after wave: searching for answers

[from "Patti Smith—A Wave Hello, A Kiss Goodbye," by Andy Schwartz, New York Rocker, #19, June/July 1979]

A. was lost. He pulled the Toyota over to the curb, parked and flicked on the overhead light to check his road map. Should he have turned left or right? At the second light or the third? He looked up from the map and spotted a gaggle of co-eds crossing the street ahead of him. Ah, Vassar woman, bearer of knowledge. They pointed him back about a half-mile, to the green lawns and imposing stone walls of the campus.

Outside the college chapel, a line of fans had formed in the chilly twilight, thirty minutes or more before showtime. But it was, after all, the first-ever appearance by the Patti Smith Group at this college, and one of the short series of trial dates prior to the release of the group's fourth album Wave and a major spring/summer tour.

Inside, A. was surprised and delighted to find the amps and drums set up right on the altar before the massive pipe organ. It seemed particularly appropriate to this band-the stained glass windows and rows of wooden pews. And in less than a minute, a whole catalogue of memories unfolded behind his eyes...

Patti, on a bitter-cold day in a Minneapolis bookstore, autographing copies of Seventh Heaven for the half-dozen fans who had bothered to show up.

Patti, in that Blonde On Blonde tab-collar shirt and neat black suit, not quite drunk enough to cover her nervousness, burning through 'Jesse James' or caressing 'Dylan's Dog' while an equally inebriated Tony Glover plunked away on a battered electric guitar.

Patti, stumbling off the plane on that first Horses tour, seemingly embarrassed by the small but worshipful crowd that had gathered at the terminal gate, later confessing her love over a local radio show; on stage that night so proud and happy over her hot new band, the way there beat an energy that could cut through the years of safe, dull, fake rock music.

Patti, on stage in Central Park last August, tormented and confused, with a 'show' that dragged A. over a crazy quilt emotional terrain and left him weary and depressed.

Patti, on stage at Max's for a private celebration of Easter, among friends, yet arrogantly commanding, "if you're not with me than get the fuck outta here".

A. wondered at that moment what it meant to be "with" Patti Smith. He'd been a Stones fan since the age of 12 but that didn't make Goat's Head Soup a good album. He admired the writings of Jack Kerouac but thought himself capable of distinguishing the author's best, most illuminating prose from his worst, most self-indulgent blather. And having made these distinctions, he didn't mind speaking his thoughts. He couldn't see what made any other favorite and inspiration like Patti any different. And she was still a favorite and an inspiration, for all her rhetoric and her fuck-ups, which is precisely why A. had taken on this story. Genuinely curious and interested, he wanted a closer look.

"Backstage" was a choir rehearsal room in the chapel basement, where a Yardbirds tape played while the band (Richard "D.N.V." Sohl, Lenny Kaye, Ivan Kral and Jay Dee Daugherty) prepared for the soundcheck, smoking, talking or picking at the coldcuts and the Chinese food buffet. Soon, everyone filed upstairs and onstage, laughing and jiving as they tried out bits of the Abyssinians' "Satta Massangatta" and Manfred Mann's "5-4-3-2-1". Suddenly there was Patti, in a loose wrinkled shirt and blazer, testing the mikes and offering a few exploratory whangs on guitar. She looked pretty good, too: clear-eyed, confident, erect. The whole group ran through a few measures of "Inna Gadda Da Vida," a huge horrible hit from the late '60s for which A. felt not the least bit nostalgic.

Back in the dressing room, A. was nervous, his face flushed even before he'd switched on his cassette recorder. She'd made her statement with Wave and was enjoying the privacy of life in Michigan with guitarist Fred " Sonic" Smith, he of MC-5 and Sonic's Rendezvous Band fame. But the ever-accommodating Lenny had paved A.'s way, and with introductions made, the Inquiring Reporter and the Wary Subject sat down to talk.

It took a while. In response to A.'s not-terribly-original opener of "how's your general state of mind?" it seemed to take Patti a lot of '"uh"s and "like"s and long pauses to answer, "Indescribably happy."

A. was glad to hear that and said so, noting what that the last time he'd seen her on stage—that strange sad night in the Park—she hadn't seemed that way at all.

"Well, I was on the brink of . . .of leaping into—well, not leaping , but . . . Well, I was in the preparatory stages of the stage I'm in now. So how it appeared didn't matter at all, whether the show was bad or good didn't matter at all. What mattered was that something was happening, and instead of avoiding it through professional sickness, we all confronted it: myself, the band, the crew, the people. We were going through something together; we knew it was tough but I think the fact that we were all going through it together made it a worthwhile evening for everyone."

Her feelings that night-did they have anything to do with her launch into the charts with "Because The Night"?

"No, no, I wasn't talking about anything but the moment, not a lot of external dialogue. But I don't expect you to be presumptuous to know what I was going through . . ."

(There was something about that last bit that A. didn't like—a tinge of haughty disdain—but he let it pass.)

". . It had nothing to do with the business, nothing to do with anything. It's just that an artist goes through various stages of awareness or coldness as he attempts to further pierce into the realm of high communication. It's like . . . well, uh . . . it's like the Seven Voyages Of Sinbad. What makes each voyage so marvelous is that usually he's defeated some unspeakable monster. So that aspect of intense struggle is often the hallmark of process of a certain act of creation."

With a new album on the way and the attendant need for publicity, was she really not going to give interviews?

"No, I said I talk to very few people now. The only reason I'm talkin' to you is because your newspaper and yourself have been carefully screened by Lenny Kaye. I don't talk to most press people 'cause they don't care anymore. I wanna talk to somebody that cares, that isn't interested in writin' a bunch of gossip and bullshit and their own twisted ideas of what we're doin . . ."

In the creation of Wave had her record created a kind of shadow, a commercial achievement to be lived up to or repeated?

"No, no, we don't worry about things like that. If you really knew anything about our band you wouldn't even ask me a question like that. Those kind of things don't even enter our consciousnesses."

Well, it was a pressure that had bought a bear on a lot of talented performers . . .

"Are you kiddin' me? If it's a pressure it's a pressure I've brought to bear on myself. I like all our records to become hits We had pressure on Radio Ethiopia ' cause I wanted it to be a hit record—me, I. Clive Davis wasn't trying to make it into a hit record, it was me. And the only thing it hit was bottom.

"One of the things I tried to do on this record was write a little song that everyone would love, that people would like to hear while they were ironing, or fathers would listen to on their way to work, or kids would be dancin' to. That's one of the pressures I put on myself, to write a song like that. And that's 'Frederick.' It's not a pressure, it's a goal. This band don't get pressured.

"Lemme tell you something, son. If this band had the same kind of crass motivations as other rock 'n' roll bands, they would've gotten another lead singer years ago. This band don't need me to be successful and rich rock 'n' roll stars. We don't deal with that kind of pressure and we don't get it either."

Okay. At the time of Radio Ethiopia's demise . . .

" It never demised. Only I'm allowed to joke about my records."

Well, you would've liked to hear more of it on the radio . . .

"Even one cut would've, like, made me happy!"

At that time you made a lot of strong statements about the lack of energy and innovation in rock radio. Now that you've been accepted by a lot of programmers . . .

"I haven't been accepted. I've said this many times and I'll say it again: When I'm Number One, I'm accepted. Anything else is just 'so what?' 'Because The Night' was only #13, it wasn't #1. When I have a string of hits, then I'll know that I'm accepted by radio. Or when we're played every single day. Not just a single that's #13—that's nothing to me."

In the heyday of Bee Gees and Foreigner, didn't Patti think those were unreasonable expectations?

"I dunno. In my day, I remember when James Brown used to get played every hour. Maybe there's too many squares in the word these day; maybe people better turn around, check themselves out. The hipper the people get, the hipper radio'll get. And I have a feelin' that the kids of the futures are no squares . . . I don't know anything . . ."

(A. was almost ready to agree with that . But what bugged him was that he was sure she did know: that she was smart enough to know all about the world of rock 'n' roll, but persisted in dealing with myths, historical acknowledgments , and a concept of pure visionary artistry that A. just couldn't swallow, try as he might. Yet at the same time he couldn't forget the profound effect these same words had had on him just three or four years before. Was he smarter now, or just more cynical?)

" I just have a feeling . . .This is America, America is basically a sincere country, a country that might be fucked up and sorta square, as is pretty obvious by our TV, but a country made up of people that have—I mean it was built up through idealistic guerilla tactics. The Revolutionary War guys were guerillas in the most illuminated sense, and we're the children"

An invocation of our radical heritage--was that what "Citizen Ship" was about?

