Tuesday, August 5, 2014

the stooges

Iggy and the Stooges prefigured punk with the savage swaggering subversive sonic boredom blues of their dark and dangerous debut.  James Newell Osterberg had played in various bands around Ann Arbor, Michigan, getting his nickname 'Iggy' after a stint in the Iguanas.  He was inspired to create a new kind of blues music after a visit to Chicago.  He hooked up with brothers Ron and Scott Asheton and their friend Dave Alexander, who gave Iggy his pseudonymous surname 'Pop'.  

Osterberg reveals:  "I had some basic ideas. One idea was when I woke up - like Steve Martin does in The Jerk - and realised that I wasn’t old or poor or black (laughs), and that I wasn’t going to be a great blues man, I thought I would like to emulate everything that I’d seen hanging around with some of these guys briefly, some of these blues guys that I’d kinda groupied in Chicago for a while. I thought, ‘These guys are just a bunch of hoods anyway. I’d like to be like them and sound like them and write like them, but about things that concern who I am and who my people are.’ That didn’t really go far at first, honestly, when I tried to hook up with Scott and Ron based on that. A lot of the ideas were too wildly arty and creative, and it wasn’t really going anywhere. It was interesting: the more it didn’t go anywhere, the more the ideas got simpler, noisier and crazier. That was really step-by-step, inch-by-inch: simple, noisy and crazy! (Laughs) And that seemed to work for us...It was always my impression - and it still is - that the only possible positive drug effect that I can pin-point for any of the drugs, is not what it leads you to or what it lets you see, it’s just what it blocks out. It blocks out other choices so that you’re allowed to relax and believe and concentrate on the one or two things that always were really important and that you always liked anyway. That’s all it ever really did. And then, of course, what happens is you run into problems. A few drug experiences turn over and things begin to spin out of control, they don’t work for you that way anymore. But honestly, no. It was just something... I mean, for instance, naming the group - we’d been up all night taking psychedelics together, because we didn’t know how to hang out any other way! (Laughs) And it was I, basically - the rest of the guys would have just enjoyed themselves to death - who was a little more ambitious than the other fellas. I said, ‘Listen, we’re not gonna waste this trip without getting something out of this - we’re not rehearsing’. At this particular time the big excuse for not rehearsing was that the cops would bust us, which was true, but things like that never ever stopped me. But the other guys were not as nuts as I am. So I said, ‘Well, let’s talk about what we’re gonna call our band’, because we didn’t have a good name for it yet. Then, after a little discussion, Ron came up with the idea, ‘Well, we’ll be like the Stooges except we’ll be the Psychedelic Stooges.’ It was inevitable that anything creative that Ron did in his life was gonna come back to the Stooges, because he’d already spent probably seventeen thousand man hours watching The Three Stooges’ films when he was supposed to be doing something else since he was twelve. (Laughs) So did it really take psychedelic drugs for him to think of that? Well, that’s your call. So that’s kinda how I feel about the whole thing. I was always meant to take off my clothes and jump up and down. That’s who I am!...From Mick Jagger, the idea that there should be a performance, that there is a performance; just that. That there has to be a level of staginess that he learned, I quickly found out, from good black R&B performers, America’s own, which we had rejected. And the other thing from him that was great - from both of them actually - was that yes, the vocal thing could be built from two notes, that they could always be the same. You did not need to be Wilson Pickett. From Morrison, it was the same way but with the elements of surprise. Here you have surprise, you have poetry and you have a further violation, a little different take on this sort of thing. So with both of them, it was more the ideas of the thing, not the actual thing. I mean, we had all sorts of people around our local area that did Mick Jagger - I never did that. There must have been a thousand guys doing him in 1968 in the USA - you could get a gig that way, you know? The one that finally did it best was the guy out of Aerosmith [Steven Tyler]; he got a good gig out of that. But yeah, there were guys who actually used to do him down to the clothes and do the exact little moves and everything. The cover band culture in the US was intense...It was quite a while before I opened my mouth and ever had the impression that what I was hearing come out was something that was really exciting that I was ready to share with the world, let’s put it that way! (Laughs) I don’t think I concentrated. I don’t think I gave it real consideration until we got a record deal, and then as soon as we did and I realised, ‘Oh, holy shit: we’re gonna be recording’ then everything changed and I thought about it a great deal. It was probably very lucky that in our primitive times and given our primitive personalities, these thoughts were nothing that I could really practice very much, because I could never really hear myself sing, either at our gigs or at our rehearsals. So I just imagined all the elements that I would want in a good Iggy Pop vocal, and I practiced them in my room when I thought nobody was around. But before the first album, it was more about just throwing my voice out into a place that helped the music. I was just one more instrument. Nobody had any leads - there was no real lead guitar. It’s hard to tell what we were doing for most people, but we did it like a pack of dogs - until we made the first album, and then we became more rockist."

