Arthur Lee formed Love in 1965, and as it’s singer chief songwriter—and a richly colorful character—Lee became L.A.’s #1 rock hipster when the group’s debut album hit in 1966. “I’d go to see them play at Bido Lito’s at Cosmo’s Alley one block south of Hollywood Boulevard. I’d sit close to the stage, and just be hypnotized. For a while I was seeing a guitarist with the band. For me, it was like they had all the answers.” Almost four years later in March 1970, she renewed acquaintances with Arthur Lee.
“On our first night in Europe we went to a Love concert, and we went backstage afterward. I started hanging out with Arthur. I gave him head in one of the bathrooms [at the concert hall], and we ended up having wild sex back at his hotel. It was a three-day fling—I was having a great time!” Today, Erica is still dazzled by the gorgeous fusion of folk-rock and psychedelia with orchestral flourishes that defined Love’s music. “Hearing it now just brings me back to that time.”
Smith began as an avant-garde poet, and after Kaye started providing a rock accompaniment to her readings, they formed a band at the New York club CBGB. Her 1975 debut album “Horses” was a punk rock landmark with its fierce energy and loose primitivist style. Critics were knocked out, but perhaps no one was more enthralled than Erica.
“That album was so amazing. Patti was very erotic. She got her energy from having sex! She had a lot to work off—she had energy that was extraordinary. When I met Patti, I was working for Elmer Valentine at The Roxy at night, and at the Rainbow in the afternoon waiting tables. The Patti Smith Band came in one night, and since I was one of the top waitresses, I had the main section where all the record company people were. The first time I saw her, I just wanted to be her, to be all of her. I was just hypnotized.
“Somehow, Lenny Kaye found out I was working there, and who I was. It turns out he was a huge fan of Dolls. It was so funny. ‘I’m a fan of yours and your a fan of mine!’ He knew just about every line of the movie. He said to come back to the hotel afterward. They were staying at The Tropicana on Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the rock stars stayed then.
“She just gave me power, she made me feel like I have power. She’s a true artist. She’s strong and she’s crazy. That level of insanity when you know that someone else is there, just acknowledging the struggle, and also the freedom. I always felt like I was her captive, without saying anything. Patti showed me how my insanity could work for me, and not against me. I felt a deep connection with her. She didn’t really know anything about me, she just knew I was always around.” Erica still has a photos signed to her by Patti, with the inscription:
guiding light of our lives.”
It turned out that her brother worked for Aerosmith. He and I had a little fling. I always went for the young guys—I liked getting them early and showing them the ropes! He asked me if I wanted to come along on tour with Aerosmith, and I said, sure!”
Touring with Steven Tyler and the boys “was a great experience. You’re like the wanderer, you don’t really have any roots. You’re in one place, then the next thing you’re on a bus going to the airport. Then you’re in another city, on a stage and setting up. Then after the show, you’re partying, you pass out, then it’s another place the next day. Once again, what always got me there was the feeling of family. I was always in search of a family. I was like a sponge—if there was any resemblance of a family feeling, I was there. I think in rock & roll, it really was intensely that way. They truly are a family, almost incestual.
“I was able to just be myself, and not worry about any morals; nothing mattered. It was sort of like having a private joke, and nobody else knew but us. For once, I felt like I belonged somewhere. I was still on the fringes, but it was a great feeling to just belong.
“I did a lot of living in a very short period of time. I mean—a lot. A lot of partying, a lot of drugs, a lot of rock & roll. It seems like everything happened to me in the ‘70s! Sort of like I spurted ahead and had lived fifty years in the space of just five.”
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