Radio Ethiopia

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

Radio Ethiopia
Patti Smith Group - Radio Ethiopia.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 1976 (1976-10)
StudioRecord Plant (New York, New York)
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 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 commercially successful. Smith co-wrote much of the album with bassist Ivan Král, the band member keenest for commercial success.[2]


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. Smith 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.

"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, while 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.

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [1]
Chicago Tribune    [3]
Christgau's Record GuideA−[4]
Mojo     [5]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [6]
Spin Alternative Record Guide7/10[7]

Radio Ethiopia 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. Critics in negative reviews cited that Douglas' production placed more emphasis on creating a heavy sound through numerous guitar parts that smothered Smith's vocals,[8] and, at times, lamented that all of the album's songs were originals of the group.

In a contemporary review of Radio Ethiopia, Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh opined 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 ain't no way I'm gonna be anything but thrilled to my shorthairs by a Patti LP and this one's no exception."[9] Village Voice 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."[4]

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", noting that the Patti Smith Group had "encountered the same development problem the punks would—as they learned their craft and competence set in, they lost some of the unself-consciousness that had made their music so appealing."[1] In 2001, the album was listed in Mojo's "Ultimate CD Buyers Guide".[10]

Track listingEdit

1."Ask the Angels"3:07
2."Ain't It Strange"
  • Smith
  • Král
4."Pissing in a River"
  • Smith
  • Král
5."Pumping (My Heart)"3:20
6."Distant Fingers"4:17
7."Radio Ethiopia"10:00
  • Smith
  • Kaye
  • Sohl
1996 CD reissue bonus track
  • Smith
  • Král


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


Patti Smith Group

Additional personnel


Chart (1976–77) Peak
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[11] 93
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[12] 38
US Billboard 200[13] 122

Release historyEdit

Date Label Format Catalog no.
October 1976 Arista Records LP, 8-Track, Cassette 4097
1996 CD 18825
2007 Sony BMG 37928
2008 "Original Album Classics" CD box set 88697313832


  1. ^ a b c Ruhlmann, William. "Radio Ethiopia – Patti Smith Group / Patti Smith". AllMusic. Retrieved January 2, 2010.
  2. ^ Paytress, Mark (2006). Break It Up: Patti Smith's Horses and the Remaking of Rock 'n' Roll. Piatkus Books. p. 260. ISBN 0-7499-5107-9.
  3. ^ Kot, Greg (June 17, 1996). "Back For More". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Patti Smith Group: Radio Ethiopia". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor and Fields. p. 360. ISBN 0-89919-026-X. Retrieved January 2, 2010.
  5. ^ Aston, Martin (October 2015). "Dancing with Ghosts". Mojo. No. 263. p. 83.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Sheffield, Rob (1995). "Patti Smith". In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. p. 363. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  8. ^ a b Marsh, Dave (January 13, 1977). "Radio Ethiopia". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on March 19, 2021. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  9. ^ Meltzer, Richard (January 1977). "A Certified Good 'un, Y'Know?". Creem. Vol. 8 no. 8. Retrieved September 12, 2016.
  10. ^ "Mojo 1000: The Ultimate CD Buyers Guide". Mojo. 2001.
  11. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). Australian Chart Book. p. 278. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  12. ^ " – Patti Smith Group – Radio Ethiopia". Hung Medien. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  13. ^ "Patti Smith Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved October 11, 2020.

External linksEdit