Horses (album)

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Studio album by Patti Smith
Released December 13, 1975
Recorded 1975 at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, New York
Genre Proto-punk[1][2] garage rock,[3] art rock[4]
Length 43:10
Label Arista
Producer John Cale
Patti Smith chronology
Radio Ethiopia
Singles from Horses
  1. "Gloria"
    Released: January 26, 1976

Horses is the debut studio album by American musician Patti Smith, released on December 13, 1975 on Arista Records. The record was a key factor and major influence on the New York punk rock scene.


At the time she recorded Horses, Patti Smith and her band were favorites in the New York club scene along with Blondie and The Ramones. The former's influence can be best heard in the track "Gloria", a radical retake on the Them song. "Birdland", in particular, owed more to jazz, which Smith's mother enjoyed, than to the influence of punk. When recording this song, which was improvised by the band in Electric Lady Studios, Smith has said she imagined the spirit of Jimi Hendrix watching her. The lyrics of "Birdland" are based upon A Book of Dreams, a 1973 memoir of Wilhelm Reich by his son Peter. Several of the album's songs — "Redondo Beach", "Free Money", "Kimberly" — were inspired by moments with members of Smith's family, while others — "Break It Up", "Elegie" — were written about her idols. "Land" was already a live favorite and featured the first verse of Chris Kenner's "Land of a Thousand Dances" and contains a tribute to her long-time idol Arthur Rimbaud."[5] Guest musicians included Tom Verlaine of Television and Allen Lanier of Blue Öyster Cult.

Reception and influence[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[6]
BBC (favorable)[7]
Robert Christgau A[8]
NME (favorable)[9]
Rolling Stone (favorable)[10]
The Rolling Stone (2004) 5/5 stars[11]
Time (favorable)[12]
AllMusic (Legacy edition) 5/5 stars[13]
Robert Christgau (Legacy edition) B+[14]
Pitchfork Media (Legacy edition) (9.4/10)[15]

Horses is often cited as one of the greatest albums in music history. In 2003, the album was ranked number 44 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[16] NME named the album number 1 in its list "20 Near-as-Damn-It Perfect Initial Efforts".[17] According to a list released by Time magazine in 2006, Horses is one of the All-Time 100 Greatest Albums and three years later, it was preserved by the Library of Congress into the National Recording Registry, calling it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Smith has been called an early pioneer of punk rock. AllMusic's William Ruhlman said that it "isn't hard to make the case for Patti Smith as a punk rock progenitor based on Horses"[18] while David Antrobus from PopMatters chose Horses as his favorite album and considered it a life-changing classic.[19] Siouxsie and the Banshees have said that "Carcass", one of the first songs from The Scream, was inspired by Horses.[20][21] Michael Stipe bought the album as a high school student and says it "tore my limbs off and put them back on in a whole different order."[22] Morrissey and Johnny Marr shared an appreciation for the record, and one of their early compositions for The Smiths, "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle", is a reworking of "Kimberly".[23] Courtney Love has stated that this album helped inspire her to become a rock musician.[24] The Libertines' song "The Boy Looked at Johnny" is named after the line in the title track of the album. In 1977, Sammy Hagar released a cover of "Free Money" on his self-titled second album.

In 1998, the Millennium episode "The Time Is Now" used the song "Land" in a bizarre "music video" sequence depicting a character's descent into madness.[25]

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The cover photo was taken by Robert Mapplethorpe using natural light in a penthouse in Greenwich Village.[26] The triangle of light on the wall (too blurry to discern as a geometric figure on the above low resolution image) was the product of the afternoon sun. The record company wanted to make various changes to the photo, but Smith overruled such attempts.[26] Smith has described the pose as "a mix of (French poet Charles) Baudelaire and (Frank) Sinatra."[27] The black and white treatment and unisex pose was a departure from the typical promotional images of "girl singers" of the time,[28] but Smith maintains that she "wasn't making a big statement. That's just the way I dressed."[27]

Writer Camille Paglia described the album's cover as "one of the greatest pictures ever taken of a woman."[29]

The jacket Smith has wrapped around her shoulder has a pin in the shape of a horse.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Gloria"
Part I: "In Excelsis Deo" (Patti Smith)
Part II: "Gloria" (Van Morrison)"  
2. "Redondo Beach"   Smith, Richard Sohl, Lenny Kaye 3:26
3. "Birdland"   Smith, Sohl, Kaye, Ivan Kral 9:15
4. "Free Money"   Smith, Kaye 3:52
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Kimberly"   Smith, Allen Lanier, Kral 4:27
2. "Break It Up"   Smith, Tom Verlaine 4:04
3. "Land"
Part I: "Horses" (Smith)
Part II
: "Land of a Thousand Dances" (Chris Kenner, Fats Domino)
Part III: "La Mer(de)" (Smith)"  
4. "Elegie"   Smith, Lanier 2:57
CD bonus track (1976-01-26th Live; the Agora, Cleveland, Ohio)
No. Title Writer(s) Length
9. "My Generation"   Pete Townshend 3:16


Additional personnel

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1976) Peak
Dutch Top 40[30] 18
US Billboard 200[31] 47
Chart (2007) Peak
UK Albums Chart[32] 157

Release history[edit]

Date Label Format Catalog
December 13, 1975 Arista LP 4066
June 18, 1996 CD 18827
November 8, 2005 Sony BMG 671445
June 30, 2007 CD, LP 37927
October 8, 2007 Arista LP 15972

30th anniversary edition[edit]

For the 30th anniversary of the original album, a live version was recorded on June 25, 2005 in the Royal Festival Hall at the Meltdown festival, which Smith curated. It followed the same running order as the original release of Horses, and featured Tom Verlaine on guitar and Flea on bass guitar. The live set was released November 8, 2005 as the second disc of a double CD titled Horses/Horses, with the digitally remastered version of the original 1975 album (with the bonus track "My Generation") on the first disc. The album was recorded and mixed by Emery Dobyns.

  1. "Gloria: In Excelsis Deo / Gloria (version)" –7:01
  2. "Redondo Beach" – 4:29
  3. "Birdland" – 9:52
  4. "Free Money" – 5:29
  5. "Kimberly" – 5:28
  6. "Break It Up" – 5:24
  7. "Land: Horses / Land of a Thousand Dances / La Mer(de)" – 17:35
  8. "Elegie" – 5:08
  9. "My Generation" – 6:59


  1. ^ Blanco, Leticia (May 30, 2015). "Patti Smith, sacerdotisa del rock". El Mundo (in Spanish). Unidad Editorial. Retrieved August 17, 2015. 
  2. ^ Mendelsohn, Jason; Klinger, Eric (February 4, 2011). "Counterbalance No. 19: Patti Smith’s 'Horses'". PopMatters. PopMatters Media, Inc. Retrieved August 17, 2015. 
  3. ^ The Mojo Collection: 4th Edition. Canongate Books. November 1, 2007. p. 359. ASIN B0041G6S6E. Retrieved August 17, 2015. 
  4. ^ Paytress, Mark (September 9, 2006). "The lady's for returning". Guardian Media Group. Retrieved August 17, 2015. 
  5. ^ Paytress, Mark (2006). Break It Up: Patti Smith's Horses and the remaking of Rock 'n' Roll. Record Collector. Portrait. p. 260. ISBN 0-7499-5107-9. 
  6. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "Horses". Ann Arbor, Michigan: AllMusic. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  7. ^ Jones, Chris (2007-02-23). "At the time it was a shock to the system – it retains its power to this day.". United Kingdom: BBC. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  8. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Patti Smith: Horses". Consumer Guide. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  9. ^ Charles Shaar Murray (November 1975). "Weird Scenes Inside Gasoline Alley". United Kingdom: NME. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  10. ^ Rockwell, John (1976-02-12). "Patti Smith: Horses". United States: Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2008-03-25. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  11. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004-11-02). The Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). New York: Fireside Books. ISBN 978-0-7432-0169-8. OCLC 56531290. Lay summary. 
  12. ^ Tyrangiel, Josh (2006-11-13). "Horses by Patti Smith". The All-TIME 100 Albums. United States: Time. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  13. ^ Jurek, Thom. "Horses (30th Anniversary Legacy Edition)". Ann Arbor, Michigan: AllMusic. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  14. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Patti Smith". Consumer Guide. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  15. ^ Dahlen, Chris (2005-11-30). "Album Reviews: Patti Smith: Horses (30th Anniversary Legacy Edition)". Chicago: Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  16. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2003-11-18. Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  17. ^ "Best of All-time Lists". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  18. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "Horses Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  19. ^ Antrobus, David (2003-08-05). "Got to lose control and then you take control". PopMatters. Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  20. ^ Birch,Ian (21 October 1978). "Scream and scream again". Melody Maker. Retrieved 2010-04-17.  "Next is "Carcass", an everyday tale of a butcher falling in love with one of his hunks of meat. The saga moves even closer to Warhol when the butcher in the ultimate act of true devotion, lopes off all his extraneous limbs so that he can nestle more comfortably beside his other beating heart. "In love with your stumps, in love with the bleeding, in love with the pain that you once felt..." It wasn't, as I'd half-imagined the result of a late night screening of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Patti Smith's "Horses" was the original inspiration".
  21. ^ Roma Interview with Siouxsie Sioux, November 1994. Excerpt : "Our song Carcass is the horse without the flesh". Retrieved 2010-04-17
  22. ^ Kaplan, Ethan. "Michael Stipe (Important to Patti Smith)". Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  23. ^ Goddard, Simon (2006-05-01). The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life (3rd ed.). Reynolds & Hearn. ISBN 1-905287-14-3. 
  24. ^ Behind The Music: Courtney Love (Part 2)
  25. ^ Patti Smith - The Time Is Now - Millennium Episode Music - Episode and Credits Guide
  26. ^ a b Thorgerson, Storm; Aubrey Powell (November 1999). 100 Best Album Covers: The Stories Behind the Sleeves (1st American ed.). Dorling Kindersley. p. 74. ISBN 0-7894-4951-X. 
  27. ^ a b Kot, Greg (24 October 2014). "Patti Smith on literary heroes, role models and Sinatra". Carroll County Times. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  28. ^ "The Image: Patti Smith by Robert Mapplethorpe". A First Class Riot. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  29. ^ Paglia, Camille (1992). Sex, Art and American Culture: New Essays, ISBN 978-0-679-74101-5. p. 45
  30. ^ " - Patti Smith - Horses". Hung Medien. Retrieved April 25, 2012. 
  31. ^ Horses - Patti Smith at AllMusic. Retrieved February 28, 2008.
  32. ^ "Chart Log UK: DJ S - The System Of Life". Chart Log UK. Retrieved April 25, 2012. 

External links[edit]