Credit: Screen shot from SNL, NBC, 1976

Patti Smith’s thunderous cover of The Who’s ‘My Generation’ is the epitome of punk

We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you two of our favourite artists colliding head on as Patti Smith takes on The Who’s classic ‘My Generation’.

It may sound a little obvious, but it’s fair to say that Patti Smith is the Godmother of punk rock. Way before Johnny Rotten was spitting on anything that resembled an establishment, Smith was creating rock and roll that designed to agitate, performed to perfection, and filled with the impassioned intelligent destruction.

Her 1976 cover of The Who’s ‘My Generation’ is, without doubt, the epitome of all that spirit rolled up into one searing performance.

Smith’s imperious seminal album Horses would land upon the rock and roll world in 1975, complete with a whole host of reasons to recognise Patti as the Queen of punk that she is. Defiantly propelled by poetry, the violence of thought and expression throughout the album is a classic nuance of punk rock.

The LP has also been cited as a key influence on a number of succeeding post-punk, and alternative rock acts, including Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sonic Youth, Hole, The Smiths, R.E.M. and PJ Harvey. It’s a powerhouse record, that’s for sure.

One such track on the album ‘Gloria’ remains today one fo the most engaging moments on the album. A cover, or more rightly, an adaptation of Them’s song ‘Gloria’, the single from the landmark album was released in 1976, complete with a B-side live cover of The Who’s groundbreaking song ‘My Generation’.

The live session was recorded at a Cleveland Agora show and all before punk had really begun. Yet somehow, Smith’s intensity and ferocious delivery made sure that the scene was set and ready for punk’s lit match to fall and hit the fuel-soaked floor.

Originally released by Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwhistle and Keith Moon in 1965, the track shot The Who to fame and saw them crack America and the rest of the world. ‘My Generation’ was the striking match of their career and led to the band’s gigantic explosion (likely set up by Keith Moon).

It was the youth anthem of the sixties, it symbolised the removal of their parents’ shackles in the most brilliant way. It did so with feverish pace, an abundance of energy and an attitude that refused to be categorised.

It is this idea that Smith takes, chews up, spits out and displays for all to see. It is that notion that is the epitome of punk. This is not an unadulterated outpouring of emotion, nor homage to the generation prior, this is a carefully cultured and deliberate destruction of everything before it. Even if it did lay along the same lines.

So without further ado, let’s listen back to Patti Smith’s unstoppable cover of The Who’s ‘My Generation’, the punk ideal.

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