“Be Your Dog”

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CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

BE YOUR DOG

On April 11th, 1970, Apollo Thirteen lifted-off from Cape Kennedy.

On April 12th, “The Stooges” came to Sherwood Forest.

James Osterberg had almost been Valedictorian of his Senior Class in Ann Arbor. He eventually moved in with John Sinclair and the White Panthers at their commune on Hill Street and helped form a band called “The Stooges”.  Sinclair used “The Stooges” as an opening act for his MC5. Mr. Osterberg became “Iggy Stooge”. Other “Stooges” were Ron Asheton on guitar, his brother Scott Asheton on drums and Dave Alexander on bass.

Iggy was extraordinary. Manic comedy became dangerous weirdness, transforming into frightening chaos, changing to raw depravity, shifting to laughable lewdness, transcending into utter madness and concluding with the most disturbing kind of electrified shock-rock imaginable. Iggy was a sight to behold, although not one to share with any female relative, living or dead.

“The Stooges” were a natural complement to the MC5. They were a graphic, hallucinogenic, mind-wrenching,  outrageously-overblown depiction of the decadent “problem” for which the MC5 would provide a “solution”. It was all quite artistic if you took the time to think about it, which very few did.

Iggy had several trick which had become hallmarks of his remarkably creative performance. Iggy would smash a glass bottle over his head, then carve his chest with the shards until interesting and uniquely decorative patterns emerged. Iggy often stood at the very edge of an eight-foot high stage, then toppled-over, diving head-first to the floor below. Iggy might conceal several tablespoons of peanut butter in his shorts and, at the height of performance, plunge his hand down the back of his pants and retrieve a finger covered with a suspicious substance that he would slowly lick and consume with relish. Of course, no one in the audience knew it was peanut butter and automatically assumed the worst or best. That was the whole idea.

“The Stooges” had enjoyed marginal success with their first single release, “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog”. They found even greater popularity with “1969” which had been issued a short time later. I had seen the group perform at Delta College with the MC-5 and, as I introduced them, Iggy had goosed me. I jumped about two feet in the air. It was nothing sexual, just pretextual. Iggy was quite well behaved off stage and we had entered into an engaging conversation. He was equal parts of bafflingly brilliant and truly fucked-up. He had been busted a few nights before in Romeo, Michigan for “exposing himself”, which he honestly didn’t remember doing. “Bummer”, summarized Iggy.

With our anti-obscenity requirements at Sherwood Forest and with Ed Boyce’s continuing cooperation as we honored “community sensitivities”, “The Stooges” were the last band I would ever consider booking. I might as well headline “Butt Fuck Bob and His Masturbating Monkeys”.

But, it’s a world of change in which we live. Electra Records, having signed “The Stooges” as well as MC5, was into a little heavy image adjusting.

You couldn’t get on “American Bandstand” pretending to stick your finger up your ass or using your head as a floor ram. Dick Clark was not into suggesting psychotic self-mutilation was a pleasant pastime either. Word was out that “The Stooges” had radically cleaned-up their act.

Electra Records was begging me for a Sherwood Forest date. Our reputation had spread. An appearance there could do the group a world of good in converting disbelievers who were hesitant accepting news of Iggy’s conversion as other than wishful thinking. John Sinclair called me and confirmed the transformation. “The Stooges'” Personal Manager, Jimmy Silver, was on the phone every day. Diversified Management Agency in Detroit, with whom I worked continually, positively guaranteed The Stooges were now sparkling, shining, shimmeringly clean.

Well, O.K?

I drafted a four page contract rider which, in addition to the “No-Saying-Fuck” clause, went on to forbid anything remotely resembling anything I had ever seen “The Stooges” do which might be interpreted as offensive and plenty of things I never had seen them do, but that they might think of. I discussed the booking with Chief Boyce and he threw in a number of things that I hadn’t thought of. “The Stooges” were not to leave the stage during performance. No crude language, actions, conduct, behavior or facsimile of same would be permitted. Any breach of conditions would result in double forfeiture of payment. And arrest. I wrote the riders in a way I thought would not be signed unless the group was absolutely sincere in their pledges of altered attitude. Unlike most union contracts, each member of the band had to agree to the rider provisions and stipulations by signature.

