Follow TV Tropes


Music / Horses

Go To
I think it's sad, it's much too bad, that our friends can't be with us today.

"Horses" tore my limbs off and put them back on in a whole different order. I was like: "Shit, yeah, oh my god!" then I threw up."
Michael Stipe, who called "Horses" "just the most important thing in the world."

Horses is a 1975 album by Patti Smith, produced by John Cale. It's her most famous album and one of the most influential records of The '70s. The equally iconic cover photo was shot by her then-boyfriend Robert Mapplethorpe and the record itself was produced by John Cale. It scored hits with "Gloria", "Redondo Beach", "Free Money", and "Land".

Horses is historically important for being an enormous inspiration to the Punk Rock scene that emerged in New York in the late 1970s. The record established Smith as a serious singer-songwriter, whose elegance, artistry, androgyny and strong self assuredness made her an icon to many Punk Rock, Alternative Rock and even Pop artists that would follow in her footsteps, including U2, R.E.M., The Smiths, Morrissey, Madonna, Courtney Love, and Sonic Youth. Since 2009 it has been preserved by the National Recording Registry for being "culturally, historically and aesthetically significant".



Side One

  1. "Gloria (In Excelsis Deo)" (5:57)
  2. "Redondo Beach" (3:26)
  3. "Birdland" (9:15)
  4. "Free Money" (3:52)

Side Two

  1. "Kimberly" (4:27)
  2. "Break It Up" (4:04)
  3. "Land" (9:25)
    • "Horses" (1:12; 0:00-1:12)
    • "Land of a Thousand Dances" (2:37; 1:12-3:50)
    • "La Mer (de)" (5:35; 3:50-9:25)
  4. "Elegie" (2:57)

The CD version adds "My Generation" as a bonus track.

I was tropin' for yoo-oo-oouuu...:

  • Album Closure: The final track is called "Elegie", as in the closing oration at a funeral. It's particularly slow and somber.
  • Album Title Drop: "Land"
    Suddenly, Johnny, got a feelin', he's been surrounded by... horses, horses, horses, horses, horses, horses,...
  • Ambiguous Gender: Patti has a androgynous look on the album cover and her deep voice on the album only adds to this.
  • A Storm Is Coming: "Kimberly."
    And I know soon that the sky will split
  • Advertisement:
  • Blasphemous Boast: The infamous intro of "Gloria" where Patti takes full responsibility for her own sins, not needing Jesus.
    Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine.
    (...) My sins my own
    They belong to me, me
  • Broken Record: "Free Money", where the title is repeated at a breakneck pace near the end of the song. Also "Land", with its famous "horses, horses, horses" refrain.
  • Coat Over the Shoulder: Patti on the album cover.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: "Gloria" and "Land" are both based around very radical rearrangements of other songs, Van Morrison's "Gloria" and Wilson Pickett's "Land Of A Thousand Dances".
  • Cover Version: "Gloria", a Them cover, and "Land of a Thousand Dances", a Wilson Pickett cover.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The black-and-white album cover.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The very stylish album cover was designed by Robert Mapplethorpe.
  • Driven to Suicide: "Redondo Beach" about a friend of hers of whom she thought had drowned herself.
    The hearse pulled away, and the girl that had died, it was you.
  • Drugs Are Bad: "Land", where the rape victim starts sniffing coke and "go Rimbaud".
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Tom Verlaine plays on "Break It Up" (which he co-wrote) almost two years before Television's debut.
  • Epic Rocking: "Birdland" and "Land" both top the nine minute mark.
  • Face on the Cover: Patti striking a pose with her coat on her shoulder.
  • Grief Song: "Elegie"
    (...) But I think it's sad, it's much too bad
    That our friends can't be with us today
    • "Birdland" tells the story of a young man whose father had just died, and how he deals with the stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, and depression—though it's unknown whether he accepts his father's death.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Redondo Beach". On the face of it, a summery light number about a California beach paradise colonized by lesbian women. Listen more closely. It's a lament inspired by Smith's younger sister Kimberly. She and Patti had a fight and Kimberly went off to sulk, and Patti later heard that a woman had been washed up on Redondo Beach, which was near where she was living at the time, and she freaked out that it might be Kimberly (because Patti Smith is a bit of a Drama Queen), but it wasn't, and when Kimberly returned home, Patti was so grateful to see her that the fight was completely forgotten.
  • Motor Mouth: "Free Money" has the title repeated at a breakneck pace near the end.
  • One-Woman Song: "Kimberly"
  • One-Word Title: The album itself, "Gloria" (without the subtitle), "Kimberly", "Land" (including "Horses"), and "Elegie".
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Land"
    Suddenly! Johnny! Gets the feeling! He's been surrounded by ... Horses! Horses! Horses! Horses!
  • Rape as Drama: "Land" depicts male rape:
    The boy took Johnny, he pushed him against the locker,
    He drove it in, he drove it home, he drove it deep in Johnny
    The boy disappeared, Johnny fell on his knees,
    started crashing his head against the locker,
    started crashing his head against the locker,
    started laughing hysterically
  • Record Producer: John Cale.
  • Refrain from Assuming: "Land" isn't called "Horses".
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: "Gloria"
    And I heard those bells chimin' in my heart
    Going ding dong ding dong ding dong din dong
    ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong ding dong
  • Shout-Out:
    • Patti Smith poses with her coat on her shoulder on the cover as a nod to Frank Sinatra.
    • "Birdland"'s lyrics are based on Peter Reich's "A Book Of Dreams" (1973), a biography by Peter about his father Wilhelm Reich, inventor of the orgonon therapy. The song also references William Blake and Mohammed Ali.
    And he saw the lights of traffic beckoning like the hands of Blake
    (...) Like light, like Mohammed Boxer
    • "Kimberly"
    And I feel just like some misplaced Joan of Arc
    And the cause is you lookin' up at me
    • The Blue Öyster Cult song Revenge of Vera Gemini from Agents of Fortune contains the line No More Horses, Horses, (We're going to swim like a fish). This is a double reference to Patti Smith's album Horses and to the BOC's own song Subhuman. Of course, Patti, co-writer of "Vera Gemini", sings co-vocals on this track...
    • Punk band Crass' song "Reality Asylum" ends with a reference to Patti Smith's famous line "Jesus died for his own sins, not mine!"
  • Special Guest: Tom Verlaine (Television) and Allen Lanier (Blue Öyster Cult).
  • Spelling Song:
    G! L! O! R! I-I-I-I-I-I-G-L-O-R-I-A!
  • Spoken Word in Music: "Land" starts off with Patti just talking, but gradually the music gets louder and she starts singing along with it. It also ends by gradually getting softer again and Patti going back from her singing voice to her talking voice.
    • "Birdland" also alternates between spoken-word verses and sung choruses.
  • Winged Humanoid: "Break It Up"
    I could hear the angel calling.
    We rolled on the ground, he stretched out his wings.
    The boy flew away and he started to sing.