I’m about to write about something I never in a billion years expected to happen. It is something however, I have always dreamt about. There are a handful of musicians I wish I could meet; just to shake hands with the ones who saved me. Who gave me hope and courage. We find strength in strange places. When we find it, we must cling onto it.
I like to think it is fairly obvious that I am a huge fan of Patti Smith. She means as much to me as Morrissey and as Shirley Manson does, which is a lot- followed by a hell of a lot more. I’ve interviewed bands and I’ve remained somewhat “normal.” By that, I mean I managed to talk like a human rather than a blubbering baby. Since Friday night I have played out in my head what I’ve wanted to write down, then I realised that I simply cannot plan this. It has to come from the heart. It always does, because I honestly have no idea how to write any other way. If the things you do and say do not come from the heart- then don’t say or do them. Simple. Sort of.
I was one of the VERY lucky 125 people to have got a ticket to see Patti Smith and Tony Shanahan (thanks to my lovely girlfriend.) The concert was beautiful, and was held in The Old Schoolrooms- where the Brontës taught. When I was about 4 years old my mum took us all to Haworth to go round the museum and I remember being in awe of everything. When you walk around the village, you cannot help but be taken back by all of the history there. Everything about Haworth is gorgeous, but on Friday night it reached a different level of beauty.
The first song she did was dedicated to her sister Linda, who got Patti into the work of the Brontës. For her 65th birthday, Patti promised her sister that she would take her to Haworth. This alone just cements the idea that Patti is an incredibly caring and gentle human being. She played Dancing Barefoot (yes, I cried.) She played her tribute to Amy Winehouse; This Is The Girl which was nothing short of heartbreaking but comforting. I’ve not managed to listen to Amy’s music since she died, and it’s something which I may never be able to do. It gets frustrating, but This Is The Girl made me feel less silly for still being upset over a death of someone I never met. When she played Because The Night (which was released exactly 35 years to the day on Friday) everyone went a little bit crazy, as they also did to the inspiring People Have The Power. Pissing In A River was an incredible moment too. Everything was just stunning, who knew it was about to get even better.
At the end of the concert my mum saw that Tony Shanahan was on the stage packing up his guitar. She went over to ask if Patti would sign two books I brought with me. My battered copy of Just Kids (I’ve read it more times than I can remember) and a poetry book of hers, Auguries of Innocence. He said to wait, and he was sure she would. So we loitered for a bit. Saw people stand around being interviewed by the BBC, and friends discussing with each other the beauty of what they had just seen. About 10 minutes passed and Tony called out to my mum and I. He beckoned us, said Patti would sign the books. I walked behind my mum and as I type this the same rushing feeling is coming back. This still doesn’t feel real. I felt my body turn to jelly, I thought I was going to be sick. In fact, I was SURE I was going to be sick. I stood at the door, thinking I would just hand the books over and that was it.
I stood next to Patti, and she asked me my name. Her sister, my mum and Tony were the only ones in this small room. A room that held so much history, and was now the room that held the moment my whole life, my world changed. I’m not “cool.” I don’t believe in the idea of it, however if I did- and if I was cool, I just ruined that notion of myself by howling. Some strange noise came out of my mouth. I am comforted by this by being told that Shirley Manson had the same reaction when she met Patti. As I cried, Patti said in her soft voice “Don’t worry, it’s just emotion.” I was completely fine after then. I say “fine” but in my head I had no idea what was going on. I don’t think I still do, but that’s a different story altogether.
I wanted to say so much to her, but I think she’s been told it before by so many. I was sat next to the woman who is responsible for not just saving me, but for also giving me such love for words and music. Her words and music mean more to me than I can say. There’s no way I can actually get the words out. It has changed everything, in ways that go beyond description. They say you should never meet your idols, I stick two fingers up to that idea. As much as I wanted to hug her, I just shook her gentle hands and said thank you to her. But with that thank you, I meant much more. I wasn’t thanking her for just the photo I had taken with her or for her signing my books. I was thanking her for every single song she has ever written, every poem she has ever written. For everything she has done as it changed my life, for the better. I think Friday night changed my life for the better. In the poetry book she signed, it says “Have a beautiful life.” Well, as Patti told me to- I’m going to make sure I do. I have no job, no money- but I have that moment. I have that. I was taken to meet my role model; there’s no greater feeling than that. None at all.
As the tears fell, Patti’s sister, Linda was getting emotional too. It didn’t feel real, it still doesn’t. I keep looking at the photos, the books and my ticket. Every so often it hits me that I actually met Patti Smith, and when it does nothing else seems to matter. Like I said above, we must cling onto the strength we find. This is mine. Forever.
I have no idea if she will ever read this. If she does by some strange stroke of luck, then..well, just thank you. Again. And a massive thank you to Tony Shanahan for making this happen and to Linda Smith for taking the photo of Patti. I won’t re-read this because I will have so much more to add, but I think the photo of Patti and I shows how happy I was to be sat next to her.
Wow, I heard about this event on the news. So cool that you were there, and what an incredible experience for you to meet somebody you admire so much and whose work has inspired and affected you so. Make sure you do follow her advice!
I can only try! 🙂 x
that’s a terriffic story.., I met Patti briefly too at a book signing, I have the feeling she is basically a kind heart perosn who generally likes and cares about people…
Oh she has such a good heart. Everything about her is so kind and just gentle x