Happy Birthday to Mikhail Bulgakov, from Patti Smith and Beatdom!

On May 15, 1891, Mikhail Bulgakov was born.

Today, also May 15, Patti Smith was kind enough to talk to Beatdom about writing, her favorite Apostles, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, William S. Burroughs, and Herbert Huncke, among other things. You will have to wait until Beatdom Issue 12 comes out to read the full interview, but since today is Bulgakov’s birthday, and Patti likes to keep track of such things, we thought we would share the birthday salute, along with these words from one of the greatest singer-songwriters living today. On June 5, she will release her first collection of new material since Trampin’ in 2004, and Bulgakov, and a favorite canine character of his, figure prominently in the work.

Here is what Patti had to tell us about Mikhail Bulgakov and the connection to her new CD/album/LP/digital download, or whatever you prefer to call it…it is her new music.

“Bulgakov is one of the great Russian novelists and playwrights who was suppressed by Stalin and, very simply, he wrote one of the masterpieces of the Twentieth Century,  The Master and Margarita. I am not really ready to give a lecture on political culture today but I do like to wish him a Happy Birthday. I think the best way to know Bulgakov is to read him.

“The album title (Banga) came from the dog in The Master and Margarita. It was Pontius Pilate’s dog and his dog’s name was ‘Banga.’ The reason I wrote a song for Banga, for those who have not read the book, Pontius Pilate waited on the edge of Heaven for 2000 years to talk to Jesus Christ and his dog, Banga, stayed faithfully by his side and I thought that any dog that would wait 2000 years for his master deserves a song. Its really a song for my band and for the people. It’s a high-spirited song, dedicated to love and loyalty.”

High-spirited, dedicated to love and loyalty…sounds like familiar territory for Patti. As usual, we hear Lenny Kaye’s great guitar playing, Tony Shanahan working the grace out of the keyboards and bass, and the rock-steady beat of Jay Dee Daugherty. There is love and loyalty for you – Kaye has been with Patti since 1974, Daugherty since 1975, and Shanahan since 1988. New to the mix are Patti’s son Jackson Smith on guitar, and Jack Petruzzelli, a new face in the Patti Smith Group since 2007, on guitar and bass. Old friend Tom Verlaine makes an appearance, as does Patti’s daughter Jesse Paris.

There is a sense of continuity to this LP, more than with many past offerings. The sound is fantastic but is undoubtedly better live and loud. The subject matter starts with Amerigo Vespucci and Christopher Columbus makes an appearance near the end. Mixed in are songs dedicated to Johnny Depp, the survivors of last year’s Japanese nuclear disaster, Amy Winehouse, Nikolai Gogol and, of course, Bulgakov. Plus there is a lot more, but we have only had three days to listen, and, as usual, it is lyrically dense.

It is noteworthy to mention that Mick Jagger,  one of her early role models and heroes, wrote the Rolling Stones song, Sympathy For The Devil, after reading the same book. It seems like the best way to enjoy Banga is to order the deluxe edition (featuring the excellent bonus track, Just Kids, which is a classic that seems perfect for a loud performance), along with her most-recently released book, Woolgathering, and order yourself a copy of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. You can pre-order today, while it is still Mikhail’s birthday!

We hope you enjoy all three but especially some long-awaited new music from Patti, one of the most talented living performers. For more information on how to pre-order Banga, please visit www.pattismith.net.

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Author: Michael Hendrick

Michael Hendrick, activist, capitalist, poet and writer, has been published in newspapers and magazines since 1972. Editor of the literary journal, Beatdom, he is currently finishing his first novel, Egypt Cemetery, the first volume of a Proustian effort he refers to as 'A Remembrance of Things Crass' (with apologies to Marcel Proust). A survivor of five bookstores and two libraries, his two cats are his most prized possessions. He likes Irish ciders and organic foods and never misses a Bob Dylan tour!

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5 Comments

  1. Nice to read of Patti Smith’s celebration of the Russian master of magical realism with such detail as writing a song about a dog in ‘The Master and Margarita. I also celebrated Bulgakov’s b. day with a review of what is one of my favourite all-time novels.

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    • sorry, kevin…i have been so busy and have not used the site here in so long, i forgot the ‘reply’ button when i wrote the reply to you. i am just sending this in case you check your emails for replies.
      cheers!

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  2. Very cool! Love Patti Smith. Can’t wait for the article in Beatdom issue 12!

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    • thanks, KH!!!

      it seems like anybody who knows who patti is, loves her…the rest think she is patty smythe!
      it was a good interview, though, and thanks very much for the comment!!!
      michael

      Post a Reply
  3. thanks, kevin.
    are you saying you wrote a review of The Master and Margarita? why not copy it into here, if you like?
    or maybe it is a different book?

    nonetheless, thanks much for the comment!
    michael

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