smith on trampin'
of the mind
"Stride of The Mind"
is a playful love song, with references to both "Simon says," and St.
Simon Stylites, a 5th-century Saint, who spent 42 years perched atop a column
in the Syrian desert. He was also the subject of Luis Bunuel's delightful 1965
surrealist film, "Simon Of The Desert". And in light of recent events
in Iraq, Patti's throwaway line at the end of the song, "Just 'cause your
friends do it, would you do it" serves (like it did in "Last Call"),
as a potent reminder for people to think for themselves. It also brings to mind
the folly of the American people playing "Follow the Leader," when that
leader is someone as incompetent as George W. Bush.
Garcia Lorca recommended that I read "The Golden Legend," a marvelous
13th century hagiography by Jacobus de Voragine. Federico found the chapter on
Saint Simon Stylites delightful; it's about a saint who lived aloft a column in
the middle of the desert. Federico especially prized this description: "Shit
flowed down the column like wax drips from candles." It's an enticing image,
isn't it? We have the paradigm of spirituality next to the paradigm of realism.
During the Middle Ages, painters and writers of holy things didn't hesitate to
note the most crude details, they didn't have the aesthetic of the sexton's little
religious pictures, which on the other hand, can be enchanting. That image is
etched in my memory.
When did you first see Luis Bunuel's 1965 movie about St. Simon Stylites, "Simon
Of The Desert"?
PATTI SMITH: i saw simon of the
desert in the early seventies at MOMA, but i haven't seen it since. stride is
a love song - two people playfully exchanging wisdom. i wrote the lyrics as they
came - some conscious and some unconscious. i wrote the first verse right away.
they all seemed to entwine in the end.
Is the line, "Time
to travel, Simon said" a direct reference to the end of "Simon Of The
Desert," - when Simon time travels and ends up in a New York rock 'n' roll
PATTI SMITH: the phrase just came to my mind since
the song has a simon sez theme running thru it.
remember when the title first came to you?
the line stride of the mind had been moving thru my mind for quite a while.
Sufi poems take the form of love lyrics. Were you inspired by any of them - such
as Rumi or Hallaj?
PATTI SMITH: i have always loved their
work. the sufi reference was playful.
Shoe Molds by Patti Smith
did you take the photograph of the child's shoe molds (on pattismith.net next to the lyrics for "Stride"), and how does it relate to "Stride
of the Mind"?
PATTI SMITH: i took it in my workspace.
the reference is merely visual. oliver gave them to me.