Dancing Barefoot

Patti Smith – Dancing Barefoot

I think I knew who Patti Smith was before going to college but only in the most cursory way, probably based on recognizing album covers and knowing maybe two songs. In short order though, I learned what a big influence she had been on so many bands I loved and even if I still didn’t know much of her music or much about her, I figured they knew what they were talking about.

I became addicted to this song* during college. Addicted, or some might say obsessed, pretty accurately describes a good 3/4 of my college years. Everything about this song just nails that mix of excitement, anger, longing, mystery, all the emotions the 20-year-old me would keep bottled up until I was alone in my dorm room or out on my bike. Then I’d blast the tunes and “spin so ceaselessly ‘til I lose my sense of gravity…”

About a year ago I went to an exhibit of Patti Smith’s photography. I’d read her book, Just Kids, and loved it and couldn’t wait to see her work for myself. The museum had an evening event where they had a dj playing music, food, drinks, and anyone wearing a concert t-shirt got in for free. I hauled my old shirts out of storage and proudly picked one to wear.  The shirt says EVERYTHING on the front and IS COOL on the back. I stood there looking at Patti Smith’s photograph of Keats’ grave, wearing my Pylon t-shirt, while the dj played Bigmouth Strikes Again and Radio Free Europe. Everything is cool.

* Actually, the one on constant repeat was The Feelies cover of this song – I think it was a flexi-disc that came with The Bob or something, I didn’t have the Patti Smith album yet – with a slightly faster tempo. A slower, totally haunting version by the Swedish sisters who are First Aid Kit, sung last year when Patti Smith won the Polar Music Prize, just proves how universal and timeless this song is.


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