Perhaps due to the lateness of the hour that it aired, Tom Snyder’s classic Tomorrow Show, in its run on NBC from 1973 to 1982, was able to feature interviews with genuinely adventurous and sometimes even anti-commercial musicians. Perhaps Snyder’s most famous musician guest was John Lennon (and his immigration lawyer), in what turned out to be his last televised interview. His most notorious was arguably the pointlessly combative and dickish cop-out of Public Image Limited. But Snyder’s skill as an interviewer was such that he rarely had a bad interview, and his chat with Patti Smith was fantastic.
She was interviewed by Snyder in May of 1978, shortly after the release of the Patti Smith Group’s classic third LP Easter. Surprisingly, they don’t talk about the album at all—Smith was really on that night (some of her more dithering interviews from around that time remain notorious to this day), so Snyder wisely let her free-associate about creative transformation, the divine, and the things that ultimately turn a kid into an artist.
A couple chunks of the interview are missing from this clip. The first is nothing particularly mind-blowing, just a bit of intro, but without it, one does wonder what the hell is going on. I’ve transcribed the missing bits from Shout! Factory’s fantastic Tomorrow Show: Punk & New Wave DVD.
Snyder: Now here is one of the first and the most accomplished of the New Wave rock artists in this country, her name is Patti Smith. She has released three record albums so far, she’s published a book of poems and drawings, and is an accomplished concert performer. She’s in Los Angeles for a show tomorrow, and she’s really excited to be here at NBC tonight because she saw where the stars park their cars.
Smith: Johnny Carson! I didn’t say all the stars, just Johnny Carson.
The second missing bit, however, is much longer and more illuminating. This belongs at about 6:33, after the fade-to-commercial, before the big glitch:
Snyder: Patti Smith will be at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium tomorrow night. I went through your book of poetry before we did this tonight, and I was interested in your, uh, what do they call it, dedication—“This book is dedicated to the future.”
Smith: Oh, and it’s got a little picture of me and my sister on Easter when we were little girls?
Snyder: Yeah, two little kids. What do you want the future to be like?
Smith: I want the future to be like, I just want it to be an open space for children. I mean to me, the future is children. When I was younger, first I wanted to be a missionary, then I wanted to be a schoolteacher, I just couldn’t get through all the dogma and I couldn’t really integrate all the rules and regulations of those professions into like my lifestyle, and into the generation that I was part of. And the really great thing about doing the work that I’m doing now, I have all the ideals that I ever had, to like communicate to children, or to people in general, to everybody, and to communicate with my creator. I can do everything, all the perverse ends of it and also, you know, all the innocence, it’s all inherent in the form that I’m doing. But I just like, I think that we’re really so lucky, to be alive and to be on this planet, and after going all over the world, really, America’s a really great country. We’re really lucky to be here, but also, there’s a lot of things that we have to fight for. This country was built on freedom, freedom of speech, and it is a very rich country, Capitalist and all that kind of stuff, that is true I suppose, but what we have to work on is refocusing our energies.
Snyder: How about “Redefining our priorities?”
Smith: Yeah, that’s a good one. We have nature, we have life, we have breath, we have so many chances we can take…