Patti Smith met her future musical collaborator Lenny Kaye at a downtown record store. After playing in garage bands during the second half of the 1960s, he was working at Village Oldies while also freelancing as a music writer. “You work in a record store, you’re surrounded by music,” Kaye explained, “and then you think, ‘Hey, it’s not unreasonable for me to try to make that music and be one of a hundred million records that we’re selling here.’ It makes it less mysterious in a certain way, and gives you a sense that you could perhaps participate. Those older records also provided me with the way that I met Patti, because I wrote an article about those songs for Jazz and Pop magazine around 1970.” Kaye’s article spoke to Smith about her own youth, when boys would gather to harmonize on doo-wop songs in southern New Jersey. She called him up and began dropping by Village Oldies, which sold vintage 45 rpm singles. “I’d play some of our favorite records—‘My Hero’ by the Blue Notes, and ‘Today’s the Day’ by Maureen Gray, and the Dovells’ ‘Bristol Stomp,’ ” Kaye said, “and Patti and I would just sit around and shoot the breeze.” They were attracted to not only classic group harmony records, but also artists like John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and others who pushed jazz beyond traditional Western harmonics—an improvisational spirit influenced their later musical collaborations.
From Chapter 25 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore