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Music / Radio Ethiopia

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Rock and roll is what I'm born to be. And it's wild, wild, wild, wild, wild, wild, wild, wild wild.

Radio Ethiopia is the second album by Patti Smith, released in 1976. At the time it received negative reviews. It is best remembered for the Title Track, "Pissing In A River" and "Ask The Angels". It was preceded by Horsesnote  and would be followed by Easter.


Side One

  1. "Ask the Angels" (3:07)
  2. "Ain't It Strange?" (6:35)
  3. "Poppies" (7:05)
  4. "Pissing In A River" (4:41)

Side Two

  1. "Pumping (My Heart)" (3:20)
  2. "Distant Fingers" (4:17)
  3. "Radio Ethiopia" (10:00)
  4. "Abyssinia" (2:10)

The Patti Smith Group:

  • Patti Smith – vocals, Duo-Sonic guitar
  • Lenny Kaye – Stratocaster guitar, bass guitar, vocals
  • Jay Dee Daugherty – drums, percussion
  • Ivan Král – bass guitar, vocals, Les Paul guitar
  • Richard Sohl – keyboards

Troping In A River

  • Alliterative Title: "Ask The Angels".
  • Avant-Garde Music: "Radio Ethiopia", the stand-out experimental track of the record with a lot of Noise Rock and Word Salad Lyrics almost drowned out by the music.
  • Break Up Song: "Pissing In A River"
  • Careful with That Axe: "Ain't It Strange?" has a lot of screaming halfway.
    ''Come on! Come on — like a dervish! Come on, God, make a move!
  • Continuity Nod: Her 2004 track "Radio Baghdad" is a shout-out to this album.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The black-and-white cover.
  • Drugs Are Bad: "Poppies". The poppies in question are the opium variety. Among other things, buried away in a double-tracked lyric she sings graphically about the laxative and emetic side-effect of heroin. If this were better known to non-users, what a deterrent it would be... ''"Kids! Heroin makes you shit yourself! Now do you think it's cool to do drugs?"
  • Epic Rocking: The 7:05 "Poppies" and the 10:00 "Radio Ethiopia".
  • Face on the Cover: Patti sitting on the floor.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Radio Ethiopia" fades into "Abyssinia".
  • Garage Rock: The album has a strong garage rock sound, especially compared to her other records.
  • Heavy Meta: "Ask The Angels"
    World ending, it's just beginning
    And rock and roll is what I'm born to be
    And it's wild wild wild wild wild wild wild wild
  • Homage: The album is dedicated to French poet Arthur Rimbaud and Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncusi.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: "Pissing In A River"
    I'm a slave, I'm free
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: "Pissing In A River". Try telling someone that there's a poignantly beautiful, heart-wrenching torch song by that name, and they'll probably laugh at you.... until they actually listen to it.
  • I Will Wait for You: "Distant Fingers"
    Oh, I am waiting for you
    Waiting for you to take me up by my starry spine
    Ohhh, ohhh, with your distant fingers
  • Location Song: "Abyssinia", which was the original name of Ethiopia.
    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)
  • One-Word Title: "Poppies" and "Abyssinia".
  • Porky Pig Pronunciation: "Pumping (My Heart)"
    Oh, I see you stare spi-pi-pi-pi-pi-pi (spiraling) up there and ho
    Oh, into the center of my brain
  • Precision F-Strike: "Radio Ethiopia"
    Oh, I feel so... ffffucked up!
  • Questioning Title?: "Ain't It Strange?"
  • Record Producer: Jack Douglas.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: "Poppies" at a certain point has Smith backed by herself one three different tracks, all singing different lyrics. (She does this a lot.)
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the liner notes we read that the album is dedicated to Arthur Rimbaud and Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncusi. Brâncusi is also namedropped during the Title Track:
    When I see Brancusi
    His eyes searching out the infinite abstract spaces
    In the rude hands of sculptor
    Now gripped around the neck of a duosonic
    • We also read the following shout-out in the liner notes:
    Ali is still champ!
    • According to the liner notes "Poppies" is inspired by Edie Sedgwick note , Jim Morrison and the Queen of Sheba. The latter is also mentioned in the song, along with Salome and Venus.
    Hey Sheba, hey Salome, hey Venus eclipsin' my way ah.
    Ah, you're a vessel —
    Every woman is a vessel
    Is evasive, is aquatic. Every one.
    Fuck "Radio Ethiopia"! I'm Radio Brooklyn!
  • Spoken Word in Music: "Poppies" has a spoken word section halfway.
  • Super-Speed: The start of "Pumping (My Heart)" starts with a sped up sound.
  • Title Track: "Radio Ethiopia"
    Oh people of Ethiopia
    Your opiate is the air that you breathe
  • Word Salad Lyrics: The album has been accused of having a lot of lyrics that don't make much sense.
  • World War III: "Ask The Angels"
    And world war is the battle cry
    And it's wild, wild, wild, wild