Metallic KO Flashback: The Mercenaries of Time (Part 1)
The last Iggy and the Stooges show. Michelle Dawn Saint Thomas photo.
I was oblivious to it at the time but the signs were all around. The counter-culture scene in early '70s Detroit was in a state of free-fall, towards a tragic demise from its epic creative height of the '60s.
Plum Street's attempted bohemian arts colony had completely collapsed, along with efforts by local artists to establish a street fair on Woodward Avenue similar to that in Montreal. The existing brick and mortar business were strictly opposed to this effort, in the belief that when people came downtown the local artists would seize profits from the larger stores of the establishment.
Problem was, people were just not venturing downtown like they used to. Life had changed. Two major aspects, one, the “white flight” exodus, and two, the high crime rate, were keeping people away from Detroit. Plus, something new was on the horizon: the suburban shopping mall. Why travel beyond your neighborhood community when all could be found locally?
Michelle Dawn Saint Thomas photo.
Iggy and the Stooges
+ Elephant’s Memory
Michigan Palace, February 9, 1974
One would think that the release of White Panther leaders John Sinclair and Pun Plamondon would have sparked more energy in the air in terms of a revolutionary earnestness. However, there was something destroying the inner city culture that all the radical politics and bohemian artists in the world were unable to prevent.
An inner city struggle for a greater share of a shrinking pool of decreasing financial resources was inevitable. False hope was held by the ever-dwindling diehards. Some said that Detroit would make a comeback: a phoenix rising, the Renaissance Center, and all that jazz. But it didn't.
The toll was staggering. Motown left the city. Eventually, the music icon whose very band was representative of the power and glory when Detroit had exploded musically and creatively, Rob Tyner of the MC5, would himself depart Detroit for Birmingham, a suburb on the outskirts of the city.
It was in these years that the mighty bands of the Motor-City and the surrounding areas began a downward tumble. I thought of the phrase that I had heard manically repeated during one of my past trips: “It is time for you to read the signs.” Yes, it was true, the signs were apparent, and I knew others must have seen them as well.
As the symptoms of the decline became impossible to ignore, two questions came to mind. Why would a city become a perpetrator of its own implosion? And why would a nation's power elite allow one of their top ten cities to collapse?
It was the circumstances of this era that my thoughts kept returning to, and I became obsessed with the idea of somehow altering history. Was it possible that the events of the past could be changed? And if so, how?
I knew that I could effectively travel back to the past, and was getting pretty good at arriving at my targeted destinations in time. But as I looked through my hotel window at the surrounding wasteland that encircled downtown Detroit, my mind again became enraptured with the thought: Could there be an alternative reality to what I was seeing?
In this mindset I pondered, and into this time frame my thoughts latched unto.
Although many years had passed and much had transpired since the time of Detroit's glory days, the thought of Michigan's very own Palace being just a rotting curtain on a stage in the parking lot of a vacant city was more than I could bear. This was the image that became the catalyst in my premeditated attempt to alter history.
For most of the Palace acts I had attended in my youth, I had been accompanied by my good friend Julie. However, for some reason or another, I could not remember why, I had originally attended The Stooges' concert solo. This fact just made my decision easier. I could not tolerate any distractions. There were to be no encumbrances to influence my moves in my quest to alter events, and to that end my re-attendance of this concert was to be the ultimate test in my most righteous plan.
My first appearance at this concert had been cut short due to the violence of the crowd. But I had never really understood why a local crowd would vent in such a terrible manner to a local band, especially one that was beginning to make inroads to national acclaim.
What had compelled segments of the audience to be so demonstratively hostile? How could I possibly alter that? What could I myself do to change anything at all? I was not a player of any sort, not a producer, musician, celebrity. No, I was just a young kid, barely out of my bubblegum waifish years.
I was stymied. Then I latched onto the idea of testing my hypothesis, and to this end I made a simple enough plan.