'The Stooges' was produced by John Cale for Elektra Records and featured Iggy Pop ("Iggy Stooge") on vocals;  Dave Alexander on bass guitar;  Ron Asheton on guitar and vocals;  and Scott Asheton on drums;  with John Cale adding piano, sleigh bell on "I Wanna Be Your Dog", and viola on "We Will Fall".  The story goes that Cale tried to convince the band to use smaller amps than their Marshall stacks; but the group sat down in the middle of the studio and smoked hash until Cale finally acquiesced.  Even so, the initial mix of the album was deemed unsatisfactory by the band and was ultimately remixed by Elektra founder Jac Holzman and Iggy Pop.  That was after the band was told they needed to record more material than the five songs that were part of their standard live set:   "We handed [it] in and they refused it. They said, 'There aren't enough songs!' So we lied and said, 'That's OK, we've got lots more songs.'"

'The Stooges'  made it to number one hundred and six on the Billboard album chart.  The sheets of feedback and the primative proto-punk sound were too much for critics and fans alike.  Osterburg reflects:  "It was just a completely different world than any of the people in Detroit or in the universe at that time. It sold enough for me. It never bothered me. Everybody is so wrong about these concepts, and I can tell you that in fact the entire capitalist system has over-emphasised money to the point where we’re now on the verge of the same sort of collapse that happened in the Soviet Union a few years ago. It led to the Balkanisation of their country, because they made themselves vulnerable too. It’s become a one-horse system. You can’t run the fuckin’ world as a goddamn business. Fuck! And honestly, as a kid, that wasn’t the dream. That wasn’t the dream. Maybe for some of the other guys - I never talked to anybody about this, including the guys in the band - but my dream was just to do something really good and really cool. I didn’t think I’d heard music that sold millions - the really good music that sold millions was by people much more accomplished than us, so I knew we weren’t gonna sell like that. And the bad stuff that sold millions, I thought, ‘I don’t care about that, because if we make an album and we’re better and we just sell a few, I would rather be the guy to do something better selling a few than be the fuckin’ schmidiot idiot selling a bunch of shit.’ And I knew that there was no future for these people either. And, by the way, when people say that the group sells or an artists sells an album, this is a misnomer. A company sells them. A company generally owns the master, the company owns the right to manipulate the accounts and will cheat and steal from the artists. The artist gets zilch. The artist also has to fend off divorce settlements, girlfriends, drug dealers, managers, lawyers, agents - a whole panoply of crooks. I always thought, when we put out our first thing, there must be about fifty thousand people in America who would be interested in this. I thought that was pretty good. And we sold thirty-five thousand. That’s what I was told. Of course, that could have been a lie too - the whole industry’s corrupt. I thought that was pretty good. And by the second album, I was so into it I didn’t even really care! (Laughs) Or pay attention. But I knew we weren’t the fuckin’ Ronnettes. They could sing better than what I could, but I thought we sounded pretty cool. (Laughs) That was all I really wanted. I listen to it now and it’s better than I realised. It took a while. It may be that kind of music."



I Wanna be your Dog

No Fun

'The Stooges' 
full album:

1_ 1969 [00:00]
2_ I Wanna be your Dog [04:03]
3_ We Will Fall [07:10]
4_ No Fun [17.30]
5_ Real Cool Time [22:48]
6_ Ann  [25:20]
7_ Not Right [28:20]
8_ Little Doll [31:10]

bonus track:  
"Asthma Attack"  06:26

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