" 'Citizen Ship' is just a song talking about what it was like in 1968 when Ivan Kral escaped from Czechoslovakia to America and Patti Smith escaped from New Jersey to New York City. It's when I met Robert Mapplethorpe—I mean, it doesn't matter what it's about. We all have personal things from 1968, certain impressions -at least some of us do . . . It's just a reflection."


"Lenny and I writ it.. Lenny's playin the autoharp. He was lookin at the psalm in the Bible that 'Rivers Of Babylon'—that's a psalm out of the bible that they just set to music. It was like seein' a famous person, y'know? And I told him it would make me very happy if we had a psalm, and Lenny, Lenny . . . always, always . . . well, I mean . . ."

Her voice trailed off. Everyone was stoned, except A. who was merely uptight. Why "Wave"?

"It's a real nice word. What I was tryin to do was soften the aggression of a salute and what was the friendliest extension of a salute? A wave. It's like really—I don't have any time to waste. I mean the world might as well know that I don't have any time to waste. And I expect for us to, y'know, get it on or miss the comet."

Was it Wave as in "New Wave?" Was that a favorable connotation? Did Patti still feel a kinship to the new bands?

"Oh, absolutely ..I don't know what the definition is but I have a definite appreciation for . . . the level of intelligence and the energy they're putting into this work. I expect people to work hard, and as they work harder, they'll build up a lot more self-respect . . . I like that new Johnny Rotten record, and I like 'Street Hassle'. We've always been supporters of the Clash—I seen 'em years ago, I'm sure they'll progress. I like Bob Dylan. "People can't be afraid of the hero syndrome. I know it's not a fashionable syndrome, but there's nothin' wrong with havin' some heroes. It makes life a lot more exciting and pleasurable, even if for a short period of time."

A. thought so, too. The only trouble with heroes was their seeming immunity to criticism, the pedestal upon which they were placed.

"I think that a true hero can only be criticized by himself. A true hero is his own highest critic. What he needs is support, he needs confidence, he needs the energy and the strength of the people. He doesn't need criticism."

But if they were talking about rock 'n; roll singers—they're not supermen.

"I'm saying that someone that truly evolved can certainly see within himself his own faults. He's that blessed by God, God will certainly give him the knowledge of understanding his own faults. . .I'm not saying they can't or shouldn't be criticized, or that they're beyond criticism—I'm saying they don't need it. All it causes is new pain and self-conflict."

Could Patti see herself doing something different from now in, say, five years' time?

"Anybody can, I have a tremendous imagination, I can see, like, Alfa Romeo giving me their fastest model and me beating everybody at Indianapolis. I can see anything if I get into it. I can see myself bein' the mid-1980's sex symbol of the movies, or I could see myself goin' into some monastery and drinkin' wine for the rest of my life—with Lenny! (laugh) I probably won't do any of those things but I don't think of stuff like that."

Close friend and stage manager/tambourine player Andi Ostrowe came into the room and wrote on a convenient blackboard "PATTI—FRED IS HERE". Yes, Sonic Smith himself was here, not Vassar but New York City at least. Patti brightened, did her best to keep her mind on A.'s questions. He'd failed to bridge the gap; his face was burning, and he felt as though he'd been speaking in a foreign language. His next question didn't help matters much: Did Patti think that, in the past, her songs or statements had glorified things like heroin to a young and impressionable audience.

"I've never written a song about heroin. I mean, did you have hidden knowledge about one of my songs, that it's really a heroin song? The only heroin I've ever written about are female heroines. Even in 'Poppies', it's a song against shit on the radio, but I was more accepted to take drugs than to talk against the radio. I was disguisin' my anti-radio song as a habitual blues song. But when I was thinkin' of poppies, I was thinkin' more in the Wizard Of Oz sense —that kind of opiate is a drug that children are blessed with."

Had the band been approached to play for any of the anti-nuclear activist groups or other political cause?

"Oh, we always play for a political cause—every time we play, it's for a political cause. . .We aren't entertainers, y'know—we're not a boogie band. Everytime we play, we're truly alive and truly aware of the moment that we're dealing in. We're truly aware of the foundations that this country was built on, of freedom of speech . . .We're playin' CBGB on Bob Dylan's birthday—that's a political cause. It's a cause against Billy Joel."

