Some music for your Thursday.
While I’ve drifted away from rock music over the past 20 years or so, there are still seminal artists—artists who’ve inspired me on multiple level, including my poetry—to whom I still return. & two of those are Lou Reed & Patti Smith.
Certainly neither artists needs an introduction; Lou Reed’s work, both as a force in the Velvet Underground & in his long solo career, is some of the most compelling in the rock genre, both musically & lyrically. As far as Patti Smith goes, the same can be said. I still can remember a very early Saturday Night Live showing a video of her "Gloria In Excelsis," & I was immediately hooked in every way.
So it does make sense to pair the two—members of the New York punk rock scene, top-notch writers, true forces behind some of rock’s most genuine music. In this case, Patti Smith is covering the Reed song “Perfect Day.”
“Perfect Day” first appeared on Lou Reed’s 1972 Transformer album, released around the time of the Velvet Underground’s breakup—in fact four of the albums 11 tracks are songs performed by the Velvets (“Andy’s Chest”; “Satellite of Love”; “New York Telephone Conversation”; “Good Night Ladies”). Although Wikipedia states that “The song's lyrics are often considered to suggest simple, conventional romantic devotion,” this really strikes me as a huge over-simplification: if that’s the “meaning,” how does one account for “You just keep me hanging on” & “You’re going to reap just what you sow”? The vision seems to have a real underlying sadness & even darkness.
Others have conjectured that the song is about Reed’s heroin addiction, & while that is plausible, it certainly works as a song about the nuances & complications of love relationships.
The song has been covered a number of times, but Patti Smith’s version really cuts to the heart of the song’s sadness & complexity. Released on her 2007 album of cover songs, Twelve, Smith gives the song a deep & authoritative reading.
Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
"Patti Smith performing at the O2 Academy. Leeds, on Sunday the 9th of September 2012" by ManAlive!, who makes it available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.