Front-row seat to debauchery
Theater of Cruelty – Iggy and the Stooges (Easy Action)
And back down the rabbit hole we go…
It’s apparent that all that exists in the way of Stooges demo's and live recordings is probably in the public domain by now. The chances of somebody unearthing another “Goose Lake” desk tape, or a slew of pre-production demos that the band misplaced, is a longshot.
So, Stoogephiles, we are done and dusted.
The people at UK label Easy Action - that’d be former major label exec, Carlton Sandercock, and amateur detective, Graham Ling – were displeased at the lack of care several generations of bootleggers have exercised in chronicling the Stooges.
Albums sourced from aged cassette tapes that have played back at the wrong speed…inaccurate track listings…sets compiled in the wrong order…venues that have been re-named to get you to buy something again (looking at you and your box sets, Cherry Red)…shoddy art. These are a few of their non-favourite things.
The series of gigs Iggy and the Stooges played after cutting ties with the MainMan management machine is arguably one of the most poorly served times in the band’s history. Not because there’s a shortage of material that’s made its way into the public domain, but because most of it hasn’t been done justice.
Is this complaining overblown? Nah. To paraphrase one of The Pop’s frontman primary influences: “Billie Eilish fans don't know but the Stooge fans understand…”
Easy Action has made a good fist of righting these wrongs. There are a couple of small glitches that we won’t go into, but this is as close as you’re going to get as the definitive chronicle of Iggy and the Stooges in their Los Angeles period.
History records that Iggy and the Stooges played 13 dates at the Whisky a Go-Go in Los Angeles over three periods from September-November 1973. Many of the shows, at least on paper, were double-headers. Iggy was in the grip of Dr Morpheus and his various chemical variant nurses, and was being showered with substances by fans who were all too keen to see him collapse on stage. So sometimes there wasn't a late set.
So what's in the box?
Disc One is an eight-song set starting with “Raw Power” and ending with “Open Up and Bleed. It’s a better than good quality audience recording that rates high on the intensity scale, but MVP must go to Ron Asheton whose performance on bass is phenomenal.
The Sunday, September 16 gig is Disc Two. This show is from the second run of three consecutive Whisky shows.
It’s a well-balanced audience recording. The vocals are prominent and the bottom end iwell defined. The piano and guitar are audible. Not all that muddy but not pristine, either. The crowd is obviously small and there’s a sense of intimacy. It's like you're in the common room of a mental health facility.
“Raw Power” barrels into a nine-minute “Head On” with Ron’s intro amounting to an extended bass solo. “Heavy Liquid” showcases some jamming, with the Ashetons holding things steady to indulge some Williamson blowtorching and Iggy histrionics. Scott Thurston is now a Stooge and is allowed to show off his vocal chops on “Open Up and Bleed”, which is a set-closer that extends to almost 12 minutes. It’s a superior version as Thurston gets a bit pitchy on some others.
Disc Three covers an incomplete early set from September 17, and the full late bracket. It’s again as good quality as you’re going to hear from recordings of the Stooges from this period. It’s also previously unreleased.
This one’s notable for the only live recording of “Johanna”, the love-gone-wrong-I-hate-ya-I-love-ya-baby ode to a girl of Ig’s acquaintance. Iggy walks his vocal out for part of it and the song fades out prematurely, but what we hear of it is stunning. It’s not as frenzied as the rehearsal version but more lascivious...as if daddy's rich little girl Johanna was in the house. Which she may have been.
Speaking of, there’s plenty of lewd Iggy banter on Disc Four which comes from two sets on June 20 - which is where short-lived pianist Bob Shef (aka Blue Gene Tyranny) comes into the picture. He flew the coop right after this gig as Iggy and his Stooges were too debauched for his sensibilities. This is notably the only known recording of the Shef-augmented Stooges outside a rehearsal room.
The sound’s a little boxy with Ig buried in the mix, and there are a few songs that are fragmented because the tape didn’t age well or the taper was off his or her chops (just like our favourite well-mannered boy.)
On the upside, the versions of “She Creatures Of The Hollywood Hills” (7min and 11min long) are absolutely monstrous, with Ron Asheton’s monumental bass-playing to the fore again. The second set ends with a blurring of the musical lines, some memorable Iggy words and a dramatic mic drop.
It's deliciously packaged with a richly illustrated booklet full of liners. Maybe it's the preserve of diehards and if you're not, why are you reading this?