A couple of years ago, I was in my last year of university. Struggling to think about what to do my final project on. I was heartbroken and I was consolling myself by getting drunk and watching The Wire. I went to the occasional gig to attempt to pick myself up again. So, I had some kind of brainwave one night as I was listening to Morrissey. I decided to do my project on lyrics. One article in particular was on Punk and Poetry. The link between the two has always owned my heart. Punk music and poetry are two of my greatest loves and throwing myself into an article where I got to express my love, and just listen to music in such great detail meant a lot to me. We had to send the articles off to get published, and as ever- I was rejected. So, I might aswell put the article here :
When you think of Punk, what is your first thought? That all Punks were not educated and spat in the streets? That all Punks beat up folks and started riots just for the hell of it?
If it is, then I wish to enlighten you. Punk music was one of the most influential genres of music. The passion, the angst, the love, the despair- everything about it seemed so raw and beautiful.
One of the biggest influences of artists such as Iggy Pop, Patti Smith and Richard Hell was the French 19th Century poet, Arthur Rimbaud. After reading a lot of his work, it is plain to see as to why he was such an influence.
His words had love, hate, disgust and despair. As I am quite crap at reading French, I managed to stumble across some (accurate) translations of Rimbaud’s work. This is poetry that should be studied in schools. This is poetry that comes straight from the heart. Reading his work, it’s plain to see as to why he is such an influence on the mentioned artists.
Take, Night In Hell for instance, “I have just swallowed a terrific mouthful of poison. –Blessed, blessed, blessed the advice I was given!” It probably reads better in French, but how great is that? A Season In Hell is probably Rimbaud’s best work, it is so good
Richard Meyers became Richard Hell. However, the influence did not just end there, oh no! His band mate (and front man) from Television, Thomas Miller became Tom Verlaine, after Paul Verlaine whom Rimbaud had an affair with.
Labelled as the “Godmother Of Punk,” Patti Smith has mentioned Rimbaud numerous of times in both songs and poems. Land is one of her greatest songs. The way it is free flowing is just magnificent, it is a truly remarkable song- and poem. Throughout the song, you can hear “Go Rimbaud, go Rimbaud.” Reading through Patti Smith’s song lyrics, it is easy to see why and how she loves Rimbaud’s work.
Without Rimbaud, would there Patti Smith? Who knows, regardless of who has influenced her- she is still a motivation force to many female singer/songwriters today, and not just songwriters, poets too.
Godmother, or Goddess of Punk- whatever you wish to call Patti Smith, you cannot deny just how relevant she will always be. Her words, whether in song or poem, hypnotise you and send you to another world.
Although Because The Night was originally by Bruce Springstein, he couldn’t find a place for it on his album. Luckily Patti Smith took it and made it not only one of the best love songs ever, but it reads as a beautiful poem.
Imagine someone being so in love with you, that they recited this song to you. Astounding.
She has influenced a vast amount of people from Shirley Manson to Morrissey, who is known to occasionally cover Redondo Beach at some of his concerts.
If Patti is the Godmother of Punk, then who is the Godfather? Lou Reed or Iggy Pop? Everyone has their own opinion on it, maybe there’s no right or wrong answer. Both are equally as influential as each other.
Lou Reed’s Heroin is punk at its poetical best. Not moved by it as a song? Then read it, you will see just how heartbreaking it is but at the same time, it is a fine piece of poetry. Picking out a standout line from Heroin is hard, every line moves into another perfectly, so to just pick one is probably going to cause me another headache! I think, “I have made the big decision, I’m gonna try to nullify my life” may just sum up the whole song. It’s so sad, especially that line.
Some may say Lou Reed’s music is an acquired taste, if that’s the case then I urge anyone who dislikes his songs to just read the lyrics. Read the lyrics and you will see that this man is a poet, and not many can compete with his writing ability- especially nowadays.
Say what you want about Iggy Pop (would you buy car insurance from him?!) but the guy is timeless.
The Stooges were THE best punk band, and the opening riff to I Wanna Be Your Dog will always be the best intro to a song ever! God Bless you Ron Asheton.
Iggy Pop may not have created poetry in the same sense as Patti Smith or Lou Reed, but the guy has given us a lot of one-liners that just take you by surprise, like “Did HE just say that?!” His on stage (and off) antics may have caused some to immediately dislike him, but Iggy is charming. You can tell just by reading his lyrics. I will declare my love for I Wanna Be Your Dog for the rest of my life, so I won’t bore you right now with it. The Passenger as a song is Iggy at his best, read it lyrically and you’ll see just how good a song writer he is, a flawless piece of music and words.
I’m Sick Of You is the perfect “leave me alone, I can’t stand you” kind of song. For the angst side of punk, Iggy And The Stooges blessed us with a number of songs releasing their frustrations and disappointment with every day life. In a few weeks Iggy will be putting out a new album which is like nothing he has done before- it’s self described as “quieter album with some jazz overtones.”
There will never be another genre of music quite like punk, just like there will never another Patti, Lou or Iggy- and that’s just fine. They’re all in their 60s now and still going, something tells me they will still be an influence to so many regardless of what they do, and the type of music the ones they influence do.
Punk may be dead, but it’s still relevant.
Great article! I also love punk and poetry. I write poems myself, have done for a while. Still trying to get published!