Radio Ethiopia

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Radio Ethiopia
Patti Smith Group - Radio Ethiopia.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 1976 (1976-10)
Recorded1976 (1976)
StudioRecord Plant Studios, New York City
GenrePunk rock, hard rock[1]
Length41:15 (original)
48:10 (1996 reissue)
ProducerJack Douglas
Patti Smith Group chronology
Radio Ethiopia
Singles from Radio Ethiopia
  1. "Pissing in a River"
    Released: 1976
  2. "Pumping (My Heart)"
    Released: 1976
  3. "Ask the Angels"
    Released: 1977

Radio Ethiopia is the second studio album by the Patti Smith Group. It released in October 1976 through Arista Records.


Radio Ethiopia was the follow-up record to 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[2] 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 [3]). "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.

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. The back cover of the album bears the legend: "Free Wayne Kramer", who at the time was incarcerated in Kentucky following his conviction for dealing cocaine. "Pissing in a River" was released as a single the same year. It was also featured in the 1980 movie Times Square.

In 2001, the album listed in Mojo's "Ultimate CD Buyers Guide".[4]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[1]
Chicago Tribune2.5/4 stars[5]
Christgau's Record GuideA−[6]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3.5/5 stars[7]

In a contemporary review of Radio Ethiopia, Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh felt that Smith "seems to lack the direction necessary to live up to her own best ideas."[8] In Creem, Richard Meltzer was more enthusiastic and wrote that "there really no way I'm gonna be anything but thrilled to my shorthairs by a Patti LP and this one's no exception."[9] Music critic Robert Christgau stated that the album's sound "delivers the charge of heavy metal without the depressing predictability; its riff power has the human elan of a band that is still learning to play."[6]

AllMusic critic William Ruhlmann retrospectively described Radio Ethiopia as "a schizophrenic album in which the many elements that had worked so well together on Horses now seemed jarringly incompatible" and also noted that the Patti Smith Group "learned their craft and competence set in and lost some of the unself-consciousness that had made their music so appealing."[1]

Track listing[edit]

1."Ask the Angels"Patti Smith, Ivan Kral3:07
2."Ain't It Strange"Smith, Kral6:35
3."Poppies"Smith, Richard Sohl7:05
4."Pissing in a River"Smith, Kral4:41
5."Pumping (My Heart)"Smith, Kral, Jay Dee Daugherty3:20
6."Distant Fingers"Smith, Allen Lanier4:17
7."Radio Ethiopia"Smith, Lenny Kaye10:00
8."Abyssinia"Smith, Kaye, Sohl2:10

"Radio Ethiopia" and "Abyssinia" were recorded live on 9 August 1976.

Bonus track (1996 CD reissue)[edit]

  • "Chiklets" (Smith, Kral) – 6:23


Patti Smith Group

Additional personnel


Chart (1977) Peak
Sweden[10] 38
U.S. Billboard 200[11] 122

Release history[edit]

Date Label Format Catalog
October 1976 Arista Records LP 4097
1996 Arista Records CD 18825
2007 Sony BMG CD 37928


  1. ^ a b c Ruhlmann, William. "Radio Ethiopia – Patti Smith Group / Patti Smith". AllMusic. Retrieved January 2, 2010.
  2. ^ "".
  3. ^ Paytress, Mark (2006). Break It Up: Patti Smith's Horses and the remaking of Rock 'n' Roll. Record Collector. Portrait. p. 260. ISBN 0-7499-5107-9.
  4. ^ "Best of All-time Lists". Acclaimed Music. Archived from the original on 2008-03-09. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
  5. ^ Kot, Greg (June 17, 1996). "Back For More". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Patti Smith: Radio Ethiopia". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the '70s. Ticknor and Fields. ISBN 0-89919-026-X. Retrieved January 2, 2010.
  7. ^ Abowitz, Richard (2004). "Patti Smith". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 751–52. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  8. ^ Marsh, Dave (January 13, 1977). "Patti Smith: Radio Ethiopia". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on October 2, 2007. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  9. ^ Meltzer, Richard (January 1977). "A Certified Good 'un, Y'Know?". Creem. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  10. ^ "Swedish chart". Retrieved 2008-02-28.
  11. ^ "Billboard chart". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-02-28.

External links[edit]