On April 15, Patty Hearst was caught on a security camera wielding a gun, joining her captors in robbing a San Francisco bank.
Subsequently a tape was released, in which she declared allegiance to the SLA and issued this statement: "Tell everybody that I feel free and strong and I send my greetings and love to all the sisters and brothers out there." Something in these words, magnified by our shared first name, drew me to respond to her complicated plight. Lenny, Richard, and I merged my meditation on her situation with Jimi Hendrix's version of "Hey Joe." The connection between Patty Hearst and "Hey Joe" lay within the lyrics, a fugitive crying out "I feel so free."
We had been thinking of doing a single, to see how the effect we were having live could be translated to a record. Lenny was knowledgeable in producing and pressing a single, and when Robert [Mapplethorpe] offered to put up the money, we booked time at Jimi Hendrix's studio, Electric Lady. In homage to Jimi, we decided to record "Hey Joe."
Wishing to add a guitar line that could represent the desperate desire to be free, we chose Tom Verlaine to join us. Divining how to appeal to Tom's sensibilities, I dressed in a manner that I thought a boy from Delaware would understand: black ballet flats, pink shantung capris, my kelly green silk raincoat, and a violet parasol, and entered Cinemabilia, where he worked part-time. The shop specialized in vintage film stills, scripts, and biographies representing everyone from Fatty Arbuckle to Hedy Lamarr to Jean Vigo. Whether or not my getup impressed Tom, I'll never know, but he enthusiastically agreed to record with us.
We recorded in studio B with a small eight-track setup in the back of Electric Lady. Before we started, I whispered "Hi, Jimi" into the microphone. After a false start or two, Richard, Lenny, and I, playing together, got our take, and Tom overdubbed two tracks of a solo guitar. Lenny mixed these two into one spiraling lead, and then added a bass drum. It was our first use of percussion. Robert, our executive producer, came by and watched anxiously from the control room. He gave Lenny a silver skull ring to commemorate the occasion.
Sons of liberty
William Burroughs was simultaneously old and young. Part sheriff, part gumshoe. All writer. He had a medicine chest he kept locked, but if you were in pain he would open it. He did not like to see his loved ones suffer. If you were infirm he would feed you. He'd appear at your door with a fish wrapped in newsprint and fry it up. He was inaccessible to a girl but I loved him anyway.
He camped in the Bunker with his typewriter, his shotgun, and his overcoat. From time to time he'd slip on his coat, saunter our way, and take his place at the table we reserved for him in front of the stage. Robert, in his leather jacket, often sat with him. Johnny and the horse.
We were in the midst of a several-week stand at CBGB that had begun in February and stretched into spring. We shared the bill with Television, as we had at Max's the previous summer, doing two alternating sets from Thursday through Sunday. It was the first time we had played regularly as a band, and it helped us define the inner narrative that connected the varied streams of our work.