We’re big fans of the Godmother of Punk, Patti Smith. Not because she is a wonderful poet and writer, nor because she displays all the sensible qualities we’d hoped every one of her generations would hold. But because with performances like this one on the Old Grey Whistle Test back in 1976, she laid the foundations for much of rock and roll to come.
The iconic Smith takes to the legendary OGWT studios to perform not only the title track from her then-current and now-influential alum Horses but also a TV outing for her 1974 song ‘Hey Joe’. It has to go down as one of the greatest performances ever transmitted by the show. Watch the video below.
It would be two years before Patti Smith would ‘make her name’ on The Old Grey Whistle Test with her entrancing performance of ‘Because The Night’ and cement herself as a cultural touchstone to the masses. But with this performance back in May 1976, she grabbed many musos by the scruff of the neck and refused to let go until this day, such was the powerful dynamism of her art.
Smith was never one to back down from a fight with a stage. The singer honed her artistic delivery with spoken word recitals that she slowly changed to add electric guitars and rhythm until she finally pulled together the Patti Smith Group. The band included Lenny Kaye, and the late Ivan Kral and began recording in 1974. They would release ‘Hey Joe’ as the A-side to ‘Piss Factory’ in that same year and garner a lot of attention from the New York glitterati.
The group were signed to Arista Records and released their first record, produced by John Cale, titled Horses in November of 1975. It was a perfect fusion of punk rock and poetry, it was the merging of New York’s beatnik past with its soon-to-be frenetic punk rock future. It was and still is, timeless.
As a nod to just how legendary and ‘on the pulse’ the Old Grey Whistle Test was, only a few months later Whispering Bob Harris would be welcoming the brilliant Patti Smith Group to the studios for this notorious performance. As London’s disenfranchised kids were beginning to rip their clothes and pierce through safety pin earrings, Patti Smith was showing them that it was the heart of the matter that really made it punk.
The world would soon explode with punk, with New York and London breeding some of the most intense and influential bands the rock world has ever seen in those few short years. But without Patti, most of them would have never existed.
Watch one of the lightbulb moments below as Patti Smith delivers a ripping performance of ‘Horses’ and ‘Hey Joe’ on The Old Grey Whistle Test back in 1976.