NEW YORK MUSIC TRIP/PATTI SMITH #3 OF 3: Radio Underground

Dreams can be changed, and changing dream is never a bad thing.
Almost nobody will keep their first dreams at 4 years old. Not many people will pursue their dreams at 13 years old, either. Even people achieve their dreams, new dreams are born.
Patti Smith’s dreams changed as well. She dreamed of being creative since her childhood. She wanted to be different from the simple lifestyle in her hometown in Southern Jersey. But she didn’t have a particular dream to be a musician when she moved to New York City at 20 years old. After many career changes in the fast circle of a big city, she was about kicking into the music scene in 1972. She was 25 years old.

In late 1972, Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye started working out their underground activities of collaborating poetry reading and punk music more than before, backed by the encouragement of Robert Mapplethorpe. Their first show after Patti’s poetry reading at St. Marks Church was West End Bar in Morningside Heights near Columbia University, which is now a German pub, Bernheim and Schwartz.

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Bernheim & Schwartz (Photo source: www.bernheimandschwartz.com)

Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye found other members through auditions and they had their first show at a West Village nightclub named Reno Sweeny’s on March 20, 1973.

The former site of Reno Sweeny’s is now an Italian restaurant, Gradisca on 126 West 13rd Street. Reno Sweeny was named after the role of a musical, “Anything Goes”.

Patti Smith and her band played at several popular clubs in Manhattan. They set their music achievement “as the Sons of Liberty with a mission to preserve, protect, and project the revolutionary spirit of rock and roll” (Smith, 2010, p. 175). Their notable gig circuits were as follows.

  1. Max’s Kansas City
    Max’s Kansas City was located on the corner of Park Avenue and 18th Street in Union Square area, Max’s Kansas City was the night club of a gateway to success for many new, unique, original, and progressive bands, such as KISS, Aerosmith, Ramones, and Patti Smith. Patti Smith opened for Phil Ochs on the New Years Eve, 1972 and had a series of live performances at Max’s Kansas City in 1973.
    The building itself still exists but the former store location is now CVS drugstore
  2. CBGB
    p1060089img_2993CBGB was a sanctuary for Patti Smith, and the East Village underground club became an important venue to talk about Patti. She continued to have shows at CBGB including her regular New Year’s Eve countdown shows. Because the only requirement CBGB sought was being new, Patti’s new music perfectly matched with the unique club policy. CBGB was also the place where Clive Davis, the president of Arista Records, found Patti Smith.
    CBGB was totally underground. Very filthy, very dirty with graffiti and dirty stickers. Totally in the dark, not only the shadow. But because of that, CBGB was the face of New York’s underground music scene. And the closure of CBGB was too shocking for New Yorkers. It was the end of an era in New York history. It was one of the starting points New York City wasn’t New York City anymore; no more originality. The last performance of CBGB was Patti Smith on October 15, 2006.
    The demise of CBGB changed to a high-end men’s boutique, John Varvatos.

Before Patti and Lenny had their first show at CBGB, they experienced the underground shrine to see Television for an observation how Television synched poetry and rock n’ roll after attending “Ladies & Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones” premiere at Ziegfeld Theater. Besides Television’s powerful performance, the two were influenced by a fabulously sleazy underground atmosphere. Patti Smith described as “it was a world away from the Ziegfeld” (Smith, 2010, p. 171).

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Ziegfeld Theater

Ziegfeld Theater hosted many movie premiers with thousands of celebrities in front of New York Hilton Hotel on West 54th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. The theater, unfortunately, was closed in the spring of 2016. They are currently under renovation converting to an event space.

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Electric Lady Studios

Robert gave Patti $1,000 for recording their first single without a record contract, indirectly financed by Sam Wagstaff. They recorded “Hey Joe” and their original “Piss Factory” at Studio B of Electric Lady Studios. They independently made 1,500 copies in Philadelphia and sold throughout record stores in New York City.

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Downtown from Christopher Street Pier. There was no beautiful passage like this until 2003.
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Summertime Tango on beautiful Christopher Pier. The pier had absolutely nothing and almost abandoned until turning into 21st Century.

While keeping ultimate friendship after a romantic relationship, Patti and Robert sometimes had hidden meetings as well. Once the location was at the end of Christopher Street, used to be known as a gay street.
Though Christopher Pier is transformed into a beautiful park, the area was underdeveloped until late 20th Century.

