ERIC EHRMANNPosted Apr 02, 1970 8:45 AM
Iggy Stooge fondles the outlines of his fertile crescent. His shiny, skin-tight leather pants reveal a bulging basket of manhood as he sits Indian-style and exhausted after a gig at the Boston Tea Party.
The other three Stooges, drummer Scott Asheton, his brother guitarist Ron and bass man Dave Alexander occupied a broken-down old love seat in a corner of the makeshift dressing room. The love seat was obviously designed for couples, and three cramped wildmen distorted its perspective so that it stood out from the rest of the rectangular room like a Van Gogh painting.
Ten Years After had just finished two encores of British blues and Alvin Lee came barnstorming into the room with an entourage of groupies (groupies in Boston are partial to British groups like Ten Years After, Joe Cocker and especially the Who) and two wheatstraw joints hanging from his luscious album-cover lips. It was obviously Ten Years After's night to get balled and the Stooges just sat in their corner of the dressing room and took in the fun and games. Ignoring the bloody contusions on his arms and chest, Iggy lights a pipeful of black hash and begins to lay down a quiet rap.
"Every Sunday afternoon when I was little, my parents used to make me go with them for rides out in the country. They told me that I should enjoy the scenery because it was so beautiful and that we didn't get the chance to break the daily routine very often. It seemed to me that they really lived for that time each week end, but for me — it was a real drag"
A bumper crop of young, brash midwestern dropouts from Michigan, the Stooges come right out of Spiro T. Middle America. All but bass man Dave Alexander come from straightlaced schoolteaching families. They'd just as soon be cruising for burgers along hot rod row, jiving the grease balls, or grooving on the smacked up counterman at the Bickford eatery.
"We've all been friends since grade school," Iggy continues. "We got to be real close when we were the only guys at Ann Arbor High to wear long hair. We were alienated from the rest of the kids and they even made up names for us like smarties, jades and out kids. The pigs at school used to feed us a lot of shit about our hair, so we used to cut classes and split for my folks' trailer out at the Carpenter Trailer Park. That's when we got to thinking about becoming a group."
Back in 1966, Iggy was drumming for a group called the Prime Movers. The group played around Detroit and Ann Arbor, but around the time that Iggy finished high school, it broke up. In the Fall of the same year, Iggy split for Chicago. Scott, Ron and Dave stayed around Ann Arbor, woodshedding and jamming with local groups.
"We were really bored with everything that was happening at the time," Ron Asheton emphasizes. "Rock music was becoming a cliché so we decided to create our own kind of mood, something that people could get involved with."
When Iggy got to Chicago, he bummed around the South Side, living a life that is fenced in by freeways and railyards and invisible borderlines of the Blackstone Rangers and Disciples street gangs. The South Side ghetto and the alienated world of Iggy Stooge met head on.
"I used to hang around some of the South Side bars where Paul Butterfield started out and I got to know his former drummer, Sam Lay," Iggy recalls. "Sam took me in off the streets and I became sort of an apprentice to his music and way of life. Scared stiff...just for a little while, but living with Sam, I realized that we were all in the same boat."
Iggy drummed on and off with J. B. Hutto and his Hawks, Johnny Young and Shakey Walter Horton and jammed in such notorious South Side haunts as Turner's, Silvio's and Pepper's.
"I discovered that when you are getting it on with the old stylists, the blues has this free feeling. It got to be so free that it was the way your fingers started to fly when you picked up your axe. Lots of times I'd be up on the stand with dudes I didn't even know, but we'd start playing the blues and start feeling together."
After eight months of Chicago, Iggy returned to Ann Arbor in the Spring of 1967.
"I used to sit on the bank of the Chicago River with this music in my head. I even used to do little dances with myself. Finally, I decided to see if the other guys had it inside of them like I did."
The Stooges played their first gig at a private Halloween party in Ann Arbor.
"At our debut, everybody was fucked up on wine and shit so all the people really danced," remembers Dave Alexander.
"We blew every one of our amps. Gigs in those days were few and far between, because, after all, we were too far out."
The Psychedelic Stooges, as they were originally called, played their first public gig at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, early in 1968. Making a name for themselves in the Detroit area, the Stooges played small towns in Michigan, and caused riots.
"We used to play these hick towns like Romeo, Michigan," says Scott mockingly. "At Romeo, Ig was wearing his super killer low-leather pants and the crotch ripped during the middle of a set. The girls went bananas. They had never seen anyone dressed up in hobo clothes [the Stooges' word for dressing down] before. Ig got a towel to cover the rip, but it fell off. One chick got bummed out and split the joint screaming. It turned out that her old man was a cop, so twenty-five pigs came back to close the place."
Another gig at Delta College saw Iggy become emotionally involved with a girl whose father was the Dean of Students. A contractual stipulation stated that Iggy could not have any physical contact with the audience. Iggy tells the story.
"I walked onto the floor and started digging this chick who looked really frightened by our music. What we do is very connected with spontaneous dance, and for the guys in the group, it is very ritualistic communication. We try and play nice songs and establish sort of a dream meeting between the audience and ourselves. I became carried away, obsessed with this chick and I scooped her from her seat. She screamed and scratched me, so I bit her and dropped her to the floor. I still have scars from her. The school threatened not to pay us, but the people dug it so much that we got paid and asked back."
As Iggy finishes his rap, a groupie parades in front of him, showing her wares. She nestles beside him and begins to tell a sob story about being on the lam and needing a place to stay. The drama began. Iggy was being Iggy.
