Patti Smith Plays at CBGB In One of Her First Recorded Concerts, Joined by Seminal Punk Band Television (1975)

The pic­ture of punk as the domain of boor­ish nihilists who can’t play their instru­ments has been as much a cre­ation of mar­ket­ing (via Mal­colm McLaren) as it has been a virtue-of-neces­si­ty min­i­mal­ist pose and a form of avant garde DIY exper­i­men­tal­ism. But there have always been, since the coin­ing of the term “punk” as a musi­cal genre, stel­lar musi­cians and thought­ful, poet­ic lyri­cists shap­ing the scene. Of the for­mer, we must men­tion Tele­vi­sion, with their mag­nif­i­cent gui­tar inter­play between leader Tom Ver­laine and Richard Lloyd. And, of the lat­ter, we need look no fur­ther than the god­moth­er of punk her­self, Pat­ti Smith, who has always com­mand­ed stage and stu­dio with her smart, arrest­ing lyri­cism and pow­er­ful set of pipes.

Years before the Sex Pis­tols invad­ed the States, these two bands played reg­u­lar­ly at CBG­Bs (Tele­vi­sion was, in fact, the very first band to play there) with a loose col­lec­tion of mis­fits who re-invent­ed rock and roll. In Decem­ber, 1975, Smith released her first album, Hors­es, a hybrid of punk and spo­ken word pro­duced by the Vel­vet Underground’s John Cale.

But before that record made her famous—in April of that year—the Pat­ti Smith Group took the stage with Tele­vi­sion, and two teenage fans were there to record both sets from both bands. First appear­ing as a boot­leg CD gener­i­cal­ly titled “Ear­ly Gig ’75,” the disc has since been reis­sued as We Can’t Do Any­more… Cause I’m Just Too Tired!, with anoth­er set of Smith cov­ers tacked on from a ’78 con­cert in San­ta Mon­i­ca.

We get clas­sic tracks from both bands, such as Television’s “Mar­quee Moon” and “Lit­tle John­ny Jew­ell” and Smith’s cov­er of “Hey Joe” and Van Morrison’s “Glo­ria” as well as her own “Hors­es” and “Piss Fac­to­ry.” At the top of the post, you can hear her do six songs from that night in 1975, the last three with Tele­vi­sion join­ing her onstage: “We’re Going to Have a Real Good Time Togeth­er” (Vel­vet Under­ground cov­er), “Redon­do Beach,” “Bird­land,” “Space Mon­key,” “Dis­tant Fin­gers,” and “Glo­ria.” You’ll also hear the two young tapers chat­ting it up in the first few min­utes of the tape.

Smith’s band, writes boot­leg blog Doom & Gloom From the Tomb, “was tran­si­tion­ing from a cabaret-lean­ing trio to a ful­ly-fledged rock band sound,” and the ram­shackle per­for­mances show us a tal­ent­ed bunch of musi­cians still find­ing their foot­ing as a group. The fol­low­ing year, Smith and band would appear in Stock­holm after the release of Hors­es. As you can see and hear above (after a brief inter­view) they’d become a tighter, and some­what more con­ven­tion­al, rock and roll machine, but the ear­ly per­for­mances at the top—for all the lo-fi murk­i­ness and intru­sive crowd noise—have a raw appeal only height­ened by the fact that they are now impor­tant doc­u­ments of a now-leg­endary musi­cal era. See this review of the boot­leg CD reis­sue for a blow-by-blow descrip­tion of this his­toric ’75 con­cert from two sem­i­nal, and phe­nom­e­nal­ly tal­ent­ed, punk bands.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Talk­ing Heads Play CBGB, the New York Club that Shaped Their Sound (1975)

The Ramones, a New Punk Band, Play One of Their Very First Shows at CBGB (1974)

Blondie Plays CBGB in the Mid-70s in Two Vin­tage Clips

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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