Showtime was drawing near. A. made one last stab at making everything clear to himself. Was there anyway Patti could summarize what she was trying to put across? Ideas? Ideals? Emotions?

"It's like real simple. To put it in the most common denominator terms at this time: I'm wavin' to everybody. I just want them to wave back. That ain't askin for so much."

The show itself was a maddeningly up and down affair. Some tight, driving, passionate rock and roll—"Be My Baby," "Because The Night," "Redondo Beach," and others—was offset by a lot of self indulgent, sloppy jams and an almost total lack of pacing. Lenny Kaye sang Buddy's "Oh Boy." Ivan did "5-4-3-2-1" (Patti changing the chorus to "5-4-3-2-WAVE!"), and the whole thing rolled and tumbled along to its conclusion with "My Generation." And though the concert offered something for everyone (from "The Star-Spangled Banner" to "Seven Ways Of Going" to a truncated version of "Tomorrow" from the musical Annie), A. was often bored , and left the hall with no more of a buzz than he'd brought to it.

Later that week, he hopped a West Side subway up to Lenny Kaye's place. Unlike some observers, A. didn't have any doubt of Lenny's credentials as a rock 'n' roll musician rather than critic. But he had often wondered how anyone so knowledgeable and perceptive about the music could so often forego what A. saw as basic principles of directness, economy and mere tunefulness. They began by talking about the current single "Frederick" and launched from there into the whole question of Art vs. Commerciality.

"When we sit down and put together something our concern is not whether it's commercially valid but whether it's artistically valid," Kaye explained. "To us, matters of form are not as important as matters of content. People tend to look at us in terms of form, i.e. do we have more poetry than rock and roll, have we made a transition from Patti as chanter over a minimalist background to quasi-heavy metal rock and roll. That's like the shells around the core of what our art is; what we've tried to do is create a situation for ourselves where we can utilize any form with validity. We can move from the precision that's required for a hit single, and it's not required in just a pure business sense, but because it's what people like to hear. When they are driving in their car, they don't want to hear twenty minutes of dirge-like music—which is all right, I mean, everything has its place. But—on the other hand, you don't want to make just car radio music, if you have aspirations for something higher—which we do.

"We consider ourselves very much in a collective improvisation trip this year. I mean, I'd love it if we had a string of ten hit singles. But I wouldn't be satisfied with that and neither would Patti, neither would the boys in the band. That's not why we started . . . I don't think that we're not a commercial band—I think we're very listenable . . . But we haven't basically changed our mode of approach over the last eight years. The things that fire us are still the things that guide us. We're a very idealistic band. Cause if we wanted to sell out and make a lot of money, we could have done it a million times over . . . But in the context in which we're dealing now, with an artist the stature of Patti, we have no choice but to become great artists."

A. didn't offer his own opinion about the Vassar show, but asked Lenny to run down the group's performance ideology.

"We want to give everybody who comes to see us a different show. Now, that's pretty difficult, and obviously you're not going to be able to get it totally different. . .But I think we try to gear ourselves around moods so much, and Patti gravitates so spectacularly from level of emotion to level of emotion . . . I mean, really, when we do something, sometimes we don't know where it s going to, how it's going to end, what ground is going to be covered, whether we're going to have fights on stage—it's a very organic type of situation that we're attempting to set up between us and the audience, and the audience is as much a part of it as we are, by necessity."

It wasn't, A. pointed out, a method of operation much in vogue today, though certainly not without precedent in rock and roll. He mentioned the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Television. (He didn't say that, to his own ears, collective improvisation was best left to Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers or the Ornette Coleman Band.)

"In a sense," Lenny pointed out, "we've always worked at cross-currents with those trends in many ways throughout our lives—which is why, I think, we occupy some kind of weird middle position. We're as much, in some ways, an 'old wave' band as a 'new wave' band, as a 'no wave' band. But that's the kind of freedom we're interested in getting; the freedom of being anything, of putting on any kind of skin. You know, Patti said on the first album, 'beyond politics, beyond gender, beyond...' Because when you get locked into something, you're there, you're stuck—it 's like getting stuck in 'Go Johnny Go' or 'Rock, Rock, Rock'—where could Jimmy Clanton go? He couldn't become a member of the Grateful Dead."