359 East 62nd Street where WBAI radio station was located when Patti Smith’s free concert was aired.

Patti Smith and her band did famous radio performance without gimmick on then revolutionary and ideological WBAI on May 28, 1975, even before a record contract. The performance was a part of “Free Music Show” program and benefit concert for a local church, but the broadcast resulted in a lot of bootleg copies.
WBAI was on 359 E. 62nd Street in 1975. The radio station changed locations several times and is in Brooklyn today.

In May 1975, Patti Smith secured a record deal with Arista, just founded in the previous year. With the contract, Patti was successfully granted creative rights, that was very necessary for herself, her music, and her history. She was lucky enough, gaining creativity freedom is still tough for new artists.

The Bitter End

After signing the contract with Arista, Patti Smith and her band had their first concert with a new drummer at a small club called The Other End. Bob Dylan was one of the audience and that fact gave them power and magic for their show. Patti and Bob talked in the upstairs of the club after the show…and the rest is history. They’ve maintained a respectful relationship, and Patti Smith even sang at Noble Prize celebration on behalf of Bob Dylan.
The original name of “The Other End” was The Bitter End, which is also its current name. Established in 1961, The Bitter End still exists at the same location on the corner of Bleecker Street and MacDougal Street near Patti’s apartment and served as an important club for indie and underground artists in New York City.

Patti Smith chose Electric Lady Studios for her first album again. That time, their space was Studio A. During her recording, Patti recalled a long way from the moment she met Jimi Hendrix just a few days before his death. The day was September 2, 1975, 8 years after arriving in New York City with nothing and nobody.

Patti Smith’s first album, Horses, has been a historic icon in the whole music history, not only punk movement. The type of music nobody had listened. Punk but also jazzy. Sometimes doomy, sometimes aggressive, but intellectual overall. Underground but beautiful. Still highly praised after 40 years.
The cover photo of Horses was also revolutionary at that time. Minimal beauty and anti-sexualism. Patti’s message was against sexualism, that had been getting significant since the ’70s, on the simplest yet one of the most famous album cover photos ever up to current. Uncombed dark hair, no makeup, and a simple used white shirt bought at Salvation Army. The photo was taken by her best friend, Robert Mapplethorpe. Maybe the cost of the cover photo was only $10 for the white shirt at the current value, even though her existence naturally created elegance and new sexualism.
What was not low cost was the location of the photo shoot. The cover photo of Horses was taken at One Fifth Avenue, the penthouse of an expensive condominium owned by Sam Wagstaff near Washington Square Park and New York University. Robert chose the location because Sam’s place had a wide simple white wall matched with his idea of the cover photo. Although across the Washington Square Park was one of the New York’s underground and drug dealers meccas before, the area on Fifth Avenue was a luxurious residential area.

One Fifth Avenue
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Patti Smith bought an old white shirt for Horses album cover at Salvation Army located at 225 Bowery in Lower East Side. 225 Bowery is a tall, white building on the construction site with facade next to brownstones, and Salvation Army was there until 2014. The building will be a complex with trendy Ace Hotel. The brownstone on the center is Bowery Mission, a homeless shelter for many decades.

Patti Smith officially debuted to the world with Horse album on December 13, 1975. Patti’s first NYC concert after her first album was The Bottom Line between December 26 and 28.

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The Bottom Line was on the first floor of this building. Now an NYU classroom.

The Bottom Line was a club located within New York University building on West 4th Street. Many artists favored the club notably Bruce Springsteen. Lou Reed recorded his live album there. And Patti Smith had a week residency at the club after the release of her 2nd album, Radio Ethiopia.
The club ceased operation in 2004 after the long history of unprofitable operation as well as the rent hike by New York University. The building still exists because of the university’s main campus, but space is appropriately a classroom today.

In 1976, Patti Smith entered to the recording of her second album, Radio Ethiopia, at Record Plant in Midtown. After releasing the album as Patti Smith Group in October, she had a week concert series at The Bottom Line, then New Year’s Eve show at Palladium on 14th Street.

