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Iggy and The Stooges

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James Osterberg started out as a drummer with the Detroit-based Iguanas. They released a cover of Bo Diddley’s “Mona,” that didn’t do much, so the band split. However, Osterberg picked up the name “Iggy” (short for Iguana) because of his squeamish appearance when performing. The band also had future Stooge, Ron Ashton. Iggy’s next stop, the Prime Movers also bit the dust, so young Iggy moved to Chicago where he found some session work. But session work had long hours and rotten pay, necessitating a return to Michigan. It was after seeing Jim Morrison (the Doors’ vocalist) in concert that Iggy decided he wanted to sing.

The Stooges consisted of Iggy Stooge (later changed to “Pop”), Ron Ashton (guitar), Scott Ashton (drums) and David Alexander (bass). Elektra Records signed them and their debut self-titled LP hit in ‘69. The album stood in stark contrast to the flower-power generation’s peace and love vibe. It didn’t sell very well even though it contained the classic “1969.” Here Iggy pondered the trials and tribulations of 21- and 22-year-olds and summed it all up with a “boo-hoo.” Their second album, Fun House, installed Steven McKay on sax. It didn’t sell either. But albums only told part of the story. Far and away, the Stooges were a live act - but not so much for musical reasons. In concert, Iggy went way beyond the Morrison-type theatrics. Drugs had a lot to do with it. And there was the infamous New York show where he puked on the front row audience. By ‘71, the band was toast. Drug problems and band conflicts had taken their toll. Iggy moved back home with his parents.

Meanwhile, Bowie had seen footage of a ‘70 Stooges’ concert and was impressed. He met with Iggy in ‘72 and they put the band back together. Raw Power, credited to Iggy and the Stooges and produced by Bowie, was recorded in London in an effort to keep Iggy away from heroin. The record company wanted a commercial album as opposed to the Stooges’ standard fare. Bowie didn’t succeed but he didn’t fail either. Call it a draw.

Iggy and The Stooges hit the road with wild performances that often resulted in injuries to both the band and the audience. Iggy maimed himself on a regular basis. During one concert a disgruntled motorcycle gang member climbed up on the stage and punched out Iggy apparently taking offense at something he said. The end of the road came (again) in ‘74 after a concert in Detroit. No record label wanted anything to do with them. Iggy and Bowie continued their occasional partnership into the ‘80s. Iggy showed up here and there as both an actor and musician. The surprising thing was the Stooges’ ringleader made it out alive.

After a couple decade hiatus, Iggy recorded with The Stooges, Ron and Scott Asheton (the surviving members), on the ‘03 release Skull Ring. Iggy was also backed Green Day and Sum 41.

Following the success (nobody died) of the Skull Ring sessions, it seemed evitable that there would be another full-fledged Stooges album. The aptly-titled The Weirdness hit in ‘07.

Probably no one thought The Stooges would find their way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but in ‘10 they finally did just that (after being eligible for 16 years). The induction highlight was a typically exuberant performance of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” with Iggy and company joined by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Jeff Ament.

Their newest, Ready to Die (2013), finds Iggy Pop, guitarist James Williamson and drummer Scott “Rock Action” Asheton reunited for a full album of all-new material with Mike Watt filling in for the late Ron Asheton on bass. The results are the closest thing to a time capsule to 1973 - or at least to Iggy’s subsequent efforts with Williamson, including 1977’s Kill City and 1979’s New Values - that rock ‘n’ roll is likely to proffer in this millennium. The new album’s opening one-two of “Burn” and “Sex & Money” pair sublimely blunt and self-explanatory subject matter with back alley razor-blade guitars and a troglodytic rhythmic stomp as intensely single-minded as Iggy’s lyrical statements of intent. Elsewhere on the album, anthems abound in the form of the most dead-on rallying cry for the lower-working-class dispossessed to date - the succinctly and aptly titled “Job” - as well as a title track that mixes a signature Iggy Pop mission statement of angry desperation with guitar pyrotechnics that recall those halcyon opening salvos of “Search & Destroy.”

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