Kaye had a point there. At other times, his statements seemed either admirably far-reaching or just plain silly in the context of rock and roll:

"'Seven Ways' was originally about the Ninja of Japan, who were these 16th century assassins, like a martial arts offshoot in Japanese medieval times. They wore black, and they developed these techniques where, for instance, they could walk in the snow without showing which direction they were walking in, or they could go against that wall and become that wall. That kind of transformation is realty what we're into. Cause I think, for the types of music that we've attempted and succeeded at, we can do anything."

The criticism they'd received in the press—was it all entirely groundless?

"No. But the fact is, the press has the ability to be as wrong as the artist. The way we feel about it—because we don't swallow all the good things people say whole—I find that of our favorable criticism, most of it's as wrongheaded as the unfavorable. People generally don t tend to know what we're about, what we re doing, what our motivations are."

But that was because the group preferred to leave these questions wide open!

"Which is true, and that's good—I don't mind that "

For example, A. suggested, who could say that the use of the American flag backdrop on stage was not just a gesture of Jingoistic patriotism?

"Okay! That's again a question of people dealing with forms. Because it's tough to get into what a band's really like, especially a band that I feel is as complex as ours... What you see, when you see an American flag—it's not a political animal. But look at the ideal of what it represents, the revolution out of which it was born. To me, that's a very important thing.

"What I would expect is that when writers write about us , they try to write about us from inside us, instead of—to try and find out what it is we're doing, what it is we say.. I don't mind if I see the person's trying, at least, to see what we're doing. But I do mind it when I see they're just following, like sheep, the critical thing in the wind...If nothing else, give us a pat on the back for trying to outdo ourselves, for not taking the easy way out. Because when you look at the new wave bands that are making it, most of them are making it on the terms of the old order. We're still mavericks."

Lenny was proud of Wave. As for the choice of producers, he still loved Jimmy Iovine "but for this album, Todd was the right one. I think it turned out to be a very good collaboration. He helped us out when we needed help, when we would run into an arrangement that wasn't working or we didn't know where to put a chorus, and more importantly, he left us alone. Todd's whole position as a producer is that he wants to make the record that you want—the more well defined your objective is, the happier he is."

A. now asked Lenny, just as he had asked Patti, if there were a way to sum up what this band was really about.

"It's like a door—that's what we're trying to provide. A door that you open, and it unleashes a landscape of limitless possibility. You could take two steps into it, and be entertained. You could take another few steps in, and you find a little bit more—maybe some lyrical things which intertwine with each other and reflect on another song, or some kind of interconnection, some kind of archeological move . . .We try to provide levels of depth. I think we're an entertaining band, but we try not to just be an entertaining band. As deep as people want to get into us, I think they can get into us on that level—as heavy as they want to make it, or if they just want to go out and have a party some night."

After the tape was shut off, they chatted some more and listened to records: Jimi Hendrix doing "Gloria," some great demo tapes by the Sidewinders (with Andy Paley) that Lenny had produced on a four track in a classroom at M.I.T. Then it was time to go, and A. stepped out into the crowds on Broadway with alot more to think about.

The foyer wall of Ivan Kral's West Village pad was hung with as many pictures of Keith Richards as of Ivan, his girlfriend, or his own group. Kral, an amiable chap with what's called a "ready grin," had joined the Patti Smith Group four years ago after several frustrating years of projects that failed to pan out: a New York band called Lugar, a brief sojourn to L.A. to back 16-year old Shaun Cassidy in a pubescent glitter-rock act, an early version (with Cars drummer Dave Robinson) of Arista labelmates, The Pop. He'd worked at the New York office of Apple Corps in that company's final years and "met all of them, except Paul." He'd done his share of scuffling; been broke, cheated and disappointed; and was still thankful to be where he was today, despite his sometimes sharp differences with Patti or the other members of the group. He had been mildly disappointed in Todd Rundgren.

"There was no pre-production period, and I missed that—the time before you actually go into the studio, when the producer comes to rehearsal, listens to the material, and you sort of get to know each other. And I just felt there were other times when Todd should have been there, and he wasn't—both mentally and physically.

"I guess I got too spoiled by Jimmy Iovine. He was around all of the time, or most of the time. .I guess Jimmy had a busy schedule and it just didn't work out this time, but I would love to work with him again."

In another contrast to Patti, Ivan seemed more responsive to the commercial pressures of his job.