The contract was returned to me. It had been signed by all. There were no changes or alterations.

The Sherwood Forest parking lot was already full at 5 p.m. the day of the show. Fifteen hundred were admitted by 6:30. It was wall-to-wall once again. Their equipment had gotten there and had been set-up on stage, but “The Stooges” had yet to arrive. They were still missing at 7:30 when the opening act finished performance. It was 7:45 and we were stalling with records. Where were they? Representatives from Electra, Diversified Management and Creem Magazine wanted to know the same thing.

“They’re here! They’re here!”

It was 8:05. I asked Irons to find out what the deal was.

It was 8:10. John had returned ashen white and righteously rattled. His voice was barely above a whisper.

“They’re downstairs shooting heroin”.

“WHAT?”

“I think it was heroin. They’re shooting something. This giant biker dude told me to get the fuck out of the dressing room.”

The first thing I reflected was that I had left “No Shooting Heroin” out of the contract. Wait. This is crazy. Jesus Christ. There was sudden turmoil behind me. I whirled about and saw “The Stooges” approaching. They looked pretty bleary-eyed and unfocused, but when hadn’t they?

Too late for further speculation.

The group appeared ready for introduction. Well, they hadn’t publicly violated any contractual provisions yet. We had a full house clamoring for their appearance. Only Irons had witnessed theoretical peculiarities in the dressing-room. Might as well jump into the fire.

It was customary to begin each introduction with a quick billboard of future bookings at Sherwood. Everyone was paying attention. Advantage had to be quickly taken. There was an unwritten twenty-second window in which to squeeze all extraneous information before getting on with the actual introduction. Anything past twenty seconds would make the crowd restless and prompt cries of “Let’s Go!” or “Kiss My Ass!” from antsy clientele.

John Irons was doing the honors this night. At about the ten second mark, he was abruptly and rudely interrupted by Iggy

“Fuck this guy. Kick it in!”

The band immediately exploded into “Down in The Streets” from “The Stooges'” “Funhouse” album and the audience went crazy.

Irons wanted to kill the show right there and then. After all, Iggy had said the magic word and he had cut John off, which was a supreme professional insult. But, the “fuck” had gone unnoticed by the police, who were way at the back of the hall. Pulling the plug was certain to provoke a small riot.  I reminded John that we had taken in an excellent gate and had plenty of time to get even later. Meanwhile, I suggested that skeptical patience seemed the wisest course. He went along.

Miraculously, the next fifty-five minutes went wonderfully well. No fucks. No cutting chests. No peanut butter from the butt. If the group had been shooting heroin, you sure couldn’t tell. The energy was extraordinary. Maybe they’d been shooting cocaine. Maybe they’d just been sticking needles in themselves, administering self-acupuncture to unleash karmic power flow.

I thought we might just pull it off. The Stooges always liked to finish things up with their love song. It was time for their last number which, by tradition, was an extended version of “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog”.

“—and lay right down in my fav-or-ite place”

Iggy was pretending that he was going to do one of his head first falls off the stage. Heh-heh. SHIT! The fucker DID IT!

Iggy was now standing shirtless in the middle of the first few rows of floor-seated enthusiasts. He was holding his microphone in his mouth and breathing into it heavily. He was barefoot. He started dancing and twirling and spinning around. Several roadies starting feeding foot after foot of microphone cable in his wake. He stopped, suddenly attracted by the heaving chest of a strikingly well-endowed female fan directly before him. He extended one bare foot forward and started vigorously massaging her breasts with his toes.  Maintaining the overall theme of his closing selection with instinctive grace, Iggy nevertheless chose to depart from normal lyric content and yelled into his microphone.

“Dogs lick asses and chew big titties!!”

THAT’S IT!!!!!

The police were already wading through the crowd in Iggy’s general direction. The quickest way to kill the music was to unplug the band. Irons moved like a flash. Everything on the stage was rendered silent in under five seconds. Except Iggy. He was on the floor and his microphone operated separately off a sound system which was wired behind and under the stage. It was out of immediate reach. Iggy wasn’t.

