Horses, of course, was produced by Velvet Underground co-founder John Cale, who found the exact balance between highlighting what Patti Smith was singing and the backing band coalescing around her. Radio Ethiopia was produced by Jack Douglas, who had just produced Aerosmith’s Rocks and was just about to produce Cheap Trick’s debut.
Now, of course, I love both Cheap Trick and Aerosmith — Rocks is one of my all-time favorite albums — Douglas wasn’t the right producer for the Patti Smith Group (as they were now called), and critics at the time slagged Radio Ethiopia for trying to hard to be commercial (which I don’t give a shit about), and how he overwhelmed Patti’s vocals in the mix (which I do).
That said, you can’t fully overpower a force of nature like Patti Smith, no matter how many crunchy and squealing guitars you overdub, so when she was able to battle the production to a draw, the result was thrilling, especially on “Pumping (My Heart)” where she jumps on top of the guitars and Richard Sohl’s piano and takes everybody for a ride.
“Pumping (My Heart)” is all tension: building and building and build as Patti sings about hurricanes and airplanes and just slides into the chorus.
And my heart starts pumping
My fists start pumping
Upset total abandon upset
You know I love you so
Upset total abandon
At the end, “Pumping (My Heart)” starts rising skyward getting higher and higher while Patti screams “total abandon!” over and over and over while the guitars rise trying to keep up with her but of course there’s no way they can, as the song ends up running away from you no matter how much you might wanna follow it.
“Pumping (My Heart)”
“Pumping (My Heart)” performed live in Germany, 1979
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