Monday, December 31, 2018

Too Much Info About MC5 “Kick Out The Jams” 45rpm Pressing Variations


Kick Out the Jams" b/w "Motor City's Burning"

scum stats: I'd bet Elektra pressed 100k of these back in the day, but this specific variation, man, maybe 5000? possibly even less

Rare records that are not expensive...this is one of my favorite and most frustrating exploits.

A few years ago, I noticed a copy of this single for sale on eBay. Upon first glance, it was just like the hundreds of other copies of this single that I had seen over the years. Big whoop.

But upon closer inspection, I noticed the slightest differences. The stylized band name/logo was a little thicker than usual, the song titles are in a thin script versus the usual bold. And BMI is in parentheses on this one. Some other line-breaks are different, more bold/thin changes, but ultimately, this is entirely inconsequential shit that absolutely no one should care about.

So of course, that's why I care.

The copy I had seen on eBay was up there for MONTHS at a Buy-it-Now price around $40. And I just never pulled the trigger. The moment it sold, I thought, "Shit, why did I wait?"

That was two years ago and I've been obsessively checking the listings for this single since then in hopes of finding another. I emailed the MC5 super fan in Switzerland trying to find a copy. He referred me to the PREVIEW pressing of this single (exclusively given out to attendees of the MC5 performance at the Fillmore East in New York and ultimately thrown at the band by the revolutionaries in attendance when the band arrived in a LIMOUSINE) but I already had two copies of that.

To me, this single is some sort of weird added confusion to the story of the MC5 being dropped from Elektra because they'd placed an ad that said "Fuck Hudsons" in the local underground paper and included the Elektra logo. Hudsons was the local Detroit department store and in response to the ad, they threatened to pull ALL Elektra product from its shelves.

I've heard alternate theories that the album was not as successful as the label had hoped and the Hudson's controversy was just a convenient out for them. But the fact that there's a SECOND, LATER pressing of this single seems to fly in the face of all that. I mean, I guess you can drop a band and still keep the single in print and change the layout, but it still seems really odd. And ultimately, that later pressing seems somewhat unnecessary in hindsight, as it just never really turns up.

The style of this label layout is more in line with singles that Elektra had released in the summer of 1969, months after the band had been let go. The later version I have was pressed at Monarch Records in Los Angeles while the earlier version was pressed at Specialty in Pennsylvania. There's even a red/white/black color variation that was pressed at Columbia in Terre Haute, Indiana. And that "preview pressing" explicitly "for the brothers and sisters of the MC5" was also pressed at Specialty, you know, so you can update your scorecards at home.
Anyway, in the post third baby haze, a copy sold on eBay that I missed and I was PISSED. Started combing the listings more regularly, even contemplated messaging the seller of ALL copies of the single listed on Discogs (approximately 19 at the time) and asking them if "BMI" was in parentheses or not on the label of the copy they were selling. Desperate times, desperate measures. I'm convinced no one else really cares, but in some strange way, that makes me care EVEN MORE.
Sure enough, a few weeks back, I found a copy. $7.99, Buy-it-Now. That purchase felt so fulfilling. The hunt, you know, was worth it. This specific version doesn't even have a dedicated Discogs listing, so the moment I stop going down this rabbit hole, hopefully I can make the update myself.
Side note: the "preview pressing" is actually an alternate take of "Kick Out the Jams" but honestly, even thought most folks identify with this as the call-to-arms, best-known work of the band, I've always preferred "Looking at You." I would've loved to hear a studio album from the MC5 at that high point of their career (ie, late 1968), but it wasn't meant to be. And the SINGLE mix is slightly different and slightly edited from the album version...most noticeably the substitution of "brothers and sisters" for "mother fuckers" after the titular intro, and said expletive the entire genesis of the entire Hudson's kerfuffle.
But I like it enough to have pressings and variations from half a dozen different countries. My pipe dream is that some day, some one will say "thank you for caring" and that all the differences and variations will avail themselves to some greater good and higher importance. Until then, I still need the Mexican pressing.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Spaced "Flying Thru the Sky" b/w "Ain't That The Way It Is, Babe"

“Flying Thru the Sky” b/w “Ain’t That the Way It Is, Babe”
scum stats: shit. i can reasonably account for four copies of this record amongst collectors. wouldn’t doubt that any more than 100 were pressed originally
It’s not often your number one want shows up. So when it does…you make sure it’s the Record of the Week.
First became aware of this gem in 2008. Copy showed up on eBay with the info that it had been found in a pile of local records in Benton Harbor/St. Joseph, Michigan.
The audio clip with the auction showcased otherworldly, wild, unhinged, almost unbelievable rock and roll. Not quite psych, a little bit beyond garage. Just perfect in every way. Theremin? Nice touch.
It sold for $588 and I was the second-highest bidder.
I’ve felt burnt about it for the past ten years.
There’s nothing to be gleaned from the label, the pseudonyms for the songwriting credits (at least I THINK they’re pseudonyms) of “Gypsy, Ape, Skin, Chuckles” float around through my head ALL THE DAMN TIME.
Shit, I’ve been tempted to start a band called Gypsy Ape Skin Chuckles because of how amazingly it rolls off the tongue.
Who in the hell were these guys? Where were they from? What were they on?
With almost zero info to start with…how would YOU try and track down the parties responsible for this record and answer these questions?
I’ve often dreamed about a mythical message board that everyone in the world was automatically subscribed to, where you could ask questions of this sort.
“Hey, who was in the band Spaced that put out this batshit crazy single?”
Even with the reach of the internet, how would you even try to START to reach a wide-ass group of folks?
I know you see shit like this on the Today Show, when someone takes a picture of a marriage proposal but then doesn’t actually know who the people are in the photo. I think Facebook usually solves it. Maybe Reddit on occasion. 
Seems like in the past you could try using ads in the newspaper. Hell, that’s how I scored a bunch of copies of the Afterbirth “Who’s in There?” record back in 2009. But shit, who even reads the classified section anymore?
To be fair, my fascination with this disc is largely predicated on the thought that it is a Michigan record. Yet there’s nothing explicitly proving that…just some words from an eBay seller a decade ago.
The copy in my hands showed up on eBay a few weeks back, this time complete with a sticker on the label that says “Jupiter” because, why not?
While I wasn’t exactly happy about the hammer price when I bought it, I wasn’t too disappointed at the $20/year inflation. This was a present for me.
This copy came from a seller in Florida. It’s totally possible this is NOT a Michigan record and I’ve just been excited about a myth for almost a third of my life.
But if you can’t fully commit your attention and desire and passion to weird rare records, then what can you commit to?
And now…I don’t even know what my #1 want is anymore. I’ve got some time to think about it, which is nice.
Apologies there’s nothing to listen to here, but you can see, this record is just so damn rare, no one even has it to share. There’s a bootleg repressing of it available on yellow or black vinyl that should suffice if this has piqued your interest enough.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

400 Pounds of Punk: The Lost "He Once Ate a Small Child" Cassette

400 Pounds of Punk

He Once Ate a Small Child

scum stats: if there are more than twenty of these out there, I'd be shocked. I'd bet less than half that

As a primer for this post, it helps to have already read this piece...

Ok, ok, ok...Cassette Store Day has come and gone and to help celebrate the meaningless event, I'll talk about an actual real live cassette here that is virtually unknown.

I went to school with Scott Riker, the guitar player in 400 Pounds of Punk. I'd heard in the halls there was someone else who liked Nirvana to an unhealthy degree. We chatted a bit, probably traded some bootlegs (back then I had the Into the Black 6 x CD boxset which made me particularly cool to a specific subset of dorks...I actually still have it, so you know, if you're a dork).

Scott played guitar and told me he had a band called 400 Pounds of Punk. At that same time, my buddy Nick and I had a band we were calling the Rags. Sophomore year. 1997-1998.

In a totally unrelated world, my uncle Jack was starting his band the White Stripes. One of their first shows was opening for the band Rocket 455. Jeff Meier, one of the guitarists in Rocket, struck up a friendship with Jack. I remember, clearly, being at Jack's house in Southwest Detroit while Jeff was there hanging out. Jack said, "Hey Jeff, what's the name of your nephew's band we're recording tomorrow?" to which Jeff replied "400 Pounds of Punk."

I was gobsmacked. Of all the suburban teenage bands out there, how in the HELL were these guys, to which I had mentally self-invented a rivalry, recording with MY uncle?

