Jim Carroll Workshop – 5 (Patti Smith)

Patti Smith and Jim Carroll c 1969 – Photograph by Wren D”Antonio

Jim Carroll’s June 30, 1986 Naropa Poetics and Music Workshop contimues – see previous segments – here. here, here and here

JC: Then, you know, the danger of course being, you didn’t want to fall into that kind of stream-of-consciousness type of scene because, I mean, that falls into a certain lassitude too easily also. So you have to use a song structure, I think. You can’t just put a poem to music. That’s very difficult, you know. I think with every song by this young lady (Patti Smith), she kind of advanced more and more from writing..
[JC presents tape to Student/technical assistant – “This is a tape.first song on the A side..) This was from, I think, the next-to-last album, maybe the last album of Patti Smith (Wave (sic)), when she advanced from more like, you know, freaking little sections of poems into.. or starting out with poems.. (I did that a few times too, you know, there’s nothng wrong with that, but it has to fall into a song structure). I mean, by the end, Patti was writing pop songs, you know, I mean.. She had.. And they were good too, you know. There was nothing wrong with them. I mean, after Because The Night, she wanted.. you know, she had a taste of that Top-40 thing and she wanted some more of it, you know. And that’s ok.
I mean, Lenny Kaye said to me, you know, when I said, “This song sounds a little pop-ish”, he said “Fuck it, man, go for it:, you know” – “Get the money!” – I mean, you get the money, you get the audience – That’s what you’re doing it for, you know. You reach people.That’s why I felt that adding political songs on (Dry Dreams) was a responsibility, you know, (but the real thing that changed was the spirit.)

[Student/technicial assistant: We can play it when you’re ready. JC: I’m ready – I hope that this is.. yes. Is this cue-d up? …Yes.. so all I’ve got to do is find the “play” on this positionJC plays a version of Patti Smith singing “Dancing Barefoot”)]

JC: I mean the spoken part in that works so well because it’s going counterpoint to, you know, like, the lines she’s singing musically. And that’s, I think, that’s the strength in, I mean, all, I think, in any art form. I think the real strength is counterpoint, you know (whether it’s, like, the subject-matter being counterpoint, or whether it’s the music being a counterpoint to the lyrics, or whether you have, liken that, one vocal line working in counterpoint to another one). And, I always liked that idea, I always felt.. (But) I never tried it on my first couple of albums because it seemed it was too difficult for my head to think about arranging back-up vocals. Now it comes to me pretty easily. I guess it was just by practice, you know. I usually always get ideas for insane back-up vocals going all through it, you know, but the engineers always mix them down so low. (Actually, I had Anne (Waldman) do a back-up vocal on this one album, but you couldn’t hear shit, right?! – you know – I mean I had Anne read a great poem, and I had everybody, four different people, reading something different, you know, and all you hear.. all the engineer had up was.. me going “We’re closed on Sunday, come back on Monday”.”We’re closed on Sunday, come back on Monday”! – I mean, shit! – We should have done it in the same microphone (that’s what (Bob) Dylan does. I mean, on his last two albums (Empire Burlesque and Knocked Out Loaded (sic), he doesn’t trust engineers to fuck around with the back-up singers, so he has the back-up singers sing on the same fuckin’ mic as him, and.. but he can do that shit. I mean, in that way they can’t… What can they do? – They can’t separate the voices then, so he has it, you know, like they can’t screw him.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-eight-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-six-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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