When Patti Smith began making waves outside of New York City with her album Horses, she quickly became the rock agitator of preference for TV shows up and down the land. Across Europe, she was widely touted as one of the Godmothers of the growing punk scene and Smith never missed an opportunity to leave her mark.
For much of her time on screen in the late seventies, Smith and her band The Patti Smith Group were kept to the smokey late-night haunts which she had become so accustomed too. The singer was usually held back until after the watershed, But in ’77, with punk sweeping the nation, The Mike Douglas Show welcomed the band to perform.
We can’t really understate how strange it must’ve been to see Patti Smith’s effervescent energy coursing through the studios of a daytime TV show. One can only imagine the level of shock viewers had when tuning in to see some fluff piece about kittens to find the future of rock and roll snarling and staring down the barrel of the camera.
Rather than tone it down for the audience, Smith, an uncompromising artist at the best of times, let alone when she’s been given a boundary, was a bouncing bastion of creative spirit, strapped into leather trousers and ready to tear the roof off the studio. It may well be one of her finest performances.
During the band’s time on the show, they performed three times. Smith read a poem with some gentle backing and the band also played ‘Ask the Angels’ but the real shot in the arm came from the band’s electric performance of ‘Free Money’.
The song, taken from Smith’s seminal 1975 album Horses, is a masterpiece and perhaps the clearest distillation of not only the singer’s talent but what made her such an enticing prospect to the youth watching at home. Smith was a bundle of unstoppable energy and unadulterated attitude.
She and the band screamed freedom, rebellion and creative drive. They were the archetypal New-York types and when they appeared on national television they gave all of America a heavy dose of NYC life. It’s perhaps our favourite performance from Patti Smith on screen and marks out the singer as the Godmother of the scene she so succinctly turned out to be.