I first saw Iggy Pop live Mar. 10, 1987 at the Winnipeg Arena. I was sitting a couple rows up on the back left side of the arena around the red line. I was with my sister and a few friends. I snuck in my Pentax K1000 camera. We also snuck in a power hitter so we could discreetly smoke joints during the show.
Iggy’s set wasn’t that long. They were opening up for the Pretenders. I had his latest CD, Blah Blah Blah.
After intermission, The Pretenders took to the stage and I remember it like it was yesterday. Chrissie Hynde said, “Before we do anything, I just wanna kiss the stage that Iggy Pop just danced on,” as she proceeded to kiss the now hallowed floor.
The Pretenders, like many other bands, had been influenced by Iggy Pop and his early band The Stooges. They were doing the punk thing before the term was dreamed up.
Punk Rock officially started in the late ’70’s with bands like The Ramones, The Damned and The Sex Pistols. The Stooges were doing that kind of stuff in the late ’60’s.
The Stooges started out in 1967 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jim Osterberg’s band before that was called The Iguanas who he played drums with. People started calling him Iggy after that then he added Pop.
Ann Arbor was a hot spot for experimentation in music. People were listening to the likes of John Cage and the Free Jazz of John Coltrane and Sun Ra. Also the experimental music of Harry Partch who built his own instruments was an influence on the band.
Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch calls the Stooges, “the greatest rock’n’roll band ever.” The man is so enamored by the group he made a documentary about them.
It almost seems like Mr. Jarmusch stood back and just let Iggy tell the story, while he assembled the pieces of the puzzle afterwards. Not many pieces were missing by the end of the film.
I saw the film and was blown away. I’ve collected all of the Stooges and Iggy’s albums over the years. When I lived in Vancouver, I hooked up with a bunch of music collectors. We would trade and exchange rare and hard to find videos and recordings. This was pre-YouTube.
A good friend, Jet Black, had met Iggy many times when he lived in LA before moving to Vancouver.
I remember watching the grainy film of the 1970 Cincinnati Festival with Jet. The Festival also included Alice Cooper (sans the makeup) where someone stuck a cake in his face. Mountain and Grand Funk were also on the bill. Wild and crazy times.
Iggy is the guy who started crowd surfing and at one point during the concert he actually walked above the crowd. Then someone handed him a jar of peanut butter which he started rubbing all over himself then throwing it onto the audience. Apparently it was Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys who supplied the peanut butter.
I saw an interview in which he said he felt like Jesus walking on the water at that show. I saw him in another interview where he said that the first time he tried jumping into the audience, he saw two nice plump women he thought he could land on but as he dropped apparently they parted like the sea.
Jarmusch’s film is done very well. Some of that old footage is a little grainy but it was pretty cool seeing it on the big screen.
The film is peppered throughout with Iggy providing narration and reminiscing about the crazy times they had. Over a period of seven years the band only put out three albums with a long break in between 2nd album Funhouse and the third album which was titled Iggy and the Stooges- Raw Power. Fellow Stooges Ron and Scott Asheton as well as James Williamson also speak throughout the film.
The long break was a result of the band falling apart as a result of heavy drug use. David Bowie flew Iggy to England to help him record an album. He went over there with fellow Stooge guitarist James Williamson.
They scouted out other suitable musicians to help out. They even considered the Pink Fairies (one of my old favourites). But in the end they decided to bring in the other Stooges, the Asheton brothers.
Indeed listening to those old records now (I’m listening to the first album as I type this), they were certainly making very original music. Garage rock, psychedelia, experimental, hard rock. Lots of different elements.
The band fell apart after that album as well as the drugs started taking their toll. James Williamson got into recording other bands before moving to Silicon Valley and a career in the computer industry.
The band re-formed in 2003, recorded and toured. When Iggy was working out a deal to tour, he managed to get them all paid equally. In the film he stated they were true Communists in the way that they shared everything equally – food, money, drugs and writing credits.
In the film, Iggy relates how he was influenced by Howdy Doody and Soupy Sales. He ended up playing with Soupy Sales’ nephews, Tony and Hunt Sales in later years. I saw the Sales rhythm section in the early ’90’s when they played with Bowie in Tin Machine in TO.
Iggy also talks about going to the Ford Motor Company and hearing the loud KLANG of the machinery. He thought, that’s what the Stooges needed, that loud KLANG in their music.
The film also uses some pretty interesting animation of the band where footage is not available. I love how the animation and old movie clips are inserted into the film.
Also quite interesting was how the sound was blended into Iggy’s interviews as he talked. Like when he starts singing Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful” (that scene alone was worth the price of admission) and they superimpose Joe’s image and vocals on top.
He talks about CSNY’s “Marrakesh Express” (which he also sings) as he shows his disdain for the peace and love hippie scene in the ’60’s.
When asked by an interviewer if he influenced anybody, he proclaimed, “I think I helped wipe out the ’60’s.”
The band’s manager actually phones Moe Howard of the Three Stooges to ask for permission to use the name The Stooges. Moe said call yourselves whatever you want just don’t call the band The Three Stooges. Seems like these guys found influences in the most unlikely places.
In 2010, The Stooges were inducted into the Rock ’n’Roll Hall of Fame. In an interview around that time he summed up The Stooges when he said, “It’s the sound of four puppies in a pet store all competing for your attention to be the one that gets taken home.”
Iggy’s seen and done a lot in his years and three of the original Stooges are no longer with us but Iggy still soldiers on (yeah, Soldier, a later Iggy solo album that I like a lot).
“I don’t wanna belong to the glam people…alternative people…to any of it. I don’t wanna be a punk. I just wanna be,” he states near the end of the film.
I absolutely loved the film. I noticed Howard Mandshein in the audience at the end of the film. I asked him what he thought of the film. He said he expected a little more from this great filmmaker but he added, “They certainly influenced a lot of people.”
Just finished listening to Funhouse as I came to the end of this review. Going to add a few photos while I listen to Raw Power.
All photos by Doug Kretchmer
Except as noted
Gimme Danger is playing at Cinematheque
Thu. Dec. 1 / 9 p.m.
Fri. Dec. 2 / 9 p.m.
Sat. Dec. 3 / 3 p.m.
Watch the trailer here:
Cincinnati Pop Festival ‘peanut butter’ footage: