The one big disappointment I had when I was finally able to visit New York City was finding that the Hotel Chelsea was and still is closed for renovations. For years, since reading a book on the life of Nancy Spungen, I have had a strange fascination with the hotel.
I wanted my chance to see the art work in the lobby. I wanted to walk up the iron staircases and roam the halls where so many rock legends roamed before me .
A large chunk of Just Kids revolves around Patti Smith’s life with Robert Maplethrope when they lived and worked in the Chelsea.
I never really knew much about Patti Smith before reading this book, other than listening to her album Horses back when I was in that Punk Rock stage of my life. I devoured any music with a connection to the New York City Punk scene and CBGB’s ( which to me is the START of Punk, not the UK…but that is another post…) I also knew nothing of Robert Maplethrope and his art until I picked up this book. The only modern artist to peak my interest in that time was Andy Warhol. Surprisingly Warhol, is featured heavily in Just Kids, making me wonder why I never ran across Maplethrope’s name in the past.
Just Kids really isn’t about the life of Patti Smith. It isn’t even until the end of the book that it even touches on her musical career. Ultimately, Just Kids is a love story. A book written by Smith as a memorial to Maplethrope.
The relationship spans most of her adult life and the mystical bond between the two is told by Smith in eloquent and poetic writing. The tale of their love, is like most love stories, tragic, but it also shows the unbreakable bond they had as friends, lovers and muses to each other. It is an honest account of a relationship.
Just Kids is also a window into an era, one that includes such greats as Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendricks. If you are like me, and you are a music enthusiast, or you just have a strong interest in what it would be like to be a struggling and starving artist in the late 1960’s and 1970’s I highly recommend this book.