Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What Raw Power meant to me

Having acquired and then begun listening repeatedly and regularly to "Raw Power" I began to do what research I could on this band and their frontman. I read about him in that acme of great rock 'zines Creem Magazine (who's function as an engine of positive societal/cultural change has yet to be approximated, let alone matched). I joined the fan club (I still have the materials I rec'd in the mail - some postcards: Iggy with his dick out I thinks; a xeroxed newsletter). I sought out and purchased copies of the first two Stooges album; in '73 these had already become relatively collectible -- I think I bought "The Stooges" and "Fun House" on different occasions at Cheap Thrills in New Brunswick, NJ for about $10 each -- very price for a broke ass college student. But a sound investment nonetheless.

Suddenly it was announced that the Stooges would play a week's residency Upstairs at Max's Kansas City. Those being kinder, gentler times, even the arts editor of a college paper could get on the Columbia Records guest list (+1 no less! thank you Arnie Handwerger!), getting to attend on one of the last day or two of the residency.

I dunno how many folks remember that club -- I'll tell ya, it was pretty neat (for a corndog from NJ at least). The upstairs club was a separate entity from the notorious scenester hang out situated on the first floor (where folks from Warhol's Factory, situated nearby, would hold court along with folks like the immortal Danny Fields, visiting hep dignitaries of the day like Lou Reed, Bowie, etc.) You went up a long, narrow staircase to the second floor and there was some open space, then a narrow hallway to the stage area where there was enough room for 10 rows of folding chairs, 10 to a row (as I remember it -- mighta been a few more per row, but not many).
For some reason the club was also very generous towards college paper arts editors and comped me to many a great show (Howlin' Wolf, Charles Mingus, Manhattan Transfer, Fanny, Richie Havens performing with his a capella doo wop group, John Martyn, OY!). It was a pretty cozy and very friendly atmosphere.

The night of this Stooges show was a bit different. There was a BIG ASS line out front of the club, winding down Lexington Ave. -- a couple hundred folks waiting were clearly not going to get in. I had some nervous moments until a lady from Columbia Records (it might have been Marilyn Laverty) walked down the line asking after people on the label guest list and in we went (I was in the company of a high school chum, the great Gay essayist Ted Witomski -- RIP, bro).

The place was buzzing with anticipation and some morbid curiousity. A day or two into the residency, Iggy, famously, rolled around the stage atop glass shards from a broken bottle and gashed himself up pretty good and was taken to the hospital to be stitched up; at the time this was unheard of and deemed fairly extreme. So the last few dates including this one had been postponed a bit.

We took our seats toward the back (i.e. 7 rows from the front of the tiny stage). I started looking around and started to sense a disparity in the demographics represented here. Plenty of rock intelligentsia and downtown hipsters present, but -- on overhearing some conversations -- evidently significantly less sophisticated folks, some kinda desperate kids who appeared to be operating on a heightened/lowered level of consciousness, likely accessed via some kinda nasty street drugs. Some of these folks who not make it to the end of the concert, suddenly erupting in a blind frenzy out of their seat, charging the stage and quickly being subdued and tossed out the door by the club staff.

And out came the Stooges...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Roar Power - ruminations on the Stooges

This one's going to take a while and multiple posts. So, Columbia Legacy has released a Deluxe version of Iggy & The Stooges "Raw Power." There are several editions available. They all feature a remastered version of David Bowie's mix on one disc, a live show from Atlanta on another, as well as two studio outtakes. The super deluxe version which you can only buy off some Stooges' website also includes a third CD of more outtakes and several alternate mixes, two of which are from Iggy's '96 remix of "Raw Power." And this special edition also features a documentary DVD with a buncha recent interviews and one recent performance by the current Stooges line-up: Iggy, James Williamson on guitar, Scott Asheton on drums, mike watt on bass (he's been in the Stooge's line up since 2003) and Steve Mackay (who played on FunHouse). And there's a booklet full of vintage pix and recent short essays and testimonial quotes from the likes of Henry Rollins, Marky Ramone, etc. AND a little envelope of facsimiles of vintage photographs AND a 7" single - a facsimile of a Japanese release. The package is 7" x 7" and reproduces a worn copy of the vinyl album cover.

It's all very nicely done, lots of attention to detail. SO... this is music that's been part of my life almost 40 years now. I do own a small stack of Bomp! and Skydog releases revolving around it - rehearsal tapes, live recordings, alternate mixes, radio airchecks of still more alternative mixes etc...

It all started at Rutgers College where I was the Arts Editor of the daily student paper, The Targum (fellow staffers included Larry Sutton who's bounced from the NY Daily News to People Magazine to the NY Post, and Jim Testa, the editor of venerable NY/NJ underground music journal Jersey Beat -- STILL going strong 30 years later!). Some guy walks in, asks for me, and hands me a typewritten review; his dad was a music critic for some local paper and he regularly grabbed the rock albums from pop's stacks. He was reviewing something called "Raw Power" by "Iggy & The Stooges." I'd never heard of 'em. But, man, his review made this sound like something else! Primal, explosive; maybe as rocking as Led Zeppelin! So I called up my contact at Columbia Records and asked them send me a copy.

It arrived about a week later and I probably rushed back to the group house I lived in then, right after dinner (I'm postulating - don't actually remember). I do remember plopping it on my roommate's stereo, sitting back on my mattress and... OUT BLASTS "SEARCH & DESTROY." And I underwent a paradigm shift -- I understood that this was the most vital music I'd ever heard (and it'd turn out to be amongst the most vital I'd EVER hear). It felt like a pure expression of the life force pulsing thru flesh, animating it, moving it to quest, search, strive, seek experience.