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The building used to have Record Plant studio

Record Plant was a popular recording studio on W. 44th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues near Times Square. In addition to “Radio Ethiopia“, Patti Smith recorded her third “Easter” album at the studio. KISS recorded their several popular albums here. Record Plant consolidated the studio into Los Angeles location today, but the building still exists and is used as office space under “The Plant” brand. Popular jazz club Birdland is in the building as well.
Personally, Radio Ethiopia is one of my most favorite album titles by any artists (that was why I wanted to include “radio” on this post’s subtitle). I feel the name is so radical and revolutional in the underground, and totally matches with Ethiopia, Africa’s oldest independent country in the historical transition from empire to a social democratic republic at that time. And the simple album cover perfectly expresses the world of Radio Ethiopia under high tension.
Patti said, “I wanted this record to sound reasonably good over the radio” (Smith, 2010, p. 65). My opinion is Radio Ethiopia was much less radio-friendly than Horses. The album didn’t get the success Arista wanted.

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Palladium, a big club on 14th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues, stood here until 1997. The site is New York University’s dormitory named “Palladium” today.

Shortly after the mainstream hit of “Because the Night” with Bruce Springsteen in 1978, Patti Smith left New York City in 1979 and moved to Detroit with Fred “Sonic” Smith before their marriage. She wanted to pursue a happy life in Fred’s hometown after 12 years moving to New York City with only one suitcase and a few dollars. When Patti landed in the valley of old, sooty skyline, nobody, including herself, didn’t expect she would leave her name in the world’s history as an influential revolutionary musician and punk pioneer.

New York City changed a lot after Patti Smith was gone. Especially after turning into 21st Century, New York City has been critical losing the original identity. Once the leader and trend setter of the world’s music scene, New York’s music scene has been shrunk these years as many fine clubs were gone. No more radical and underground. Many people seemed to be quit being original and try to be normal. The city became dramatically safe and clean. Safety and cleanness are very important, but I think losing its own identity instead is a different story.

There is one thing New York City hasn’t been changed. New York City has been a busy city where many strangers come and go and not a friendly city for newcomers. People cautiously take the time to get to know strangers here. After knowing new people well and considering them as safe, people finally welcome them as important friends. New York City gives newcomers a clear choice either love or hate.
The main reason Patti Smith succeeded as a musician was definitely she had a potential artistic talent. She was also fortunate to have great friendships with many talented people who also created ’70s culture in New York City and supported her. Patti Smith beautifully maintained long and strong relationships with her friends in the notorious jungle, and her friendships were undoubtedly important reasons of her success as a musician in New York City. And hey, after conquering urban difficulties, New York City is still incomparable paradise.

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{EAT N’ ROLL!: COTENNA}
Patti Smith often wrote about “Cafe ‘Ino” near her apartment on MacDougal Street in West Village, on her latest book, M Train. She was regular at a small Italian restaurant on Bedford Street especially breakfast, sit down at the same corner table and the same menu with “brown toast, a small dish of olive oil, and black coffee” (Smith, 2016, p. 10). She frequently enjoyed at the restaurant between 1973 and 1979.

Cafe ‘Ino was gone in 2013. The store space is now occupied by another Italian restaurant and wine bar, Cotenna. Cotenna is very popular, usually packed at dinner time and maintained 4 stars on Yelp.

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Cotenna

Inside of the restaurant was cozy but very tiny. Only one row of tables on the left, a small commune table on the back, a bar counter, and a small window-side counter, that’s it. The day I visited was an early Friday evening. Luckily the restaurant was empty when I dined, but the restaurant staffs seemed like having a hard time to get a good idea how to accommodate reservations on later hours.

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Inside of Cotenna. Probably the corner table with 3 people was the position Patti Smith regularly sit down.
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Beautiful woody interior and bar counter.

The food was nice. I ordered “Rigatoni e Gamberi” (Rigatoni With Shrimp and Spicy Tomato Sauce). The light spiciness was a good match with bold yet creamy tomato sauce and big shrimps. Also, the price was right. All regular pasta menus were $14 and good enough to make me full.

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Pre-meal bread was delicious, too.
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Rigatoni e Gamberi. Look at the size of shrimp!
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They had many specials but didn’t catch my interest more than the regular menu.

