What we have here, to paraphrase the captain in Cool Hand Luke, is the only extant live recordings of the Stooge lineup that made Funhouse. (The Ungano's show that Rhino Handmade released was the subsequent lineup, after original bassist Dave Alexander was fired and roadies Billy Cheatham and Zeke Zettner joined the band.) The recording quality is rough, from audience cassettes and restored TV audio, but the band's feral greatness shines through.
Fully half of the songs come from a Chicago show from July 1970, with two more from an undated but better-recorded New York performance. Also included are a "1970" (one of four, count 'em, four versions included) from the Goose Lake Pop Festival, where Dave Alexander forgot all the songs, precipitating his firing, and the audio portion of the televised Cincinnati Pop Festival appearance where Iggy famously walked on audience hands and smeared himself with peanut butter. Sure, the latter two are both Youtube-available, but it's nice to have 'em on shiny silver disc in cleaned-up fidelity, with Easy Action's usual sumptuous packaging. (The CD is available on its lonesome as A Thousand Lights, or will be when Easy Action honcho Carlton gets around to making more of 'em.)
Throughout their original seven-year run, the Stooges were in a constant state of flux; they _never_ played "old shit," so by the time you held a new record in your hands, chances were better than good that they'd be playing something Entahrly Other if you went to see 'em live. One can only wonder what it was like to be in those audiences, hearing those songs without the benefit of recorded versions to refer to. Or rather, one _could_ only wonder, until now. In addition to the CD, Popped also includes replicas of all six issues of the fan club newsletter of the same name that Natalie pubbed between '69 and '71.
Think of her newsletters as an early manifestation of fanzine culcha, substituting the perspective of a worldy-wise and highly opinionated 19-year-old _girl_ who actually knew the band for the sci-fi geek/lit major approach of early rock fanboys/scribes like Paul Williams, Greg Shaw, Jon Landau and Greil Marcus. While her literary model might have been 16 Magazine (and she was clearly an avid consumer of print media, making note in her scrawl of every mention of the band in the national, "hip," and even local press), there's a freshness, unalloyed enthusiasm, and dare I say, innocence to her voice that makes it unique in the Stooges rockwrite canon.
Also included are replicas of candid Polaroids she shot of the band, both on and off stage. They look like children. It's sobering to think that Ron Asheton and Dave Alexander are both gone now, but in these images, they're forever young, caught at the moment when they were really hitting their stride as a band, as short-lived as it might have been. (Popped also includes a copy of the interview I did last year with Jimmy Recca, who played bass in the '71 Stooges, when Billy and Zeke quit and James Williamson joined.)
Anyway, at the appointed hour, Hembree showed up and we loaded my shit into the back of his truck. I'd never set foot in the Doublewide before Saturday night, although I'm pretty sure all of my bandmates had played there at some point with different bands. The place has a good feel, and we had a decent draw in spite of the N35 Conferette and Dio de los Toadies taking place the same night. I missed Darstar's set yakking in the bar, but Bipolar Express sounded really full and tight, much better than when we played with them at the Moon; credit the sound dude, who's also the "Ivy" guitarist in the Gorehounds, a Cramps tribute band I just got wind of. The Bipolar boys play with an energy that always puts me in mind of the Flamin' Groovies circa "Heading for the Texas Border," and I always dig hearing their version of Bob Seger's anti-Vietnam anthem "2+2=?" -- speaking of Detroit guys.
Comparisons being odious, I will say that after the celestial mindfuck that was our Sunshine Bar soiree last month, the Doublewide gig was a little bit of a letdown. Not to cast aspersions on the house or the crowd; both were fine, and very kind. And not to say that we phoned it in, but there's something about playing down on the floor amid and amongst your audience that you don't get playing on an elevated stage. (Of course, the tradeoff is probably a decent sound mix, but whatthell.) Last time, I woke up the next day feeling like I'd been thrown down the stairs, and I couldn't hear properly for two days -- hallmarks of a great Stoogeshow. This time, I felt fine, if a little discombobulated from the time change (it was spring-ahead day, so the moment we stopped playing, it went from 1:59a to 3:00a). Maybe it was the long morning run I'd had and the substantial dinner I ate before leaving home. And while I never thought I'd hear myself say this, the fact that Dallas bars are all non-smoking now meant that I didn't feel like I'd been punched in the chest for two days after the show -- a plus in my book.
We planned 17 songs and wound up having to cut a few at the end, but we did manage to break the seal on the Dicks' "Rich Daddy," with Richard starting it off because I couldn't for the life of me remember how it went, even after practicing it on Thursday. We'll do it again at Lola's on 4.9, and maybe the Dolls' "Jet Boy," too, if Ray can remember all the words.