Gimme Danger – The Stooges
by Madeline Bocaro
At the New York City premier of Gimme Danger in Lincoln Center on October 1, 2016, Iggy and director Jim Jarmusch arrived on the red carpet to wild accolades.
This wonderful film captures the spirit of the Stooges through astonishing unseen photos and live footage of the band, and the voices of its’ members. Gimme Danger is entirely narrated by Iggy (wearing a ‘Street walking cheetah’ t-shirt) who despite all the years of beating his brain with liquor and drugs remembers all the minute details of every recording session, and every reason behind the madness that is the Stooges.
The Stooges’ serious determination, struggles and dedication to their noise is the crux of the story. A school trip to Detroit’s Ford motor plant sets the ‘mega-clang’ soundtrack to young Iggy’s musical sensibility. Iggy talks of his first band, the Iguanas, traveling alone to Chicago to play drums with fine blues musicians (“As I smoked a joint by the river, I realized that I was not black.”) and his return to Ann Arbor to form the Stooges. At first they were novices playing blenders, oil drums and vaccuum cleaners. The Stooges hone their chops playing live and in the studio. Enter drugs, and they self-destruct.
Retro film and television clips are inserted at the perfect moments, as wacky punch lines. All of my favorite characters are in the film! As Iggy describes his provocative baboon-like stage antics, up comes the unpredictable Clarabell the Clown on the Howdy Doody show. When Iggy recalls the Stooges’ first album producer John Cale in his cape with Nico looking like Gomez and Morticia, we see a clip of The Addams Family. Describing his conservation of words in songwriting, Soupy Sales appears doing ‘The Mouse’. Iggy lived in the same model trailer that’s shown in The Long Long Trailer film, starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and there they were! Yul Brynner appears onscreen in The Ten Commandments, as Iggy explains that his consistent lack of a shirt is inspired by the Pharoahs of Egypt. And of course The Three Stooges’ antics are interspersed throughout.
Hilarious animated re-creations assist in the tale, such as that oldie but goodie about Scott crashing the Stooges’ 12-foot high equipment van under a 10-foot high bridge. There are so many of these clever, illustrative clips that I can’t wait for the DVD release so I can see them all again!
Ron respectfully called Moe Howard on the phone to ask him permission to use the name The Psychedelic Stooges. Moe’s answer, “I don’t give a fuck what you call your band as long it’s not The Three Stooges!”
Of course, in most of the concert footage, Iggy is flying through the air, landing upon the crowd. The classic Cincinnati Pop Festival (1970) peanut butter incident is intact, with Iggy propped up by the crowd as he seemingly walks on water. Rare films of Goose Lake Festival, the Whisky and Max’s round out the live excitement.
Iggy denounces the entire hippie era with sneering disdain of songs like ‘Marakesh Express’ and Joe Cocker’s ‘You Are So Beautiful’ with his mocking renditions. Iggy’s infamous quote, ‘I helped wipe out the sixties.’ on US tv’s Dinah! show (1977) is rightfully included. He refuses John Sinclair’s request that the Stooges play during the National Republican convention by doing somersaults – because he was so much against it that he couldn’t say ‘yes’, but also did not want to say ‘no’.
Each member of the Stooges is celebrated for their own input, including Dave Alexander who was the first to leave, and to pass away. There are interview clips of James Williamson, and the Ashetons who are remembered and revered by Iggy and their sister Kathy. Other instrumental people like first manager Danny Fields, sax player Steve Mackay and bassist Mike Watt had their say, but there were no unnecessary talking heads as in usual documentaries. This was a refreshing, hilarious and incredible testament to the Stooges’ persistence and belief in themselves.
Metallic K.O. the Stooges’ infamous final gig in 1974 (before re-forming in 2002) is briefly mentioned. However, the audio of the beer bottle clanging against the mic stand, and Iggy’s words “Thank you very much to the person who threw that glass bottle at my head, you nearly killed me but you missed again. Keep trying next week.” is included. They did mention that it was at a biker bar, and Iggy’s threats to the motorcycle gang whose leader pummeled him.
It would have been nice to mention the arsenals of food, mostly condiments that were thrown at the Stooges, and smeared upon Iggy through the years, with an analysis of this strange phenomenon. My personal favorite is when Iggy was smeared with blueberry Tastykakes – erroneously reported as a jelly sandwich. (I actually met the guy who brought them to the gig). Iggy was dragged backstage and given immediate medical care, as it was assumed he was covered in blood (as he often was). The film does not address the abuse of Iggy’s body, which he now prefers to down-play, yet it was a huge part of his psyche and also of the Stooges demise. However, his telling of his trip to a pet store – L.A’s Bowzer Boutique – to purchase the fashionable red dog collar was redeeming, especially when Scotty (sitting next to Iggy during this interview) agrees that it did look good!
Iggy praises James Williamson’s guitar playing, likening him to a drug sniffing dog that ‘gets right in there and infiltrates every nook and cranny of the space.’ This is why Iggy sings an octave higher on Raw Power than on Funhouse, because he had to find space for himself amidst the stellar guitar work.
The titles were in the now iconic Raw Power blood-dripping font, which Iggy had originally hated when he saw it splashed on the album cover for the first time. Iggy does not speak fondly of their move to London at Bowie’s beckoning, although the two were to become great friends and collaborators later on. He deplores involvement with Tony Defries’ Mainman management, which banned the Stooges from performing live. The infamous Scala performance, at which all of London’s future punks learned their craft at the feet of the Stooges, is mentioned. Banishment to Los Angeles was the band’s final demise, stifled by Defries, leading to a deeper submergence into drugs.
The movie includes Iggy’s powerful acceptance speech when the Stooges were inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, and their two reunions (with the Ashetons, and with Williamson after Ron Asheton’s passing). It ends with clips of several bands covering Stooges songs; The Sex Pistols, The Damned, Sonic Youth, and Bowie.
Iggy now declares triumphant revenge against kids that he had admired in school, who made fun of his family dwelling and bullied Iggy by physically shaking the trailer he lived in.
In the end, Iggy adamantly proclaims, “I don’t want to belong to the Glam people, Alternative people, any of it. I don’t wanna be a Punk… I just wanna be.”
Finally, a dedication to those who have left us; Ron, Scott, Dave, and Steve Mackay.
A bubbly smiling Iggy descended from the balcony (jokingly threatening a dive into the crowd from up there) for a Q&A with Jarmusch after the film. He was asked about his ode to the former Stooges on his 1977 album The Idiot. Iggy said that the song title ‘Dum Dum Boys’ was suggested by David Bowie, after the dumdum bullet.
Another asked about using his body as an instrument. Iggy spoke of banging his Tinker Toys on their containers as a child, and that he was originally a drummer with a strong relationship with rhythm. “Sometimes I think I’m James Brown sometimes I’m an American Indian and sometimes I’m Jerry Lewis.”
It’s beyond amazing that Iggy is one of the final surviving Stooges, and that he was actually here with us (at age 69) to bask in the glory tonight.
(The film is by Real Low Mind productions – an error if they really meant ‘Real O mind’ from “Down on the Street”.)