PATTI SMITH – ” Bicentenary Blues ” Live at The Boarding House San Francisco 1976

Posted: March 6, 2017 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
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She’d been a New Yorker since moving to the city in 1967, aged 21. She had a child that she gave up for adoption, met and started a relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe – with whom she shared a room at the infamous Chelsea Hotel for some time – and she discovered the work of French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud. She appeared in Warhol Superstar Jackie Curtis’s play Femme Fatale with Wayne County, and – for one night only – in Cowboy Mouth which she co-wrote with Sam Shepherd. She was considered for the role of lead vocalist in Blue Oyster Cult, but instead contributed lyrics to many of the band’s songs, and she started a relationship with BOC keyboardist Alan Lanier. She contributed articles to rock journals Rolling Stone and Creem. By 1974 she was performing rock music herself, initially with guitarist, bassist and rock archivist Lenny Kaye, and later with a full band comprising Kaye, Ivan Kral on guitar and bass, Jay Dee Daugherty on drums and Richard Sohl on piano. The group released the self-financed single ‘Hey Joe’/’Piss Factory’ the same year and in 1975 recorded their debut album “Horses” for the label to which they were by then signed, Arista; the album was released in December ’75 to near unanimous high praise. Two months later, on February 15th 1976, the group played at the Boarding House in San Francisco – a performance which was broadcast live on FM radio. This CD captures this concert in its entirety and illustrates perfectly the strange power of this pioneering band and its dynamic, talented and foresighted lead singer and main songwriter. 1976 was also the year that the United States of America celebrated 200 years of independence from the British Empire, a celebration that culminated on July 4th – the date in 1776 on which the Declaration of Independence was adopted. Whether or not this event had any impact or bearing on Patti Smith is not recorded.


A few months on from the arrival of her epic Horses album and Patti Smith is on stage in San Francisco. It is February 1976 and a seminal sonic storm is starting to soar. Bicentenary Blues released on Good Ship Funke has Patti display positive elements from her own catalogue but she honours those forces that helped shape this aural assault. That means that this performance CD originally recorded for FM Radio also has Smith cover tunes by the likes of The Who, Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones.
The sound quality is not always of a superior nature but there is no doubt the intentions are honourable. Smith is spearheading a new breed but these fresh faces are taking their lead from a series of rock n roll rebels in order to carve their own niche for a new generation. There are several highs and of particular impact is the reggae tinged self penned Redondo Beach (later to be covered by Morrissey) and the ferocious Free Money (which also became a Penetration favourite). However, a poetic interlude has the gig take its foot off the pedal before a barnstorming close of Gloria Part 1 & 2 plus My Generation.
To capture the mood of a potent past influencing a powerful present this work is a fine representation of a changing sonic landscape. Punk and its urban cry is a developing genre and on either side of the Atlantic there is major movement in the direction of dissent towards the establishment. This is a warts and all example of a spirit that was to alter the balance of order and send shockwaves amongst the hierarchy.

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