High Times Greats: Patti Smith

Patti Smith on 1970s alternative radio.
High Times Greats: Patti Smith
High Times

In the 1970s, radio station WNEW-FM canceled a live music broadcast of the Patti Smith Group after Patti made the following statement on the air. In honor of her birthday December 30, we’re republishing the statement, originally printed in the October, 1977 ‘Opinion’ section of High Times, below.

Patti Smith: …[H]ow alternative is this radio? I want to know how alternative this radio is. The first thing that happens when I walk in is that you tell me you don’t have a bleep machine and to watch what I say. That’s not alternative, that’s the same old stuff. You notice I said stuff, being completely professional at this moment, but we have the total alternative to like your alternative radio. The radio that I represent… It’s like we’re outer space people… We’re just gonna come in… We’re gonna zoom like a leech… Gonna come in like right on a hand… take over NEW right now: all right, this is Radio Ethiopia, the total alternative… We’re the alternative to WNEW’s alternative to themselves. This way NEW is exonerated for anything that happens right now while we’re on Radio Ethiopia. Radio Ethiopia doesn’t necessarily enter your consciousness or your radio waves just to spew out obscenities upon you, it’s just that Radio Ethiopia doesn’t consider it to be the first move in any movie… is like to worry about our nations… Americans… rock ‘n’ roll… our art forms, best slang terms. It’s like Jean Genet got out of prison. The French let Jean Genet out of prison for heralding the slang and preserving the slang of the French people, wherein you’re asking me to like censor the slang from the people, but you know, fuck the slang. I’m not worried about the slang… I mean it doesn’t matter, the slang, what you want to talk about is food, what you really want to know is about wheat… What I feel if there’s a lot of people that care about rock ‘n’ roll and really believe in rock ‘n’ roll, or just believe in like evolving or revolving or getting us all to a point where we don’t have to worry about gender, race or country… where we do have harmonious rhythm… The way we do it is to take over the wheat, the way we do it, as I see it, is that rock ‘n’ roll realizes the power it has… is that it’s getting powerful all over the world. You just did a European tour, I just did a European tour, we both see it in our own way, but what we see is that rock ‘n’ roll is becoming a bigger and bigger factor… A bigger sanction and a bigger freedom… A bigger lung all over the world than it ever was before. I mean, a little club like CBGB’s… those kids are emulating that club in Finland… All over the world there’s like these bursts of power and bursts of pleasure. Rock ‘n’ roll is being taken over by the people again, by young kids again, who don’t want to hear about your digital delay. They don’t want to hear about any of this stuff. They don’t want to hear that they can’t do an Eric Clapton solo. They just want to get out there and just get down on a rhythm. They want to crawl up like a dog or they want to rise up. They just want to feel something, and it’s these kids you know… This is the art form… This is the art of the future and these kids, these stigmas to god, are gonna rise up and take care. What we should do is just take over the wheat… We should look at our power, relax, understand that rock ‘n’ roll is becoming more and more powerful… It like indirectly helped elect some guy into the presidency of the United States and we should like really exonerate and be happy about this power and do it for the good of mankind… Take over the wheat and give it to the people for free. If Ethiopia calls up and says we need wheat, we don’t ask them what color they are or what their favorite A—what they’re listening to on their radios… They don’t have to have an AM station… or any particular station… 14 stations of crosses… They don’t have to do nothing but be hungry and if they’re hungry, you feed the people, that’s all.

Harry Chapin: Well, that’s our classic Patti Smith monologue…

Patti Smith: …[N]o, that’s just me stopping by… When, when will you be landing.

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