Waxing Lyrical about ‘Horses’


I’ve thought long and hard about this, which album to write about here. Really though, I can’t say that I have had to think too deeply about it; I’ve known all along which disc I would wax lyrical about first. The one that I return to again and again; the one that I seek out for inspiration; first and foremost the one that I want to share with others.

Recorded by Patti Smith in 1975, Horses is a seminal album for anyone needing the inspiration to pursue their creative talents and to find their own voice. If you’ve never listened to this album- in full or in part- I would urge you to make a coffee, pull up a comfy chair and drop the needle.

I bought this album with my first bona fide pay slip when I was sixteen; I wanted to buy something that would be symbolic of my burgeoning independence. A few years before, walking down a hill on the way to a Chemistry lesson, a classmate had asked me in passing if I knew of Patti Smith. I hadn’t. At that time, I was still in the midst of listening to Bob Dylan’s entire back catalogue, hanging on every breath he drew and revelling in his lyricism. I had yet to reach the seventies and punk on this musical voyage. I spent the entire lesson passing metals through flames, watching them burn lilac, green and brick red, whilst pondering over this woman whose name I had heard before but never actually heard before. I ran home to try to find out more about Patti Smith- and discovered Horses. Whatever I had learned that day, it had nothing to do with metals.

Horses is the realisation of Patti Smith’s desire ‘to make a record that would make a certain type of person not feel alone.’ Listening intently, allowing yourself to be drawn in by the frenetic energy of the record, it does fill a void. Is it loneliness, or is it something else? Perhaps it is in knowing that there is an alternative to the status quo, another way of speaking, of writing, of creating, that defies the pre-existing rules that hold us back in our minds. Patti calls for us to break it up! and suddenly we don’t feel so alone in our rebellion. Unapologetically, she breaks down language and reconstructs it for her own means; creates a rhythm that harmonises with that of her own body.

What I should have learned that day involved flame tests and metal ions; what I actually learned that day involved realising the power of language to defy convention. I learned to listen to the rhythms of my own body, which were far from straight 4/4 time.