I would purchase a camera prior to the concert, and see if I could take photos of the event, and have the photos in the new time stream after the event. Not exactly a life changing alteration to anything, let alone time itself. But if this idea worked, I would have the proof I needed that time itself could be changed by virtue of this time travel photographic magic. The rest, of course, would begin a journey into an incredibly dramatic pursuit!
It would take two hits of acid. I immediately dropped one, and began my thought process. The first hit would take me back to the time period. The second hit was required to obtain the intensity I needed to achieve the desired effect, thereby attaining my goal. It would be a trip within a trip.
The first was easy enough. I floated through time and space. My landing, although spinning, was surprisingly relaxing, and I was soon back in 1974 on the day of the concert, once again, alone in the front room of my parents' home in Lincoln Park.
I then tore the second tab from the WMP Pursuit card that I had brought along with me, and, taking a deep breath, I readied myself and prepared to change fate. I knew that my idea to transverse this realm solo was the ideal and only way. After all, I would need to be in top form and focus my entire energies upon the task.
I had no idea how I was to deal with the events, nor what I might expect to occur once the time streams had been altered.
This was indeed going to be an outrageous adventure! I started my turntable spinning with the licorice pizza of The Stooges' newest, which I had recently purchased from a hippie boutique on Dix Avenue, along with an Ann Arbor Sun that had the headline “Weed Wins,” and some incense. I lit the incense. Colours were already forming misty fogs of ever-changing patterns on the carpet.
Then, much like a cue, a guttural belch launched the sounds of “Raw Power”, and the music began to spill into the room. Within a very few moments, I was once again in a glorious time traveling mood. Grasping the cork screw, I opened the Cabernet, sipped some wonderful red, and downed one more tab of acid from the card.
Seemed like only moments passed Can ya feel it, can ya feel it, and again it got me floatin', round and round. God, how I was loving these journeys. Always an exciting adventure, and now, if only to myself, an important mission!
I projected myself upward and outward in astral travel until I spied my '67 Pontiac Catalina motoring on Fort Street within a mile or two of the Palace. Seeing myself in the auto, I made a beeline to my own body and entered it. Simple enough.
I was instantly renewed with my real time thoughts, even allowing myself the necessary time to stop at a drugstore, pick up some smokes, and buy the best possible camera they had. It happened to be an inexpensive Olympus 35mm camera. Smiling, I thought to myself, This is perfect! I knew I did not have this apparatus previously on this outing.
The clerk, happy to make such a nice sale, inquired “Anything else?” “Pack of Kool,” I replied. The amount for the camera and cigs were moderately priced, and I was prepared. I had saved small face denominational bills for this very reason, and they worked like magic. If the clerk had checked he would have discovered that the mint dates were in the '80s, but who would have ever noticed?
Back in my car, I loaded the film into the camera and started the engine, now only minutes away from the Palace. Luck was on my side; I obtained excellent parking adjacent to the venue. Crossing the street towards the Palace, I noticed the bright lights of the marquee displaying “The Stooges” in bold neon. The night so far seemed to be flowing like a breeze.
I paid my admission and entered the main lobby. The palace had elements of the sexy girls in nylons and garters parading with their gentleman friends, remnants of the Dolls show a month or so earlier, but the gritty street rockers of Detroit were much more prevalent in attendance.
I sat for a brief minute and took in some of the beautiful ambiance of the theatre. It was then I was approached by a lean, long-haired rocker. Exchanging introductions, we immediately took a liking to one another. Several years my senior, his name was Dave, and as I accompanied him upstairs to the balcony, I discovered he was from Ann Arbor. We spoke at length and shared a joint while I tested out the camera with a few shots of the first band, Elephant's Memory.
Michelle Dawn Saint Thomas photo.
Dave and I talked about the Stooges in their earlier days, when it seemed everyone knew them as the Psychedelic Stooges. He had been at the Grande many times when they had performed there, and recalled how nearly everybody used to laugh and make fun of them at the time because they could barely play their instruments.
