My first afternoon there I was just about to leave the store when one of the clerks took down a Patti Smith record that was propped on a fireplace mantel that was left over from the days when the shop had been an apartment. I had seen Patti Smith a couple of years earlier on the Saturday morning TV show Kids Are People Too. She wore an oversized man's blazer and her gaunt face made her look something like Jesus on the cross. She sang Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life" surrounded by an audience of entranced eight-year-olds. The show host* had announced her a "punk poet" and "the female Mick Jagger." As a kid I hadn't been into rock 'n' roll. All we ever listened to in Southie was soul or disco even though the neighborhood wasn't safe for black people - or anyone else different from us - after the busing riots. Still everyone knew who Mick Jagger was - especially after the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" became a disco hit. If Patti Smith was his female counterpart I was surprised I'd never heard of her. Seeing her on TV on that Saturday morning gave me the willies, and I couldn't get her blank stare out of my head all day. I was probably eleven and couldn't believe she was on a show for kids younger than me, singing the worst soft-rock ever but turning it into an intense dirge with her deep and onimous voice. The show's host asked her "Are you punk rock?" She simply answer, "No," her blank stare unmoved by the host's enthusiasm. "Well, we think you're punk rock, right, kids?" the apple-cheeked host shouted, to the cheers of dozens of eight-year-olds screaming, "Yeah!" I had no idea what was going on. Punk rock? And the Debby Boone song? And that frightening gaze?
Oh, look, here it is:
Be sure to listen to the question portion where she says that she wanted to be a missionary.
And if you want to read a more light-hearted description of the whole thing, try this article on Open Culture.
And the rest of the book? Definitely recommended.
* Michael Young