but it seems more like it was a breeding ground for the intelligentsia of the times. There are probably high-brow and low-brow components of every musical genre, but punk definitely comes across as sounding low-brow but put together by smart people.
Patti Smith’s music – essentially beat-style poetry put to punkish mid-70s rock guitar rock – definitely belongs on the smarter, more artistic end of the punk spectrum. Johnny Rotten wasn’t a fan, going out of his way to make sure that everybody heard his disapproval of her 1976 London show (he dismissed her as a ‘hippy with a tambourine’). Sneer away, Johnny, sneer away.
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