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...

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