By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
By Ray Cummings
By Nicholas Pell
My first reaction when I heard about Rhino Handmade's seven-CD box set of the Stooges' Complete Funhouse Sessionswas that it had to be a product dreamed up by lunatics for lunatics. Take after take after mind-rotting take (19 in all!) of "Loose," among other eternal Iggy relics, available only to a subset of obsessed Netizens with their browsers set to secure encrypted transmission and $120 in the electronic billfold.
But after more examination, it appeared such a well-developed travesty, I had to laugh in appreciation! After all, this is the same Iggy Pop who says in the liner notes to the remastered Raw Powerin the part entitled "Stooges in the Funhouse"that his band's real 1970 audience was "high-school drop-outs, troubled drug kids." A "constituency" such an elegant weasel word for "penniless losers"Elektra Records couldn't and didn't want to market to.
Yep, there's an annoying poetry in the high-grade-steel fact that the Stooges could travel in the space of three decades from music for bottom-out-of-sightersmotorcycle gangsters, their floozies, and lovers of skank weed and roller derby, an audience of such presumed shallow pocket that advertisers ignored them to an item at the pinnacle of weird-computer-snob-driven e-commerce: a domain reserved for those who dump hundreds of dollars a week on the Internet, and a creature never imagined on the broken-glass-littered stages of Michigan or in the dark of Don Galluci's California studio.
Part of the credit, I reckon, must go to Rock Critic Received Wisdoms 101. It's gotten so it is almost impossible to turn around without reading how some band of people not alive in 1970 have made a record that sounds like the Stooges. If it sounds like bad altie hard rock that you should buy anyway because bad altie hard rock is better than whoever is the current favorite critics' scapegoat, it will be claimed to sound like the Stooges. And if it doesn't sound like anything, if it is so glum and nondescript that all that can be determined from it is that people are playing guitars, beating a drum, and shouting loudly, it will be saidby some fanzine editor or David Fricke, somewhere, indeed, many timesto sound like the Stooges.
Pure gold: This is the kind of indirect, relentless hagiography that no amount of cash money can buy. And since it appears, to me, anyway, to have been going on more or less for at least a decade, it has generated a kind of kook Stooges fetish, one visible symptom of which is the Funhouse Sessions.
Stooges kooks, presumably those at which this box set is aimed, seem to have some parallel characteristics with the woozy fans of Star Trek,who can often be found at conventions paying stupid sums of money for trash: crumpled scripts or prosaic items supposedly clutched at one time or another by their heroes.
The Stooges lasted three albums, the third of which was almost accidental. The original Treklasted three seasons, the third of which occurred only after fans conducted a campaign to admonish the network for canceling it after two. Most of the Stooges went nowhere after the end, until VH-1 dug a couple of them up as elder statesmen last year. Most of the original Trekactors went nowhere until conventioneering and movies rescued them a couple decades later. Bill Shatner wore a Nazi uniform in "Patters of Force"; Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton wore a Nazi uniform. Shatner made TJ Hooker; Iggy, at times, seems to have made as many unlistenable albums as there are unwatchable episodes of TJ Hooker. Trek was kept alive by a media mania that gathered steam in fringe sci-fi magazines, where Gene Roddenberry was given God-like status. From the standpoint of rock journalism, Stooge devotion is functionally indistinguishable.
It only stands to reason, then, that Stooges worship will mirror some of the weirder excrescences seen in the Star Trekuniverse. To wit:
Like the production of Star Trek genre science fiction novels in which the same Trekplots are recycled again and again, with only the book covers, names of characters, times, and places subject to change, the endless recycling of wretched Stooges demo tapes released as historical CDs will continue and perhaps even accelerate. Some possible titles: Iggy's Piles Opened Up and Bled for You, Pumping for Jim,and The Ignoble Prizes: Achtung mit Asheton,the latter of which Iggy could claim is a tape of the concert at The Joint in the Woods, where he goaded Ron Asheton into dressing in full SS regalia and introduced the show in Deutsch. (See Iggy's bio I Need Morefor the provenance.)
Star Trek has "KS" literaturesamizdat fiction about forbidden love between Kirk and Spock. Stooges worship will spawn "Jim Bowie" Net fiction, centering on imagined romantic relationships between Iggy and David Bowie.
Inevitably, Stooges conventions will appear. Horrified by his experience with dotcom stalker nerds who bought The Complete Funhouse Sessionsat an early assembly, Jim Osterberg will write another book, published only in Europe, entitled I Am Not Iggy. As the conventions gather interest, old Stooges, A&R types, engineers, and hangers-on associated with the Stooges will realize there is money to be made in speaking at such affairs. James Williamson will be the first to capitalize, giving a $5000 lecture about how his hand was broken in a fight with a roadie for Alice Cooper and what it meant for his professional career. Scott Thurston will speak about how he's tired of being ragged on by nincompoop Tom Petty fans for being an ex-Stooge. Eventually, Iggy will recant his previous book, and receive a handsome publishing contract for two more: tentatively entitled Stooges Memoriesand I AM Still Iggy.