"I can't speak for Patti, but I'm sure anyone would feel pressure. You need to push the album unless you are—who's that group that did 'Aja'?—yeah, Steely Dan, or Pink Floyd or somebody. We need a single, and we do need to sell records. . .If you want a band to survive and have the faith in themselves and build up the self-confidence to get up there, you have to sell records."

Was he aware of a kind of critical backlash that had formed against Patti in recent times?

"It is a trendy thing lately. . .But it can help you, and I always think about it, no matter how bad it is. I mean sometimes you get very closed up and bitter inside yourself, but I think it's very helpful. .There are people who loved Horses and I think it will always remain that way, but where Patti's going really depends on how she feels, how her life is. Like I said, she's the boss, just like Bruce Springsteen is the boss."

Had "the boss" changed since her serious accident and subsequent recuperation?

"I would say that at first, I didn't know if she would fully recover. And she's still—you know, she has pains and needs a doctor a chiropractor. She was much more, I felt, cheerful before, on the road and in general. There was certainly a shock, and there's been a change.

"You have good quarrels and bad quarrels; sometimes it's helpful, sometimes it's harmful. You scream at each other but then you say 'I'm sorry'—sometimes not as fast as you'd like to say it, but then you think back four years ago, and where you were then. . .

'Citizen Ship' went through a lot of changes, also because of Todd. He put it more on the edge—It started like a more mellow song.

"I still think Patti is an original. There's no female that can compare with her on stage—that's why she draws people. I don't think it's 'new wave'. . .

"Quitting? No, I never thought of it. I've always felt I had to fight for whatever I had to get and it was mainly on musical ideas. I think one of my biggest fears was during Radio Ethiopia there were a lot of changes in songs like 'Ask The Angels', in the music I wrote. I have certain set ideas—this is the main part, this is the hook, this is the break . . .You have like five different ideas people tell you, but you have already set one idea. It was really hard to get used to it, but now I'm used to it.

"Patti and Lenny have been together so long—I'm like a newcomer, kind of. I feel like I haven't accomplished a lot yet, I have a lot to go. Yes, sometimes I feel angry about things. Other times I think, 'Thank God, I've seen the world and played big stages, and people liked what I was doing.'"

A. didn't know where this band would be without Jay Dee Daugherty. He was the anchor that held down even their spaciest jams to earth, and with Ivan Kral, seemed to form the traditionalist wing of the Patti Smith Group. But his outside productions of singles by Mars and Lester Bangs indicated an intense interest in the music's radical fringe, and at home he listened to everything "from Mozart to the Contortions."

They met in a West 4th Street coffeehouse, and sat at an oil-clothed table beside a trickling artificial fountain. Was Jay pleased with the album he'd just made?

"Well, noone's ever really happy with any one thing that they do . . . I don't think . . . Considering the way we went about the album, I'm actually pleased with it. We spent less time on this one than on any of our other records, even though it took longer from its inception to completion. We just went into the studio with no preconceptions. The last album was very meticulously planned, and of course, we're always trying to make the latest album different from the last one. So we just said, 'Fuck it, we're going into the studio' and we did—without any pre-production work with Todd or anything."

Did he miss that pre-production period?

"I actually enjoy it, because it enables me to get my bearings. So that by the time we get around to recording, I have an idea in my head of some sort of thread that runs through the work. That wasn't the case on this album—we really approached each song as an individual contribution."

Some cynics had termed "Frederick" "Because The Night, Part 2," or pointed out that you almost sing Springsteen's "Prove It All Night" to the tune. Had the comparison occurred to Jay?

It really didn't—it still doesn't. I was playing it once on the piano, and it did sound a little like 'Because The Night,' but that's only because it has the same basic chord structure. Big deal—'Prove It All Night' sounds like a dozen other songs, how many new chord combinations can you come up with? To me, 'Frederick' sounds more like a Motown song. We never intended to capitalize on any similarities; purely incidental."

Was A. wrong to place Kral and Daugherty at the more traditional end of the PSG spectrum, or Lenny and Patti at the more experimental end? (He didn't know where to put the mysterious D.N.V.)

"Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say we were polarized to that extent. Ivan's and my tastes tend to be more compatible, running to more conventional things than other people in the group. But that's the good thing about the group. There's five individual personalities and styles, and we've all learned from each other. . .It's not necessarily compromise. We wouldn't be doing what we're doing if there were, you know, two different camps or something like that going on. It would just never work, it would be obvious, it would show."

Was the Patti Smith Group a democracy?