The Stooge people left the Tea Party and drove to the Holiday Inn where they had rooms. Iggy was playing along with the girl and giving reassuring asides to everyone in the big equipment truck that it was going to be a big goof. The truck pulled into the motel parking lot and Iggy ducked out with the chick following close behind. The rest of the band and manager Jim Silver waited in another room speculating on the Ig's sortie.
"Pop doesn't like to fuck 'em, he'll probably go for the blow job," Dave commented.
Scott Asheton started to make fun of Iggy (they sometimes refer to him as Pop).
"Pop really looked like he wanted that chick, but I bet he won't give it to her...and he'll be pissed. It's always this way on the road. The chicks are hung up. They're just making the scene. One good fucking and they begin to see what it's all about." About half an hour later, Iggy sheepishly peeped his head through the door of the room occupied by the rest of the group.
"Did you get her," Ron Asheton queried.
"Fuck no," Iggy retorted. "She started dry humping me and wouldn't take her clothes off, so I kicked her out of bed. Her whole story was a lie, really a bogus chick."
Purple passion marks began to show around Iggy's neck so he reached for the hash pipe and changed the subject.
"Lately, crowds in New York have been getting on with us. They start doing things in the audience, getting up, running onto the stage. Mostly they are young kids who don't have established tastes, they just feel what we are doing."
"Pop is right," Dave adds. "The young kids don't look to orderly patterns of sound and find meaning in them. Instead, their concept of music is much more free, less hung up. We play sounds and create moods. Lots of people say we play lots of blues, riffs and changes, but it's just our music, our way of putting sounds together. It's a group mood."
A few individuals commented on the Stooges after their set:
Sidney Tanks, 17, Roxbury (Boston's Black community): "He has more moves than James Brown, and you can see that he feels every move that he makes. The vibes bounce off the audience, Iggy picks 'em right back up and, before you know it, the whole place is flipping out with him."
Heidi Wurstner, 19, student, Goddard College, Plainfield, Vt.: "A whole bunch of us drove down just to see Iggy. I had heard about his jumping into the audience and taking off his clothes, but I didn't believe it until I saw it happen. His body animations are hypnotizing, and when he was lying down on the stage with the guitars playing by themselves [the rest of the group turned their amps all the way up and walked off stage] it looked like he was going to die."
Larry Piazza, 24, biker, Chelmsford, Mass.: "That guy is on some other motherfucking planet, but I dug his pants. He really can get them hippie girls turned on. He has this mystique in his face, just the way he looks at the crowd. My old lady really started to groove on him before I had to set her straight. Their music pushes right through your head, loud, wailing, the way I like it."
Ace Rickley, 2nd Lieut. USMC, 23, Worcester, Mass.: "They're one hell of a rock and roll band, they've got all the equipment and they are using it to the maximum, but I'll tell you, something awful funny must've happened to those guys when they were little kids."
Marty Rose, 23, med student at Berkeley: "I'm surprised they didn't need a stretcher to carry him off after he collapsed on stage. How long can a guy like that last? The way he gets banged up, he should be playing for the Green Bay Packers."
Iggy is built with the fine slightness of ballet dancer Rudolf Nuryev. As he twirls around the stage, he becomes a human spinning top with his fully developed latissimi dorsi glistening from perspiration.
"I used to be Iggy Pop," he relates. I used to paint myself with all kinds of colors, like I was a piece of art, but it was a stage I passed through."
Now, instead of painting himself, Iggy is going through a metamorphosis into roadside debris.
"His face always has this deranged pout," comments Marna Josell, a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. "You can't always see it because he is always moving so fast, and the way he tears hunks of his flesh you'd think he was made to self-destroy."
Iggy incurs most of the injuries unknowingly, often scratching himself with the microphone or burning himself from swirling its long cord around his body, becoming bound up the way the Apaches used to torture the cavalry men.
"The music drives me into a peak freak. I can't feel any pain or realize what goes on around me. I'm just feeling the music and when I dive into a sea of people, it is the feeling of the music, the mood. Nobody ever knows how it's going to end up."
Of all the Stooges' material (which is written cooperatively amongst themselves), "1969" describes best the mood which the Stooges radiate.
... well, it's 1969, o.k.,
all across the U.S.A.
Another year for me and you,
another year with nothing to do.
"People just want to be entertained," Scott remarks. They're out to have a good time because they're afraid of life. Instead of doing things, people are usually content with talking a big game. We do what we feel, people can take it or leave it."
The Stooges were about ready to crash out after a long day. Iggy stands up on one of the hotel beds and goes into some of his pre-bedtime acrobatics. Bouncing up and down in the bed, as if it were a stage, he points a scornful index finger down to the ground.
"Used to do these moves back home with Question Mark and the Mysterians when they'd come through town...They were a bunch of Puerto Rican dudes from Saginaw, and a killer group," Ig remembers. "They were being what they really were, but nobody stopped to figure them out. They were 'out kids' just like us. After '96 Tears', everything was a drag for them. That's what happens when your music gets misunderstood."
The Stooges have been another classic case of mis-handling by their record company (Elektra). At first the company was trying to sell them as freaks, and it's now trying to make them into Top-40 idols. Despite it all, they are musicians and talented ones, particularly Iggy. The talk is that ex-Steve Miller Band organist Jim Peterman (check out his superb work on their first two albums) will be producing their second Stooges album and, if so, the Stooges may have a worthy record.
The Seventies lie ahead for the Stooges. They are still a young group and have many many changes to go through. With one album under their belts, a second effort may destroy itself and your whole stereo system. If you ever catch them live, be sure to have an ambulance ready and, just in case, a garbage can.
[From Issue 55 — April 2, 1970]