Patti Smith’s Star Rises

Patti Smith’s Star Rises

Patti Smith’s audience grew throughout her CBGB residency with Television in early 1975, which created more momentum for the scene. “That was the first time when it started to get crowded,” doorwoman Roberta Bayley said, “and I think by the end it was sold out.” This was followed by CBGB’s Festival of Unsigned Bands in the summer of 1975, which drew even more attention. “The Ramones started to get a following,” she said, “and I think the Ramones were probably the first band to really build a fan base, and packed the place. Not long before it was just thirty, forty, maybe eighty people on a good night.” The media coverage that CBGB and Smith received benefited both parties, and on May 1, 1975, Arista Records mogul Clive Davis offered her a contract. Later that month, after signing, they celebrated with a live set that aired on the local radio station, WBAI, which she revered for its lack of formatting constraints (a freedom that complemented her approach to music, both aesthetically and ideologically). It was Smith’s first, but certainly not last, appearance on radio. The Velvet Underground’s John Cale produced the Patti Smith Group’s debut, Horses, and Robert Mapplethorpe shot the striking cover photo of her in a white men’s dress shirt and skinny tie. By this point, Smith’s band had outgrown CBGB and started to play larger venues in the city, such as the Palladium (formerly the Academy of Music).

From Chapter 32 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


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