Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Ballad of Stoogeaphilia

(I didn't start playing music to rebel. I started playing music to belong.)

It started out as a joke. Early in 2006, Ray and I were at the Wreck Room and I told him that I dreamed I was playing Stooges songs with his band, the Me-Thinks, in my Maidenform bra. He said he'd be down to do that (minus the lingerie). So did Matt and Jon, who were also there that night. A few days later, we were freezing our asses off in the Me-Thinks practice pad -- before it got burglarized and they lost tens of thousands of dollars' worth of vintage gear -- learning the Funhouse songs, then the ones from the first album (except "We Will Fall"). We were only going to play one show, which turned into five after the first one. (We went over 50 this year.)

We played our first gig on 4.19.2006 at the Wreck -- a "Lee and Carl's Invitational Jam" night. Sir Steffin Ratliff's significant other Cammi was there that night, and he emailed me that "I don't want to insinuate myself into your band, but I'd like to jam with you guys sometime," so we invited him to the next practice, just to sit in on songs he felt comfortable with, and before you knew it, we wanted him to play on everything, which by now included a couple of Raw Power songs.

We got a regular monthly gig at the Black Dog until it closed, then moved to the Wreck until _it_ closed. Our last time at the Black Dog, Matt was in Tennessee for the holidays, so Sir Marlin Von Bungy filled in on bass; we made him wear flannel a la Mike Watt for the gig. We broke in "Marquee Moon" on my 50th birthday at the Wreck and it was our most popular song for exactly a year. Then the door was open for Rocket From the Tombs/Dead Boys/Pere Ubu/Ramones/MC5/Alice Cooper/Damned etc. We played the Chat Room a couple of times before Ben Rogers lied to me and said they weren't booking any more shows, at which point we moved to the Fairmount until _it_ closed. (Helpful hint: Don't ever get a "regular" gig. Folks will feel like they can always come see you, so they won't.)

Sir Steffin quit at the end of June 2008. We gave him a trophy that said "Champeen Guitar Wrangler, Stoogeaphilia, 2006-2008." Richard started practicing with us in July and played his first show at the Fairmount 8.14.2008. I think he made us a better band. Sir Steffin is a great guitar player and a beautiful cat, but being in Stoogeaphilia isn't really about being a great player. Richard and I are more like-minded; he brings more of that '70s biker-rock strain into the mix.

Jon has said we sound more like the MC5 playing Stooges songs than the actual Stooges, and I think that's valid. We only play one actual MC5 song, "Future Now," for Cadillac Fraf because he said he wanted to have an MC5 cover band called the Panther City Five. We tried playing "Kick Out the Jams" at practice once, but it just didn't work. We'll never play any Velvet Underground songs because Hembree had a roommate in college who insisted on lecturing him on _why_ the Velvets were so _important_, and we'll never play "Gimme Danger" because Hembree and I agree that it's our least favorite Stooge song. "Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell" is the only song we've ever all spontaneously forgotten onstage after practicing it (during the Sir Steffin days). We learned one song from The Weirdness but dropped it when we realized there was _nothing_ we'd rather play "My Idea of Fun" than. You'll never hear us play any post-Stooges Iggy songs, either, although we thought about "I'm Bored" for a minute.

Jon is "Mr. Right of Refusal," which applies set lists as well as gigs, all of which is fitting and proper, as he's the only one onstage who actually has to work hard physically. Pinkish Black will always be his priority, and rightly so. Besides the Stoogeband, Ray divides his time between the Me-Thinks, Vorvon, The Pungent Sound, Epic Ruins, and doing graphic art for a lot of different bands and venues. Matt also plays in Pablo & the Hemphill 7, Goodwin, the Underground Railroad, Protect and Swerve, the Elf-Men, and probably a couple of others I'm forgetting. Richard plays in Transistor Tramps with his wife, and I play in HIO.

While it's sometimes frustrating being the rock 'n' roll secretary for a band whose members have so many other commitments, the li'l Stoogeband remains my favorite band I've ever been in -- all of my favorite guys on their respective instruments, playing music I've wanted to play since I was a teenager (and now we're starting to get into playing songs from _their_ misspent yoof). At this point, my only goal is to keep everybody in the band interested in the project. This seems to work best when we play about ten shows a year, adding new toonage when everyone has the bandwidth to practice.

Our original rationale for doing this was to enlighten "the kids" as to who the Stooges were, but that seems a little bogus in light of the fact that the younguns today seem to have a better handle on proto-punk history than their elders do -- when we went from playing to the 30-and-40somethings on West 7th to playing to the 20somethings on Magnolia, I had to do a lot less explaining, and I've had kids who are my kids' age tell me that the Stooges are their favorite band, Funhouse is their favorite record, etc. What this band really is, is an excuse for us to get Real O Mind and go the fuck off. With or without pizza.


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