"Somewhere Somebody Must Stand Naked"
Rock Scene October '74
By Patti Smith
One night before you turn out the light and slip into unconsciousness, try
this: take off all your clothes, tie back your hair and look, really look, at
your naked face and neck. The mirror is not meant to reflect but to reveal. A
little shock moves up to see yourself so caught alone in the room with all the
armour, the glitter and the studded leather lying in disarray on the bed. But
fear is followed with a nude scene of triumpha sudden flash of truth - of
"batin" - a glimpse of the inner meaning.|
This sudden light you may wish to pass up. It's not so easy to go out on the streets showing all you got to show. The young gladiator clung to his sword and shield just as the child of rock'n' roll holds fast to the flash over flesh. This is cool, it's the rule of rock 'n' roll but somewhere sombody must stand naked. In the 60s we had the Stones, Yardbirds, Love and Velvet Underground. Performers moved by cold inspiration. They didn't hide behind an image. THEY WERE THE IMAGE.
We are victims of media penetration. Television is image warm enemy number 1. It's like some alien form of life - flesherpoid parasites - sucking up the grand consiousness and translating it 2-D dot field. It's made our stars and our art (rock 'n' roll) into limp pasteurised versions of a once high raw process. Boycott rock 'n' roll on TV. Who wants an image of the image? Rock 'n' roll is not Hollywood jive. It's becoming flash theatre with less emphasis on the moment - the movement - the rhythm and alchemy of hand-to-hand combat. When Midnight Special comes on TUNE OUT. Accessible middle class. Killing natural action.
Already a new group has begun an attack. Starting from the bottom with completely naked necks. A group called TELEVISION who refuse to be a latent image but the machine itself! The picture they transmit is shockingly honest. Like when the media was LIVE and Jack Paar would cry and Ernie Kovacs would fart and Cid Caeser would curse and nobody would stop them 'cause the moment it was happening it was real. No taped edited crap. I love this group 'cause they focus on the face. Close-ups don't disarm them 'cause they reveal everything. And the lead singer Tom Verlaine (initials TV) has the most beautiful neck in rock 'n' roll. Real swan-like - fragile yet strong. He's creature of opposites. The way he comes on like a dirt farmer and a prince. A languid boy with the confused grace of a child in paradise. A guy worth losing your virginity to. He plays lead guitar with angular, inverted passion like a thousand bluebirds screaming. You know, like high treble. And like Todd Rundgren he is blessed with long veined hands reminiscent of the great poet strangler, Jack the Ripper.
Richard Hell on bass is another cool picture. Real highway 61. Perfect shades, tufted hair and a suit Phillip Marlow mighta left behind in a piece of blonde luggage circa 1946. His bass is pure trashmetallic gold fleck. His movements are maniac Chuck Berry. It's amazingly disorienting to watch a guy straight outta desolation row doing splits. Richard Lloyd plays emotional and highly sexually aware guitar. He's the pouty, boyish one. The one most likely to get beat up in a parking lot. I love to watch him and Tom and Hell pumping on guitar. The three of them playing with such urgency as if each time is the last time or the first woman. Relentless adolescents. Backed by Billy Ficca (a tough Italian biker) on drums they present a picture made for the plague. A movement of inspired mutants that will take the slop out of rock. Television will help wipe out media. They are not theatre. Neither were the early Stones or the Yardbirds. They are strong images procduce from pain and speed and the fanatic desire to make it. They are also inspired enough below the belt to prove that SEX is not dead in rock 'n' roll.
Their lyrics are as suggestive as a horny boy at the drive in. Songs like "Hard On Love", "One On Top Of Another" and "Love Comes In Spurts". Sexual energy is suppressed on TV but is the main ingredient of Television. They got the certain style. The careless way of dressing like high school 1963. The way they pulse equal doses of poetry and pinball. Their strange way of walking. Hell is from Kentucky. A runaway orphan with nothing to look up to. The others grew up in Delaware: A land of gridsone long oppressive gymnasium. Tom and Hell done time in reform school. Lloyd done time in mental wards. Billy been 'round the world on his BSA. They came together with nothing but a few second-hand guitars and the need to bleed. Dead end kids. But they got this pact called friendship. They fight for each other so you get this sexy feel of heterosexual alchemy when they play. They play real live. Dives, clubs, anywhere at all. They play undulating rhythm like ocean. They play pissed off, psychotic reaction. They play like they got knife fight in the alley after the set. They play like they make it with chicks. They play like they're in space but still can dig the immediate charge and contact of lighting a match.
Tom and Hell started a forest fire in Alabama. They got sent up for watching it burn. Then they decided to burn themselves. No image of an image. The image itself. Billy always is laughing. Lloyd jacks off on his guitar. Hell is male enough to get ashamed that he writes immaculate poetry. And Tom Verlaine lives up tho the initials TV. He is a powerful image worthy of future worship.
The way he moves like some junkie angel. I said, "Hey, Tom. The way you move on the stage like you're on the surf, like you been wounded with an arrow, like you got clouds in the brain." And he said, "Oh I know. I always feel like I'm floating. Feel like I'm falling. But you know, I'M not going to be falling forever."
You can see the outline of his hips in his pants. And you get the feeling, as him and Television are tuning up, that he's naked as a snake.