Gimme Danger was for me a must see. When I was a teenager in the early seventies there would be occasional snippets in the music press about this shambolic band from America with their crazed front man and chaotic nihilistic live shows. The tales were fascinating and captured my imagination. The Stooges were different and dangerous. Photos were scarce and where I lived there was absolutely no chance that I would ever see them in the flesh. Distance increased the interest. One could imagine the journalists clicking on their typewriters and faxing their stories to London and then three weeks later we would get the music papers in South Africa. It all seemed very romantic to this young teenager. A postcard from the edge of society and I was intrigued.
The music in the film is of course superb. It is hard to beat “I wanna be your dog”, “Not Right”, “Funhouse”, “Search and Destroy” and “Gimme Danger” all at max volume. The spirit of the Velvet Underground, avant-garde jazz, James Brown, the Rolling Stones and Bowie all shine through. Bowie is barely mentioned and mostly in context with manager Tony de Fries who allegedly put the Stooges career on ice. The music industry is not a nice business.
The vintage live footage is stunning and and there are several scenes that I had not seen before. It is great to see the clips in improved best available quality on a large screen at high volume. The footage is truly wild. I was fascinated by how fucked Iggys teeth were in the Cincinnati Festival footage. This sort of clarity is just not noticeable on YouTube or third generation video tape. He looks feral filthy and sweaty, totally primal, untamed.
The story is mainly told in a sit down interview with Iggy. The dialogue is interesting and informative and Iggy is a captivating narrator but it is what lets the film down. It is mainly told from one mans perspective and so it becomes his story. Great black and white pin stripe trousers.
Behind the beautiful portrait on the front cover of Raw Power is a nightmare with no fairy tale ending except for the man on the cover and it took a long time and much injury for him to eventually achieve success. You can’t fault his perseverance which is exceptional. Yet it all seems a little too late and at the end of the film it left me empty. So this is what I waited all those years to see?
This music should have been successful 45 years ago, it is young people’s music sophisticated as some of it is. The film simultaneously destroys the myth and adds to it and I don’t know what to think. A lot of his audience these days are not even into the music just the spectacle and the coolness of what he stands for. I sometimes wish he would don a shirt buy a smart suit and become the great crooner that is hidden inside of him. Let him be art and jazz and Sinatra. I think he would dig that too but he is trapped in his myth and past.
Like a lot of good art this story is fueled by anger in this case the hurt caused by 5 frat boys who laughed that their cars where bigger than the trailer that Iggy lived in with his parents. Then one day in an act of bullying they shook the trailer whilst he was in it. He has never forgiven them and I empathize. It is what drove him and continues to drive him.
The chilling moment for me is when Iggy talks about the Stooges sharing everything including ownership of the songs which is something he now seems to regret.
The life of a ex Stooge was not an easy one. The saddest story of all seemed to be that of Scott Asheton who spent his life in minimum wage menial dead end work and seems happily stoned in interviews. Conversely James Williamson disillusioned with recording bands whose music he didn’t like left the music scene for a successful career in technology. He seems the lucky one the one that got away. He comes across well in the film intelligent cheerful straight talking and lucid and is absolutely stunning in the early live footage which I had not seen before. One cool dude back in the day.
I also liked the Danny Fields interview scenes and look forward to seeing the “Danny Says” documentary.
So here is the plan. Compile all the vintage clips from the film together with the bare minimum of interview, listen to all the albums from the seventies line ups including the original 1972 Bowie mix of Raw Power and the unreleased till recently original John Cale mix of the debut, read the biographies from the excellent I Need More onward, see the photos and posters and look for the Metallic KO t shirt silver on black screen print, and you got the story.
And if you are young and starting out take a tip from the Stooges example and find your own thing, go into the unknown and be original.