A few days ago Patti Smith gave a ‘masterclass in focused protest rock’ at the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts.
I wasn’t there to see her (partly because I never seem to know when the tickets go on sale) but I did watch her on the BBC iplayer recording.
As I watched I saw that she improvised on one of her songs, ‘Horses/Land’ and developed its lead character, the famous ‘Johnny’. She took this Johnny ‘out of the hallway’ where he’s been assessing the state of the world for the last forty years (it’s a world still gone wrong) and brought Johnny to Glastonbury “because he wants to party”. Yes – Johnny’s crossed the Atlantic and come to England …
Later she declares “My generation had dreams and we’re still dreaming! We’re gonna change the f**king world!”
As the music critic Alexis Petrifies noted, she gave ‘an astonishing, incendiary performance’ in which she ‘even manages to make falling over seem cool. “I fell on my ass at Glastonbury because I’m an ANIMAL!” she growls by way of explanation.’
Footnote: Patti Smith’s ‘Horses/Land‘ ends with ‘a man dancing around to the simple Rock & Roll song.’