And like taking opened a door that couldn't be closed. It changed my experience of being alive, made me aware of levels of intensity of experience that were not the norm but were attainable if you knew what to look for, were willing to make the effort to attain it and to pay the price for having such experience.

The rest of the songs were amazing as well...they seemed to examine and reveal different realms of existence and experience that all seemed novel and exotic to a lower middle class kid from Jersey City; utterly tantalizing, powerfully seductive. And now my life was changed in oh so many ways...
(a lot more to come)

record geek ruminations

I had a note from Melora Creager, the founder and leader of cello-driven art rockers Rasputina in which she made a querulous reference to the term "record" regarding Rasputina's upcoming 7th full length release "Sister Kinderhook" which sparked me to respond with the following, which I now share with you for no esp. good reason!

"record" is still a valid term for what a full length release
it still is a "recording" of sound events
and a permanent "record" of those sound events
"album" is still valid too.
people forget the genesis of the term
sound recordings were initially cylinders that captured one performance
then flat platters that had one performance per side
in order to capture longer pieces of music - symphonies and the like
you'd use multiple flat discs that would be gathered in a booklet - basically they adapted the format use for PHOTO ALBUMS - hence the name
so it still betokens a collection of recordings of multiple sound events
CD = Compact disc - it's the medium
LP, hmmm that's "Long playing" so actually that could apply to something that appears on CD
12" LP album would be the most accurate terminology

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


We have predators as part of our household. In the past, dogs, currently, cats. And they do get to prowl outside, at least the backyard. And every now and then they will do what comes naturally and leave the evidence around to help us to learn to hunt.

To me it's always sad to find the remains of some little being dispatched from manifestation by members of our household, but such is the way of the world.

Today, I hear a squirrel giving the squirrel alert outside my upstairs window. Usually meaning they've spied one of our cats. Which is no big deal. But I decide to take a peak and see which cat it is. I see Stella, who's all black, on the ground with something large and grey in her mouth. I pause, take another look - it's moving!

I give a shout and tap on the glass to startle Stella - breaking the glass in the process. That gets her attention and she drops what she's got in her mouth. I go tearing down stairs and out side expecting the worst.

I find a baby bunny rabbit - lying still but not bloody. After a few second it gives a kick and opens its eyes. Tries to hop off but sorta fumbles around. I run back inside, pick up a USPO bin and gloves and gather up the rabbit. It gives a squeak of distress. I place it in the bin on a wash cloth (for traction). It's still sort of flopping but no blood at all. Eyes wide open. Sits up. One paw is flopping out to the side. I call our vet to see if he'll just examine the bunny as I know he won't treat feral animals and he won't.

Meanwhile the bunny is getting more alert, more active and moving around the bin. It seems like the shock is wearing off. It's keeping all four paws under itself.

Consulting with the missus, we guess that the rabbit's nest is in hole in the garden shed in the next yard. I take the bin out, prise up the fence so there's a clear path to the hole, slowly tilt over the bin and the bunny goes scurrying out, over to and down the hole, taking a quick peek backwards before disappearing.

This is the ending to this sort of encounter that ya pray for!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

video mother lode!

Yesterday, hopefully, I "bottomed" on my current NOLA obsession. I went searching for a capella Mardi Gras Indian recordings (as noted in my preceding post) and found them scarce as hens teeth. Having downloaded the only thing readily available, the bee was buzzing in my bonnet so I started bugging friends who are involved with releasing music of the general exotic/archival sort. My goal was to get someone down to NOLA with field recording equipment asap as it does seem that this particular tradition is in a relatively perilous position -- not distinctly poised for inevitable quick extinction but dicey enough that documenting it soon seemed important.

One friend, who works at the Association For Cultural Equity - the organization (a grand term considering the reality -- seedy offices behind the Port Authority with a handful of staffers, most of whom are part time at this juncture I believe -- clearly they don't spend the grant money they get on their own comforts!) who do a grand job of curating the archives amassed by the legendary folklorist Alan Lomax.

From the 1930's onwards John Lomax, followed by his son Alan were among the foremost documenters of "folk" musics in the world. They paid especial attention to American musical culture, MOST especially (but not exclusively) African American. To crudely sum up some of their central theses -- which were declared preposterous by their colleagues when first stated (!!!!) -- 1) that African American folk music had in fact evolved from African forms rather than being merely "degenerate" forms of European music (John had to leave the American Folk Music Society -- which he'd founded -- over this "heresy") 2) that the hopes, dreams, fears of African American peoples -- all the things that spoke so eloquently of their travails AND common humanity with European derived peoples -- were powerfully present in their music AND if that music were to confront the whites of America that they'd inevitably come to fully accept blacks as their equals and fight to make sure that their civil and human rights were established and zealously supported. Hard to understand how radical these thoughts were back then, but they, sadly, were.

Eventually Lomax's dreams came to fruition. Clearly not fully yet, but...times have changed somewhat from days when he was chased from Memphis side streets by the police for having a casual conversation with black citizens till today when we have a black President.

So that's who he was (ever so briefly).

But what he'd done that's pertinent to the opening discussion, was to visit New Orleans in 1982 and make extensive video tapes of musical performances by Mardi Gras Indian krewes, R&B performers (Ernie K-Doe!), brass bands, etc., interviews with these folks among others and much much more. And it's all accessible FOR FREE here:

There's TONS of other materials accessible here (15,000 songs!). but this is a cool place to start.