Iggy was now a good fifty feet in front of the stage and, in all of his swirling and twirling, had wrapped the microphone cord six or seven times around his neck. The long attached cable ran straight through the crowd to a sound mix amplifier set upon the very edge of the stage. Iggy noticed that the music had disappeared. His band had stopped playing. He was alone on the P.A. system.

What the fuck’s wrong? Where’s the music? What’s happening? Where the fuck is the ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGRRRHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

John Irons had been cut-off by Iggy. He had gone along with letting things continue against his better judgement. He had been the picture of perfect patience. When Cavanaugh ordered the band unplugged, he had experienced a feeling of total release. It was almost orgasmic in quality.  He had meant to fix all those fuckers fast. The primary, “A+-Number-One-Mother-Fucker” had managed to evade the consequences of his first actions. Not for long, JIM!!!

Irons quickly bent over the front of the stage, firmly grasped the microphone cord twined around the neck of the unsuspecting Mr. Stooge and  pulled with the strength of a thousand Tennessee Volunteers.

Iggy was almost garroted, then spun into several almost perfect pirouettes. He was then slammed to the floor and dragged through the crowd toward the ferocious John Irons, who was reeling him in — hand-over-hand, fist-over-fist. Chairs were flying. People were shouting. Mayhem reigned. I took a still-active stage microphone and ran a play-by-play:

“Ladies and Gentleman! Only here at Sherwood Forest! You’ll never see the likes of this again. Never again! Anywhere on the planet! Iggy went hazy! Irons went crazy! What great Rock ‘n Roll! Stand back! Step Aside! It’s a life and death struggle before your very eyes! No-prisoners will be taken! Iggy is done for! Iggy’s good as gone! Iggy will die for Rock ‘n Rollllllllll!!

It was a completely appropriate end to the performance. As Irons reached down and yanked a very groggy and confused Iggy onto the stage, I concluded:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, “The Stooges!!!”

Wild applause thundered for a full five minutes as several police pulled Irons off Iggy and escorted everyone backstage. The hall lights went on and cheering continued as the crowd peacefully departed.

Dave Marsh in Creem Magazine offered an extensive feature story on the concert in the next issue and described my concluding narrative as “sounding just like Chris Schenkle on ABC Wide World of Sports”. It became quite the story in Michigan music circles. The most amazing aspect was that all in attendance had been convinced it was all carefully and entertainingly staged.

Fun is fun. Bullshit is bullshit.

Electra Records had an important investment in both “The Stooges” and the MC5 and they were not amused. Iggy had been at his highest and had completely blown the gig. Trust and confidence in the band disappeared. Subsequent consequences for “The Stooges” and John Sinclair were serious.

Electra executives had already been pluperfectly pissed when John Sinclair had taken out a full-page ad in the Ann Arbor Argus which included only two words above the Electra logo: “Fuck Hudsons!”.  Hudsons was a major Detroit area department store which had refused to stock the original MC5 album due to Sinclair’s extensive use of “fuck” in his published liner-notes. The album package had been re-issued without Sinclair’s comments. Hudsons saw the Argus and pulled all of Electra’s products from their stores. Now this?  Electra stopped all further promotional efforts on behalf of both The Stooges and the MC5. It marked the beginning of the end for both bands.

Iggy was arrested backstage and charged with “obscenity”. He was immediately released on his own recognizance. The following day, the Genesee County Prosecutors Office told Chief Boyce they had no interest in pursuing the matter and that such charges would never hold up in Court.

Per the contract, the group did not receive the contracted sum of one thousand dollars. Electra Records funded the guarantee for a similar amount. Many months later, the Musicians Union demanded that payment be rendered. I refused. Picketing and “blacklisting” was threatened, then delivered. I paid.

John Irons was glad he had gotten a piece of Iggy and went home a happy man. He would not leave the next “Wild Wednesday” as filled with content.

One Response to ““Be Your Dog””

  1. relevant resource site Says:

    Wow that was odd. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.

    Anyway, just wanted to say excellent blog!

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