When I was 18, like most productive young people from not particularly interesting rural towns, I left my hometown. Four hours north of New Jersey, I set roots in a small artistic city in Western Massachusetts. This was in the midst of a more fervent period in my obsession with Patti Smith, who I felt a certain kinship with because she was from a not so fantastic small town in N ew Jersey as well.
I didn’t really have many friends right away, but I got along okay. Early on I met an older woman who just happened to be named Patti (or so she said), and though she was a little spacey, we got along well because she was also obsessed with Patti Smith. She had had a head start on me though, since she was so much older, and had amassed a pretty impressive collection of Patti Smith audio and visual treasures. Patti was always bringing me exciting little gifts like photos she had taken herself in the 70’s, old ticket stubs from shows, and bootleg cassettes she copied from vinyl.
My favorite recording she ever gave me was of a very early live radio performance by Patti Smith on New York radio station WBAI. It was so old in fact, that the band hadn’t even recruited a drummer yet! All the tracks were either never recorded in a studio, or they were really wierd/different early versions of songs that were later recorded. The best part was the stories that Smith told between songs. Amazing. Though Smith and I were both from New Jersey, we didn’t have the same accent (she was from deep south Jersey), I remember being so jealous of her voice and wishing I too had the same inflections when I talked. Sometimes I would even try and fake her accent, but it just sounded like I was drunk.
I listened to my cassette of that show so many times that it eventually fell apart. I have been looking for another copy (vinyl hopefully) with no luck. For some reason it didn’t occur to me till today that these songs might be on youtube.
Make sure to listen all the way through for the stories after each song! Unfortunately only about a third of the show is posted on youtube, but hopefully there will be more to come…