“Horses” by Patti Smith Album Review

Patti Smith’s debut album, “Horses,” released on Dec. 13, 1975, is considered to be an influential album, specifically as one of the catalysts for the American punk rock movement. “Horses” is placed number 44 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 greatest albums, in which they refer to Smith as the “queen of punk before it even really existed.”

The album starts with “Gloria,” a track based on the Van Morrison song of the same name. Listening to the two songs back to back, the general theme of the lyrics remains the same in Smith’s version, but the only immediately recognizable similarity is that they both feature the recognizable, “G-L-O-R-I-A (Gloria),” in the chorus of the song. Apart from that, Smith’s “Gloria” features her own lyrics and poetry.

“Birdland” and “Land” are the longest songs on the album, with both songs clocking in at over 9 minutes. The last song of the album is “Elegie,” a take on a type of mourning poem that is usually spelled “elegy.” The final lines of the song reference a song by Jimi Hendrix, who Smith wrote the song for. A cover of the song “My Generation” by The Who was later added in a CD reissue of the album.

Although “Horses” takes the role as one of punk’s influences, the album is not immediately recognizable as punk music, sounding more like a combination of performance poetry and rock. The influence of the album was really in its rebellious spirit, in Smith’s sheer energy, and her masterful ability to craft words into poetry.

It’s impossible to talk about this album and describe its influence without focusing on Smith herself. Aside from the energy and poetry she brought to the album, Smith herself was a controversial figure. Although her lyrics and manner are fairly standard now, they were shocking for the time, as mainstream culture expected women to be less “screaming poet,” and more “demure beauty.” This pushing of societal norms and boundaries is the reason why she was an influence to the music scene, helping others to follow in her path.

The recommendation that was given to me before I listened to “Horses” is to have the lyrics in front of you when you listen to it, a recommendation that I stand by. Smith is considered to be a poet first, so reading along helps to appreciate that aspect of this music.

Track List

  1. Gloria
  2. Redondo Beach
  3. Birdland
  4. Free Money
  5. Kimberly
  6. Break It Up
  7. Land
  8. Elegie

Remastered “Horses” on Spotify-