When I first met Patti Smith

I was 13 years old, and I was alone at home watching “Nattrock”/”Rock Nacht” (“Rock Night”) at the norwegian tv channel, NRK, yes, there were just one channel in Norway at the time. I think it was a live broadcast (but I’m not certain), if it was it was on at April 21th to 22th.

It was the fourth “Rock Nacht” from the Grugahalle in Essen, it was called Rockpalast (“The Rock Palace”). First out was The J.Geils Band with a solid set, it was a good beginning. There were 9000 people in the audience and the frontman, Peter Wolf, had them in his grip. It made a lasting impression on a young boys musical life, and I still play the old records from when The J. Geils band was at their best, around 1979.

Then there was a break from the live broadcast. We got four or five songs with Joan Armatrading and an interview with J. Geils band. But more importantly we got to see Bruce Springsteen and The E street band with a fantastic version of Rosalita, the first time I saw Bruce in concert. I was in heaven.

Springsteen, Rosalita 1978:

I remember that Patti Smith Group didn’t come on at once, there were quite a bit of waiting. It was now late in the evening and I had to splash some cold water on my face to stay awake.

Then suddenly she was on stage, with no introduction. I was mesmerized.

From the book 10 Jahre Rockpalast (Ten years of Rock Palace):

” She didn’t want anything to do with the J. Geils Band, but she was proud to play with Johnny Winter. Albrecht had no chance to announce her because she kept opening and closing the stage door and simply climbed on-stage. She had already let all of Europe know her wishes: “Let me get on that fucking stage!”  … On-stage stood a self-proclaimed high priestess of rock who emphatically presented her charismatic charm. She impressed a lot of people on that night.”

She made a lasting impression on me.

Because the night, 1979:

The show was a roller-coaster ride, Patti Smith was like a cat on stage, clinging to the microphone stand in ways that a thirteen year old boy was just starting to understand, then she became a snake, she crawled about on the stage. Patti Smith made herself into a legend that night through her notorious appearance. On this fourth Rocknacht in the Grugahalle in Essen, on April 21st, 1979, she, a star of the New York punk movement, gave an incredible show and shook European tv viewers out of their comfort zone.

Dancing Barefoot (1979):

The last song was a cover of The Who’s My Generation, the band ran through it , Patti wearing a ripped white MC5 T-shirt, the drums fell over, there were feedback, it was spellbinding rock’n roll!

Everybody talked about it the day after, a lot of people hated her performance. I couldn’t understand, had they see the same show as me? She changed the way I look at, and hear music.

Rock’n Roll Nigger:

Following her performance and in front of an audience of millions, she crawled on-stage towards Johnny Winter to the sound of clarinets. It was crazy, I had never seen anything remotely like it, in my eyes she bacame a rock’n roll godess that night.

There were an interview with the band after the concert, but all the sounds she gave was from her clarinet. Marvelous!

In the second pause we also got 4 very good songs from Muddy Waters, recorded in 1978.

The came Johnny Winter, he did a good show.

What I remember is Patti Smith

Short Bio:
Patti Smith was born in Chicago in 1946, grew up mainly in New Jersey, then moved to New York, where she is an important exponent of the New York punk rock and poetry scene. Her big idols were the Rolling Stones, and she once said that she kept alive just to see what Stones would do next. Another important influence is Bob Dylan, whose ‘Blonde on Blonde’ was a decisive experience for her, the admiration was mutual and they have performed together on several occasions.  She started as a poet but driftet into Rock’n Roll.

Shortly after the Rockpalast concert, Patti Smith pulled herself out of the music business. In 1988, she returned and she has released several abums , books and been touring ever since.

I have never seen her live, but that will change this summer in Bergen, Norway.

It will be nice meeting you again, Patti Smith.

Two covers from recordings of this seminal concert in 1979 (with setlist):

– Hallgeir