Managing editor Ed McCormack's essay, "Andy's Aura, Patti's Power, My Sister's Boxes, My Father's Press Clippings, Paul Nelson's Withering, and Other Aspects of Art and Fame, Obscurity and Loss, Death and Resurrection," an extremely personal meditation (which, at six pages, is almost as long as its title) on life and death, where we come from, where we're going, and what we encounter along the way, at its heart seeks to find the answer to this conundrum:
Why Patti Smith matters so much to those who take rock & roll more seriously than McCormack does.
And while he wishes he could call upon the late rock critics Lester Bangs (whom, in an otherwise painstakingly researched piece, he misidentifies as "the dean of American rock critics," a title belonging to Robert Christgau) or Paul Nelson to provide the answer, Nelson probably couldn't have helped him, as Patti Smith's attraction was lost on him, too.
About her first album, Horses, pretty much a universally acknowledged classic, Nelson in 1976 wrote that "I never want to hear it again..." In the years that followed, he avoided writing about Smith at all and, the few times he did, struggled to resist the cheap shot.
All of which is neither here nor there, as McCormack, himself also an ex-writer for Rolling Stone (as was Patti), does a fine job addressing, in a heartfelt and often humorous manner, the considerable cult that belongs to Smith.
As far as the bit about me, McCormack deftly demonstrates the importance of remaining open to influence in one's art. Had I not e-mailed him late last year while researching my book, I wouldn't be writing this piece today; and McCormack might never have referenced Paul Nelson -- and certainly not me -- and the article he happened to be writing would have ended up being that much shorter.