Daugherty laughed. "Well, Patti's sort of a benevolent despot. . . It is called the Patti Smith Group, and she has the final say. This particular album, she was very very much in the forefront. This, one was really strongly influenced by Patti, where the last album was probably the most democratic one we've made—it was like five people with pretty much an equal voice. But Patti had definite ideas about this album and that's the way we chose to follow through on it."

Did he have a response to former fans who felt the group was no longer forging the cutting edge of old?

"Well, I don't know what you can really say about it. It happens with all groups, basically—they'll be saying it about the Clash two years from now. I still think we're highly relevant to a lot of things, and that a lot of this criticism has come from really narrow-minded quarters. Obviously, for a lot of people, the thrill is gone. But we're always trying to do something different, and I think every one of our albums is different. . .It would've been very easy to do Horses Volume 2, 3, and 4. But that would be dishonest. We're just trying to keep up with ourselves."

A. had heard about the possibility of the band playing Woodstock 2 this summer. He thought it sounded like a terrible idea.

"I wouldn't be surprised if that happened but we haven't heard anything. Our booking agent is that agent for that festival, and we know a few other people involved. I sort of have mixed feelings about (laughs)—the whole idea of it makes me want to throw up, actually. .But it just might turn out to be a good thing. It really depends on what other acts are going to be on. If it's just going to be a supergroup extravaganza, I'd rather steer clear. But if they're interested in exposing newer talents, and giving other types of music a break, I'd be more than willing to play for something like that."

Jay had "looked over" that week's pan of Wave by Julie Burchill in New Musical Express. "I'm not surprised. They've always given us bad reviews. . .The English press are the worst scumbags in the world. I hate them. I wouldn't even talk to any of them. This whole English journalism school—I mean, look what happened to the (New York) Post. It's become like a cheap, shitty London tabloid.

"Even though the English press was responsible for a lot of good exposure, a lot of times. . .they liked us for the wrong reasons. We were the new thing to latch on to—they didn't really get to the heart of it."

A. was chewing on the ice cubes left over from his cappuccino, and the interview was winding down. Could Jay sort of sum things up?

"We're sort of feeling our way. The last album, I think a better title might have been 'Flux' rather than 'Wave.' But Patti's in a really good frame of mind as far as working goes. . .

"The reason Patti and Lenny started was because they didn't like the way that rock 'n' roll was. Let me tell you, anything that Patti says is very heartfelt and she really means it. She's one of the most honest people l've ever met in my life. She's virtually uncompromising. She would never say anything for effect. As controversial as a statement might be—you or I may not agree with it—she means it."

A. went home and listened to Wave many times over in the week that followed. Always a sucker for a good hook and a snappy arrangement, he liked "Frederick" and "Dancing Barefoot" right away. "(So You Wanna Be A) Rock 'N' Roll Star" confused him. Was it an angry, ironic diatribe against the rock star system or a celebration of it? He heard Patti invoke "the age where everyone creates" but couldn't catch the rest of her words as the music overcame her. Well at least it rocked along, with Rundgren's production providing both a certain gloss and a good deal of punch.

The rest didn't get to him at all. He began to think (especially after reading John Rockwell's plaudits in the New York Times) that his ears were plugged, that he wasn't opening his mind to the images and ideas. Maybe it was because he found much of the music turgid and confused; there didn't seem to be much "rock and roll" on Wave. It sounded like much manic ado about nothing; "Citizen Ship" was strident and tuneless; "Broken Flag," a Long March to nowhere.

Yet the title track—that eerie, wind-blown mini-drama that closed the album, that abject object of Julie Burchill's derision—that song touched him in a soft place. It really seemed to capture some of the gentleness and vulnerability he'd once treasured in Patti Smith.

A dumb conceit? Maybe. All A. knew was that "Wave" made him stop talking and thinking about anything else when he heard it play.

He knew his story wouldn't change a thing; he hoped it wouldn't lose him the casual friendship of the band. They weren't going to start making albums of three-minute hits, and he certainly wasn't telling Patti Smith how to write poetry. But as times got tougher, the country got crazier, and he grew older, A hoped to see more of his world reflected in her words and music than he found today. He'd seen it there once before, where now he saw mostly images of Patti. But if their paths had now parted, he hoped that somewhere down the line they would meet again, and embrace.

Copyright © Andy Schwartz 1979

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