Radio Ethiopia


Arthur Rimbaud in Harar, c. 1883

 

“Oh I’ll send you a telegram

Oh I have some information for you

Oh I’ll send you a telegram

Send it deep in the heart of you

Deep in the heart of your brain is a lever

Oh deep in the heart of your brain is a switch

Oh deep in the heart of your flesh you are clever

Oh honey you met your match in a bitch

Deep in the heart of

Deep in the heart of

[ ]

There will be no famine in my existence

I merge with the people of the hills

Oh people of Ethiopia

Your opiate is the air that you breathe

All those mint bushes around you

Are the perfect thing for your system

Aww clean clean it out

You must rid yourself from these, these animal fixations

You must release yourself

From the thickening blackmail of elephantiasis

You must divide the wheat from the rats

You must turn around [and look oh God]

When I see Brancusi

His eyes searching out the infinite abstract spaces

In the [radio] rude hands of sculptor

Now gripped around the neck of a [duosonic]

[ ]

[I swear on your eyes no pretty words will sway me]

[ ]

Oh look at me aah

[ ] cannot move ahh so much aahh everything I am

[ ] possible

Aah [ ]

Feel so fucked up

[ ]

much too

I know I know [ ]

[ ]

[ ]

[ ]

 

Constantin Brancusi’s Grave. Photo by Patti Smith, circa 2007

 

tell him to get out of here

go down to the sea

[ ] if he would just tell me

he appreciates Brancusi’s [ ] space

the sculptor’s mallet has been taken in place

[ ]

every time I see [ ]”

Patti Smith

 

The album’s cover photograph is by Judy Linn, the back of the album features a photo by Lynn Goldsmith. The album was dedicated to Arthur Rimbaud and Constantin Brâncuși.

 

Radio Ethiopia was the follow-up record to Patti Smith‘s widely acclaimed debut Horses. In interviews surrounding the album’s release, Smith explained that she chose producer Jack Douglas in hopes of making the album a commercial success. The album was negatively received when it was released and Smith was attacked by critics for what they perceived to be laziness, self-indulgence and selling out.

The title track of the album is one of Smith’s most notorious songs, almost legendary for appearing to be “10 minutes of noise”. Critics often described live renditions of the song as negative moments of Smith’s concerts. Patti herself spoke highly of the track and of how the lyrics refer to Arthur Rimbaud‘s dying wishes. Arguments both for and against the song have been advanced by critics, fans and music listeners over whether the song truly is an example of the Patti Smith Group’s boundary-pushing or merely self-indulgence. Critics in negative reviews cited that Douglas’ production placed more emphasis on creating a heavy sound through numerous guitar parts which smothered Smith’s vocals and, at times, lamented that all of the album’s songs were originals of the group (Smith co-wrote much of the album with bassist Ivan Kral, the band member keenest for commercial success ). Ain’t It Strange and Distant Fingers, the latter co-written with Smith’s long-time boyfriend Allen Lanier, had both been staples of the Group’s concerts long before the recording of Horses.

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