Patti Smith - Horses & Hey Joe, Old Grey Whistle Test (1976)

Patti Smith - Horses & Hey Joe, Old Grey Whistle Test (1976)

Acts that Peel disliked generally found a home on the Old Grey Whistle Test, as Patti Smith did on more than one occasion.

Patricia Lee "Patti" Smith (born December 30, 1946) is an American new-wave artist christened "the godmother of punk" by the New York Times. Her musical style brings together three-chord punk derived from the Stooges and beat poetry in a Jack Kerouac format. The religious upbringing of her New Jersey youth left her with a distaste for organized religion that would find its most famous outpouring on the oft-quoted "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine." [1]

Her 1974 single 'Hey Joe / Piss Factory' (which also featured Tom Verlaine from Television) is described by as "the punk rock shot heard around the world" [2], since the tracks had a spirit of daring that would fuel punk's anger in later years. This was cemented by the 1975 release of Horses, which had a brooding power and scope that inspired Siouxsie & The Banshees amongst others. On the other hand, it clearly revealed its sources by covering Them's 'Gloria' and Wilson Pickett's 'Land Of A Thousand Dances.'

Links to Peel

Horses did not find favour with Peel however, as this extract from a contemporary edition of Radio 1's Roundtable demonstrates:

"Patti Smith is hailed as, like, the latest remarkable thing in America. I do think, and Charles Shaar Murray says this LP is the best LP...better than the first Dylan album, better than the first Beatles album, better than the first Stones album, better than the first any album you can imagine. And I do think it is muck! Absolute, most extravagant muck I've heard in years. Let me read you a bit from the sleeve notes, you can interrupt me when you get fed up with it: "compacted awareness, gems blackening (etc etc)"...I think it is muck."[2]

He showed a revulsion for her that was both surprising and more vitriolic than his criticism of many others: he vilified her in his 'Bores' article, stating that "she must be worth a quid of anybody's money as Bore Of 1976. Try an each-way bet on her for 1977 while you're at it." [3]

Her second album, Radio Ethiopia, released in autumn 1976, was poorly received, and Smith went on tour in order to support it. At one Florida concert in January 1977, she accidentally fell from a 15 foot high platform and broke several neck vertebrae, causing John to write, rather cruelly, "The year got off to a bright start when the American poseuse, Patti Smith, broke her neck (not too seriously)." [4] (It is worth noting in passing that the title of The Boy Looked At Johnny: The Obituary Of Rock'N'Roll by Tony Parsons and Peel's arch-enemy Julie Burchill (Faber & Faber, 1978) was taken from Horses' title track.)

It appears that neither did JP mellow in his attitude to her work, however he did play three songs from her Easter album on his 06 March 1978 show, although it is not known whether this was due to her sympathy for her recent accident or compulsion from management to play tracks from her record. (Nonetheless, according to the Gigography 1976, he was present when she appeared at the Hammersmith Odeon alongside the Stranglers in October 1976, and again at the Reading Festival in August 1978, when she was on the bill. Moreover, he paid her a grudging compliment when hearing that she had invited the Pop Group to support her on tour: "Ah well, I certainly give Patti Smith credit for one thing - she knows a good band when she hears one." [5]) Thus, she joins the ranks of other musicians he displayed an active dislike for, specifically Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen. Two of these bête noires joined forces to create the 1978 hit single Because The Night (Author: Springsteen. Vocalist: Smith.) from the comeback album after her accident, Easter.

On 20 August 1990, session guests the Heart Throbs covered Smith's 'Pumping (My Heart)'. Peel commented, "You will doubtless want to spit in my ear for mentioning this, but I was never terrifically keen on Patti Smith, it must be said, and I'm not familiar with the original version of that. There, I've said it. But I care for the Heart Throbs' version."

Festive Fifty Entries

  • None


  • None

Shows Played

  • 06 March 1978: Till Victory (LP - Easter) Arista
  • 06 March 1978: Space Monkey (LP - Easter) Arista
  • 06 March 1978: Because The Night (LP - Easter) Arista
  • 17 August 1978: Because The Night (single) Arista (played as part of the Ripped & Torn top 13)
  • The Heart Throbs' second session (recorded 1990-07-15, first TX 20 August 1990) included a cover of 'Pumping (My Heart)', originally from Radio Ethiopia.

See Also

External Links

  1. The opening line of Gloria, from Horses. In a similar vein, Crass ended 'Reality Asylum' with the words, "Jesus died for his own sins. Not mine."[1].
  2. This can be heard on John Peel - 1975 Extracts.
  3. Sounds, 7 February 1976, reprinted in Olivetti Chronicles, p. 52 (Corgi edition).
  4. '1977 - Banned Bands', The Listener, 22-29 December 1977, reprinted in Olivetti Chronicles, p. 255 (Corgi edition).
  5. 29 August 1979.
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