I mentioned how my sister Betty used to speak of them in the worst terms ever: “They just cannot play!” she would say, or: “They sound so distorted you can't even hear proper notes!” Dave laughed as I related this to him, but we both agreed that those very sounds were becoming The Stooges' stock in trade. “I Wanna Be Your Dog” represented this well, but the beauty of this song was its simplicity and gut appeal. It affected you with an angst and sexual ennui that rang true with the teenage condition.
We seemed to be in agreement that Elephant's Memory was just not the proper supporting act for The Stooges. It would have been far better to have had an act such as Detroit 's own superstars The SRC or Frijid Pink, as each band had their own unique distorted fuzz-guitar sound.
Elephant's Memory - who went on to be John Lennon's backing band.
Even The Dogs, with their electrifying high energy, would have been a much better warm up in voltage for both the crowd and The Stooges. After all, where would the rock and roll guitar be without Detroit—we invented electricity!
Following the opening act, Dave wanted to stay in the balcony for a bird's eye view of The Stooges, while I wanted to shoot them from the main floor. So, during the intermission, we said our goodbyes and I headed downstairs. The house speakers blared out the intro; Theme from “Clockwork Orange”, adding an eerie cool vibe to the already exciting atmosphere of the venue.
Making my way closer to the stage, I lit up a cigarette and inhaled—there's always something refreshing about a menthol cigarette to follow up a marijuana high—and awaited The Stooges.
The Stooges were the stand-outs of the Michigan counter-culture music scene. The first years of the '70s saw many of their local contemporaries slowly slipping into the dark crevices of oblivion. Such was the lot with most hippie acts who, by the end of the '60s, had been unable to evolve—musically speaking, they simply had nowhere else to go.
But The Stooges stubbornly refused such a fate; after all, they were never really part of the flower-child set. They did not harmonize the mellow grooves of the free-love generation, but screamed out a raw convulsive energy.
The effects of the grass were still abuzz in my head; I felt excitement flowing in my veins. The Stooges were the creators of three innovative albums, and I was here to rock to any combination of them.
Soon, a Victorian-styled gentleman in a top hat walked to the mike and announced that The Stooges were ready to take the stage. I squeezed up even further and prepared myself for what I had originally believed would be the Detroit kickoff-off to their world-wide fame. Boy, had I ever been mistaken!
The band's stunning appearance on stage visually attracted everyone's attention, even before Iggy's arrival. They began rocking out an a instrumental reminiscent of earlier Grande days. It was weird to see Ron on bass and the sound certainly had that eerie vibration to show for it. To hear someone on bass playing a lead-like rhythm to the pounding beat of the drums was something you'd never expect, but only with The Stooges could it be a method.
But as for Williamson on lead, who I had never seen previously with the band, with his space-age glitter well beyond current fashion, offered up an astonishing orchestration of vicious fuzz guitar. The drumming kicked in and the theme harkened back to the days of “Shake Appeal,” which rocketed the music forcefully outward to the crowd.
They held this vibe for minutes the sound oscillated with trappings of a hypnotic trance that began to get the kids in the crowd boppin' to its manic beat. Everything at this point seemed to be going exceptionally well, and with the added promise of this being an incredible show.
The beat grew stronger, James slamming his axe near center stage, and Ron to his brother's right banging the bass notes down. Ron being dressed provocatively in military jacket, and swastika armband, appeared to have a air of Fascistic fascination. How groovilly decadent I thought, this was so way cool visually that it was exciting to even see, let alone hear.
In a language of musical terms that fondly described two of the most prominent bands known in Detroit. If the MC5 were the high energy of a powerful acid induced locomotive, The Stooges were the results of the glorious psychedelic mayhem of its chaotic train wreck!
I first thought that they would segue-way into “Loose” but the band's angle of attack was in an bizarre cacophony of Williamson's guitar twanging out screeching notes in typical Stooge fashion. Then dancing with a primal out of control instinctive angst appeared Iggy dressed provocatively in black leotards and flaunting a ballerina's tu-tu dancing like a magical imp, and moving catlike across the stage more or less in sequence to the music and over to the center microphone stand.