However, I have to be critical about their service. That was a very unfriendly restaurant. There was no greeting when I sit down. No smile. Just informed me about their special when a waitress gave me a menu, that was it. No “how was the meal?” while eating. My waitress just did her routine works like it was her moody day. I first wondered whether I did something wrong when I sit down on the counter chair I was assigned, but later I thought, never mind, it wasn’t her day. Only the manager was friendly. The quality of service could enhance the impression of their foods, but unfortunately, their service limited my impression no more than average. Regarding the quality of service, Waverly Diner on chapter 1 was actually better than Cotenna. Unfortunately, Cotenna didn’t get my interest to be a regular like Patti.

COTENNA: http://www.cotenna.nyc
ADDRESS: 21 Bedford Street, New York, NY 10014 (map)
TEL: 646-861-0175

READ MORE EPISODES OF “NEW YORK MUSIC TRIP/PATTI SMITH” SERIES!

  1. NEW YORK MUSIC TRIP/PATTI SMITH #1 OF 3: Dream of Life
  2. NEW YORK MUSIC TRIP/PATTI SMITH #2 OF 3: Latitude 23

PATTI SMITH’S HIGHLY PRAISED AUTOBIOGRAPHY, “JUST KIDS”

PATTI SMITH MUSIC COLLECTIONS
1. HORSES

2. RADIO ETHIOPIA

3. EASTER

REFERENCE
Smith, P (2010), Just Kids. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Wendell, E (2015). Patti Smith: America’s Punk Rock Rhapsodist. Lanham, MD: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Groip, Inc.

Cross, A (2007). Patti Smith, The Secret History. Toronto, ON: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Martineau P & Salvesen B (2016). Robert Mapplethorpe: the photograph. Los Angeles, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum.

Rose, C. (2015, Oct 9), A Step-By-Step Walk Through ‘Just Kids’ and Patti Smith’s New York, In Village Voice. Retrieved Oct 1, 2016, from http://www.villagevoice.com/music/a-step-by-step-walk-through-just-kids-and-patti-smiths-new-york-7763342

Patti Smith (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved on Oct 1, 2016. from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patti_Smith

Robert Mapplethorpe (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from Oct 1, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Mapplethorpe

Sam Wagstaff (n.d.), In Wikipedia. Retrieved on Oct 1, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Wagstaff

Egan, B (n.d.) In PopSpots, Retrieved on Oct 1, 2016, from http://www.popspotsnyc.com/patti_smith/

Show Listings (n.d.), Fillmore East Preservation Society. Retrieved on Oct 1, 2016, from http://www.fillmore-east.com/showlist.html

Fillmore East (n.d). In Wikipedia. Retrieved on Oct 1, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fillmore_East

About (n.d.). In Max Kansas City. Retrieved on Oct 1, 2016, from http://maxskansascity.com

About Us (n.d.). In CBGB & OMFUG. Retrieved on Oct 1, 2016, from http://www.cbgb.com/

Record Plant, N.Y.C (n.d.). In Discogs, Retrieved Oct 1, 2016, from https://www.discogs.com/label/265540-Record-Plant-NYC

The Plant NYC (n.d.). In The Plant, Retrieved July 1, 2016, from http://www.theplantnyc.com/

Rose, C. (2015, Nov 9), Patti Smith’s Most Notable New York City Gigs. In Village Voice. Retrieved Oct 1, 2016, from http://www.villagevoice.com/music/patti-smiths-most-notable-new-york-city-gigs-7893670

Martin, R. (n.d.), The WBAI Move: Step Up Or Pitfall?. In GLIB.COM. Retrieved Oct 1, 2016, from http://www.glib.com/wbaimove.html

Full Text of WBAI Folio (n.d.), Retrieved Oct 1, 2016, from https://archive.org/stream/wbaifolionov75wbairich/wbaifolionov75wbairich_djvu.txt

New York Magazine advertisement (1975, Nov 3), Retrieved Oct 1, 2016, from https://books.google.com/books?id=OekCAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA30&lpg=PA30&dq=the+address+of+wbai+studio+in+1975&source=bl&ots=kSk6tOtk-a&sig=j49zyXd0qwiDSxQZTRm02JFftHA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiqg5fryb3QAhWFllQKHYbWBIYQ6AEIRTAI#v=onepage&q=the%20address%20of%20wbai%20studio%20in%201975&f=false

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