There are many things I remember of this time. The smell of piss and beer. The entwining guitar lines of Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine as they elevated "Kingdom Come." Performing a version of "Land" that Lenny called "a blazing zone," with Johnny blazing a trail of his own, racing toward me from the acid night where the wild boys reigned, from the locker room to the sea of possibilities, as if channeled from the third and fourth minds of Robert and William sitting before us. The presence of Lou Reed, whose exploration of poetry and rock and roll had served us all. The thin line between the stage and the people and the faces of all those who supported us. Jane Friedman, beaming as she introduced us to Clive Davis, the president of Arista Records. She had rightly perceived a connection between him, his label, and us. And at the end of every night, standing in front of the awning emblazoned with the letters CBGB & OMFUG and watching the boys load our humble equipment into the back of Lenny's '64 Impala.
WBAI was an important transmitter of the last vestiges of revolution on the radio. On May 28, 1975, my band supported them by doing a benefit in a church on the Upper East Side. We were perfectly suited for the uncensored possibilities of a live broadcast, not only ideologically but aesthetically. Not having to adhere to any formatting strictures, we were free to improvise, something rare on even the most progressive FM stations. We were well aware of the multitude we were reaching — our first time on the radio.
Our set ended with a version of "Gloria" that had taken shape over the past several months, merging my poem "Oath" with the great Van Morrison classic. It had begun with Richard Hell's copper-toned Danelectro bass, which we bought from him for 40 dollars. I had it in mind to play it, and since it was small, I thought I could handle it. Lenny showed me how to play an E, and as I struck the note, I spoke the line: "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine." I had written the line some years before as a declaration of existence, as a vow to take responsibility for my own actions. Christ was a man worthy to rebel against, for he was rebellion itself.
Lenny started strumming the classic rock chords, E to D to A, and the marriage of the chords with this poem excited me. Three chords merged with the power of the word. "Are those chords to a real song?" "Only the most glorious," he answered, going into "Gloria," and Richard [Sohl, keyboardist] followed. Over the weeks we spent at CBGB, it had become apparent to us all that we were evolving under own terms into a rock and roll band. On May Day, Clive Davis offered me a recording contract with Arista Records, and on the seventh I signed. We hadn't really put it in words, but during the course of the WBAI broadcast, we could feel a momentum gathering. By the improvised end of "Gloria," we had unfurled ourselves.