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FLYING SAUCERS ROCK’N’ROLL (40th ANNIVERSARY EDITION) – PATTI SMITH

January 10, 2019

Eat A Peach CD  EAT 105

In May 1976 the Patti Smith Group stunned London with two nights of rock’n’roll quite unlike anything we had seen before. And now thanks to Eat A Peach we have an excellent aural document of those amazing gigs, a mere 42 years ago.

The gigs were highly anticipated and had quickly sold out. Patti was the first of the CBGB crowd to make it to London and her image preceded her. Time Out ran a cover story which featured “New York’s rock’n’roll poetess” in a battered leather biker jacket, too tough to prove it. Then there was Maplethorpe’s front cover picture of debut LP Horses, where Patti wore the men’s black suit / white shirt / skinny black tie combo featured by all her band. As a clueless teenager I found her sexy as hell, but in a different way to previous girl singers. Patti was fierce – more Sandie Shaw than Marianne Faithful.

The Roundhouse was then having a renaissance with incessant Hawkwind Sunday afternooners now replaced by a new wave of bands of which Patti was the harbinger. Support was the deeply unpleasant Stranglers, managed by Dai Davies who just so happened to book the Roundhouse. Unsurprisingly The Stranglers were the support band on the other epic Roundhouse gig of that summer, the Ramones / Groovies double header on July 4th.

I went on the Sunday night, May 16th. As the lights went down I recognised the opening tune – it was We’re Gonna Have Real Good Time Together! At that point only available on the Velvet Underground 1969 Live double LP, it remains a perfect set opener and message of intent, and reminds us that guitarist Lenny Kate always had impeccable taste. Free Money started off with Richard Sohl’s solo piano before the rest of the band piled in. Another obscurity follows, Paul Jones’ Set Me Free from the soundtrack to the movie Privilege. The set then dipped with three unfamiliar tunes  – Pissing In A River, Pumping (My Heart) and Radio Ethiopia. All three would appear on album number two Radio Eithiopia but none of them match prime Horses material. Which then follows in the form of a phenomenal Land which merged seamlessly into a reckless Gloria, the group by now the garage band of your dreams. Encore was Patti’s patented version of My Generation without the John Cale bass solo but with Patti’s rewritten lyrics (wonder if Pete Townshend gave his approval?). On the Sunday night we were treated to a second encore of a Patti poem that ended “tick tock…f*ck the clock” and swang seamlessly into a lovely Time Is On My Side.

The CD from Eat A Peach does a great job in conveying the atmosphere and music from these gigs. Recorded on the Monday night (May 17) there is no Time Is On My Side but the other 12 tracks are here in remarkably good quality for an audience recording. The entertaining sleeve notes tell how ‘Mike B’ and ‘Pete’ taped the gig from centre-stage upstairs at the Roundhouse. After our intrepid duo blagged their way into the aftershow Patti and Lenny listened approvingly to the cassette and suggested it would make a fine bootleg one day. They were right. The CD looks as good as it sounds. Front cover is a colour repro of the gig ad, inside is a printed inner sleeve and fold out insert, all featuring great pics from the gig itself as well as a reproduction of the afore-mentioned Time Out cover.

Patti Smith would never be this groundbreaking again. The Jack Douglas production on Radio Ethiopia did the band no favours, and whilst Todd Rundgren was more sympathetic on Easter the material was now inconsistent, although the singles Frederick, Dancing Barefoot and Because The Night still sparkled. Then marriage, motherhood, retirement.

So remember the Patti Smith Group this way. From its release in December 1975 Horses rarely left my turntable and being able to relive the live version via this CD is a real thrill. Bravo!

 

From → Gigs, Music

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