The Stooges


Although originally a Cleveland based band, The Stooges, fronted by Iggy Pop, were influenced greatly by seeing the Velvet Underground perform and themselve had an immeasurable influence upon the New York scene. The Stooges had only been playing together for 6 months when Danny Fields from Elektra Records saw them perform and immediately signed them to produce an album, but they already had their own “sabre-toothed fury.” Their sets rarely ran over 25 minutes, the bulk of which was spent on songs that could not really be called songs. Iggy knew nothing about writing music or making chord changes and no one cared until they had to put out an album. The would just have one song and keep changing its title with the intent to jam on it a little differently that time. And while the rest of the band improvised their songs on the spot, building to a state of frenzy where they would suddenly realize a guitar was broken or someone’s hand was bleeding profusely, Iggy did his stage acrobatics and maintained his unique style of audience interplay.

Iggy had gone beyond performance – to the point where it really was some kind of psychodrama. It exceeded conventional theatre. He might do anything. That was his act. He didn’t know what he was going to do when he got up there on the stage. It was exciting. I’d just watch him and I’d think, "Wow, this guy will stop at nothing. This isn’t just a show – he’s out of his mind!"…I remember when he started taunting the crowd with broken bottles…I think he got to where he didn’t really have any respect for the audience. So he’d do things to see what would get a response.

-John Sinclair

On August 29, 1969, The Stooges shared the bill with MC5 at the State Pavilion in Queens. Although the band would make some of its most infamous appearances in New York, this first time they were just watched by a small crowd there to see what all the fuss was about. Iggy’s final act before leaving the stage was to cut long welts into his chest with a pair of drumsticks. The crowd loved it.

At later New York shows, Iggy would be even more extreme. He would do anything to elicit a reaction. He attempted to step off the stage and walk on the crowd (which, although a successful stunt in Cleveland failed with a New York audience slightly less inclined to be stepped on by the band); he rolled in broken glass; he gouged himself with a glass bottle; and he fought all the biggest guys from the audience, knowing that he could never win the brawl.

[Iggy] started out doing self-destructive things because that was the way he felt. Then it got to be expected. He’d just try to top himself for the crowd. We would often say "Give it up Iggy"…He tried to top himself every time. I was waiting for him to kill himself

-Ron Asheton.

The Stooges were not the only Cleveland band to gain popularity in New York. The two cities were enduring similar troubles in the 1960s (Cleveland's in fact starting earlier) and the frustration and agression brewing could be understood and shared by both.


LISTEN to The Stooges - Search and Destroy / (music off).