Usually the idea of a one hit wonder refers to an artist that flames brightly like Icarus and then hurtles back to obscurity as quickly as they appeared. That’s not to say that there aren’t many who have carried on persevering in an attempt to recreate their straight arrow, but few – the obvious exception being Laurie Anderson’s Oh Superman – have had a terrifyingly ordained career before they entered the charts from their otherwise distant universe.
Patti Smith had become so venerated by 1978 it almost seemed ridiculous that she would engage with the triviality of the straight rock world; first emerging in late 60’s New York via a collaboration with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, forming a band she eventually released a first single ‘Piss Factory’ in 1974 on her own Mer Records to be followed by a debut album Horses the following year. Later she fell from the stage one night whilst performing at a gig in Tampa, breaking her neck. Then came Because The Night.
The story goes that Jimmy Iovine, working at the time with Bruce Springsteen in his first big production role on Darkness At The Edge of Town persuaded the singer to relinquish barely realised sketch over to Smith as a favour. Iovine was also concurrently working on Smith’s album Easter and his protege gave the gift an unlikely chemistry which meant muscle but also grace. Kept alive eruditely by Springsteen at shows since Smith’s near retirement, it still remains arguably the biggest one way trip round the sun in rock n’ roll history.