The band's maniacal musical pace intensified. Firing fuzzed out volleys of splattering notes, their sound was like the noise of a head-on car crash. Yes, these were The Stooges, so insanely unsettling, like an overdose of a San Francisco speed-ball—heroin and cocaine mixed with LSD—their sound so diametrically opposed to their '60s flower-children counterparts.
“Cock In My Pocket” was slammed out in such a disturbingly wicked manner that it captured the feel of the band's beginnings as the Psychedelic Stooges. So much so that I believed everyone in attendance would undoubtedly rock out to this. However, to the contrary, it got real twisted, real fast.
Their devastatingly acid sound flowed easily from one song to the next. It wasn't like there was much of a break in the chords. Perhaps they began another song, I could not tell, but I began seeing bizarre trails of colourful flying objects targeted towards the stage. I was momentarily taken aback. What the hell?!
The chaotic power of the music, twined together with Iggy's sarcastically vulgar vocals, had unleashed the worse in a segment of the audience. Coins, food and other objects were thrown. Bottles shattered on the stage, a few nearly missing the targeted head of the spastically moving front man himself.
The band continued jamming out their unique madness of auditory dementia, but were barely able to finish the piece amidst the barrage of Stooge-seeking missiles. Iggy pranced about wildly, taking verbal shots at various audience members with quick-witted profanity.
All the while, Williamson held his ground like an out-numbered soldier on the front flank, stage-left. The Asheton brothers were positioned back a bit; ironically, Ron, in his commanding military attire, appeared dressed for the event, and seemed initially unfettered by the continuous airborne assault of objects. Scott, in his black “Detroit Wheels” Tee, was perhaps the best protected, his kit offering somewhat of a shield.
Being pelted left and right, The Stooges for a time held their ground, and the band played on till it was near impossible to do so. By this point, the stage was littered with broken glass and other miscellaneous debris. Boos and jeers prevailed. Those who had come to see a Stooges performance were in a very distressed state. The Palace had been transformed into a demented hall of havoc. When a flying bottle made direct impact with and exploded off of James' guitar, they had had enough. James unplugged his instrument and they all walked off...
However, those in the crowd that were fans quickly became very vocal and united in voice for The Stooges, Stooges, Iggy, Iggy... till the members returned back on stage one after another.
I remembered the concert from New Year's and with all the variations of styles that the rockers wore, and the words of a mod that I met at the Dolls concert on New Year's Eve and a conversation with him about music, and his speaking about mod mentality vs. mob mentality. Gee, I thought it truly made sense, especially now. This venue could certainly use some of this valuable mod thinking right now.
And in seconds Williamson began firing out the salvos again with the combination of piano and pounding percussion the Stooges were back with a blistering counter attack. Some in the crowd still continued throwing items, I myself grabbing the arm of a kid throwing small objects on stage, and when he protested, my threatening a bitch slap made him quickly fade away.
A momentary respite in the mood of the crowd as those fans of the Stooges took control of the whimsical attitude of those hostile in the audience. Another bottle broke on stage right between Iggy and James, but then the others could take no more the band again departed, the debris cluttering stage again.
It was all but over, the top-hatted emcee came out requesting in no uncertain terms that the people responsible had to exit the palace, some did, but conflicts were everywhere.
In the backdrop, I was frantically snapping a shot here and there, extremely eager to see the band retake the stage, as I knew from my future reality that this was to be their last show. Yes, The Stooges were to return again, this I knew, but what magic was it that would make this happen, what did I miss the first time here, I thought to myself as the mayhem reigned and fights broke out here and there. The Palace being now a total madhouse.
It was then, when I glanced upward, towards the balcony stage left that I saw him, the Amaranthine himself, illusionist and prankster.... Satori Circus.
End of Part One (stay tuned for the exciting conculsion in part 2)
"The Mercenaries of Time" Part 1, is an excerpt from "The Incredible Adventures of Mischa" by Michele Saint Thomas who was at the Metallic KO show.