On today’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Storytime I’m going to tell you about Iggy Pop and the time he and his band The Stooges hatefucked Detroit so bad that he almost paid for it with his life. Let’s start with a little bit about Iggy the man.
In the rock world, Iggy Pop is known for two big things:
- Being the “Proto-Punk” who invented the stage dive.
- Never having to wear a shirt because when you have top shelf dad strength, brother you advertise it. Please refer to this simple chart illustrating the levels of dad strength:
But as awesomely badass as Iggy Pop is, you likely know him for these two things:
- The glamorization of heroin in cinema in the mid 90’s causing you to buy the Trainspotting Soundtrack.
- That time he played Nona’s dad on Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Pete and Pete.
When Iggy started with his band The Stooges he was highly influenced by the crowd instigating style of Jim Morrison. He loved seeing how far he could push his own fans to a near riot and then attempt to reel them back in. He was known to roll around in broken glass, vomit on stage, and even whip out Lil’ Iggy. For example, you probably shouldn’t click on this NSFW version of I Wanna Be Your Dog and definitely don’t watch what happens at the 4:30 mark. Buuuuuuut, if you were to click on it then turn it waaaaay up because that is pure rock concentrate right there.
On February 9, 1974 in what would be the last Stooges performance before they broke up for 30 years, Iggy and his band were primed to play Detroit’s Michigan Palace. In a radio interview the day before the show, Iggy (from nearby Ypsilanti) calls out the Detroit Scorpions biker gang.
I’ll chalk this one up to a case of “who the fuck knows” but guess who shows up that night? Yup- a bunch of pissed off bikers and boy, they came loaded for bear. According to reports, items thrown at the stage throughout the show were documented as, “broken glass, beer jugs, jelly beans, urine, eggs, ice, and shovels.”
Whoaaaa. Waitaminute. You, uhhhh….you lost me at jelly beans. Just what kind of biker gang is this?
[Scene] Parking lot of the Michigan Palace. A menacing gang leader is addressing his loyal biker compatriots.
“Mudstomp, what’d you bring to show these guys that you don’t mess with the Scorpions?”
“I peed into a bunch of empty whiskey bottles, boss.”
“Nice. What about you, Beastwhore?”
“I filled this pillowcase with rusty padlocks.”
(Takes deep breath. Long sigh)
“And what about you Chucklebeard?”
“I BROUGHT A BIG JAR OF JELLY BEANS!!! HUH-HA!!!”
(honks nose twice)
“Goddammit Chucklebeard. If you weren’t a legacy…I swear.”
So what became of that particular show was the musical equivalent of being tied in a burlap sack with a bobcat, a rattlesnake, and a drunken Andy Dick. Luckily someone was recording and it was eventually released as the live album, Metallic K.O. The album is a little choppy as it’s not the entire, unedited concert but it still stands as one of the rawest examples of pure hard rock out there. I highly recommend it just to hear Iggy openly taunting the crowd at the end of each song. And those weird crashing sounds you hear in between songs? Those are just beer bottles breaking against the heads of their guitars.
OH, AND THEY STILL KEPT FUCKING PLAYING!
Would that even happen today without it being played on a loop on CNN and America having to start a national dialogue on the rights of band safety? Good god, Kings of Leon once cancelled a show three songs in because of incontinent pigeons.
Famous Rolling Stone rock critic Lester Bangs, AKA “the name you drop in music conversations to make you look plugged into the scene but in reality you only know him because you saw Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Almost Famous,” described the show as such:
The audience, which consisted largely of bikers, was unusually hostile, and Iggy, as usual, fed on that hostility, soaked it up and gave it back and absorbed it all over again in an eerie, frightening symbiosis. “All right,” he finally said, stopping a song in the middle, “you assholes wanta hear ‘Louie, Louie,’ we’ll give you ‘Louie, Louie.'” So the Stooges played a forty-five-minute version of “Louie Louie,” including new lyrics improvised by the Pop on the spot consisting of “You can suck my ass / You biker f*ggot sissies!”
By now the hatred in the room is one huge livid wave, and Iggy singles out one heckler who has been particularly abusive: “Listen, asshole, you heckle me one more time and I’m gonna come down there and kick your ass.” “Fuck you, you little punk,” responds the biker. So Iggy jumps off the stage, runs through the middle of the crowd, and the guy beats the shit out of him, ending the evening’s musical festivities by sending the lead singer back to his motel room and a doctor. I walk into the dressing room, where I encounter the manager of the club offering to punch out anybody in the band who will take him on.
After this particular event The Stooges broke up and Iggy Pop went through the same process that you, I, or anyone has ever gone through after a breakup- he fell into a deep heroin spiral, landed in a mental institution, had to be saved by David Bowie, moved to Berlin with Bowie and both of them collaborated to produce Iggy’s two most acclaimed solo albums, The Idiot and Lust For Life, all while attempting to kick their heroin habits. Same exact thing happened to me when I broke up with my girlfriend sophomore year of college.
Alright, let’s wrap this up. Anything to add, Fake Lester Bangs?
Amen indeed, Fake Lester Bangs. Amen. Indeed.
This has been Rock ‘n’ Roll Storytime. – JH
Did you really make it this far? Well congrats. Here’s your prize: A Spotify playlist featuring selected works of Iggy Pop, bands he directly influenced, Metallic KO in its entirety and a bunch of chart toppers from 1974 to give you an idea of what he was up against at the time. (Hint- those chart toppers include Mr. “Sunshine on My Goddamn Shoulders” John Denver.)