It took me all of five seconds to simmer down. I probably used the perceived slight to practice more. Whatever.

Jeff's nephew, Mike Audia, was the drummer in 400 Pounds of Punk. Jamie Cherry was the singer, but I'm not sure if he was anyone's nephew.

The session seemed to go smooth from what I gathered. Jack and Jeff probably worked together with the engineering duties. While only five songs were on the released cassette, the full session contained a few more, including covers of Nirvana's "Drain You" and "Endless, Nameless."

Me and Nick, as the Rags, would go to Jack's house a few months later and record our two Nirvana covers, "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle" and, duh, "Drain You."
(seriously, if you don't like "Drain You", you're not a REAL Nirvana fan)

The master reel for 400 Pounds of Punk is dated 1-3-98, and even though I would've thought the session took place as much as a month or two earlier, I do need to resign myself to the fact that there can very easily be gaps in my memory.

My biggest take away from all of this is...thank god for cool uncles guiding aimless punk nephews. Should I ever have a nephew, I will happily repay my debt to society. Second, I was as pretty shitty drummer. Probably still am. Mike is SOOOO good on the tape, blast beats and fills for days. Literally did not feel like a teenager should be able to play so good. Third takeaway...why didn't I ask Jack to sing with us??!?!?! Duh. Big regret over here.

Jeff plays the sick guitar solo/lead on the cover of "One Way Or Another" and I'm pretty sure this is the only recording ever with both Jack and Jeff performing together. A nice capture of a brief moment in time that was seemingly forgotten/ignored for far too long.

400 Pounds of Punk later changed their name to the Surgeon Generals and actually released a CD on a label either called Jeff Row or Jeth Row or some weird play on that phrase. Like this cassette, there is NO info to be found about that CD anywhere, but I know there's a copy of it in my basement somewhere. Nick and I played the same bill as them, the only time Nick and I ever took the stage together, for Notre Dame High School battle of the bands. Spring of '99. We lost, so did Surgeon Generals, this pretty boy named Ian had a band that did all Creed covers and cleaned up.

Nick and I were joined by Larry on bass and we did covers like Nirvana "Sliver" and "Dive" and then other things like "Louie Louie." I remember not feeling great about the performance. I wanted us to look sharp, so I brought a bunch of suit coats and ties for us to try class up the joint. In one of the most beautiful memories of my life, Larry's back is facing me, fiddling with a tie, turns around and says "How's this look?"

He was wearing a navy blue corduroy jacket, a tie, and no shirt. It was beautiful. This is what passed for rebellion in an all-boys Catholic high school. Never mind that Nick, our vocalist, started the show with a call to the crowd to come closer to the stage, "Come one, come and straight alike." I thought we were gonna get pulled off-stage before even playing note one. I think my bass drum kept sliding away, songs didn't go off as planned, I was frustrated. I had them introduce us as The Mindbenders for some reason. Ugh. Sixteen is a bitch.

I'm sure there's more to be told, but the girls are swinging from the rafters. It's amazing I was able to write this at all.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Why I Hate Discogs - OR - Stop Making Me Want Records I Didn't Previously Know Existed

This was originally for the Discogs blog, hence the prominent deprecation of the brand.
I’ve got enough I’m searching out already. I’ve got my hands full — from unknown, forgotten and unheralded discs from the region of my birth (Detroit, MI) spanning all popular musical formats to diving way too deep into local spoken word releases, ethnic Serbian and Croatian songsSpanish language conjuntos from Mexicantown, Arabic language 78s and everything in between. I will never be able to buy (or even just catalog) all the records that I want and that’s a terrible feeling I still can’t come to grips with.
But every once in a while, I’ll cruise through master release lists on Discogs for titles I’m already quite well in possession of. Started off with the MC5 and the Stooges…a maple leaf on the back cover of Canadian pressings, a size/typeface change, the most minuscule label variations. These things got me pumped. But it’s a tricky game. How far does one go? How different does it have to be for me to care?
There’s no right or wrong answer here, but I can say this compulsion has driven me further than I’d ever anticipated.
Ben Blackwell organizing his record collectionPhoto by Eilon Paz for Dust & Grooves.
One day last year I was cruising through the master list for Nirvana’s In Utero and was surprised to see an In Utero cassette that originated from Saudi Arabia. Even more surprising was the cover art that completely censored the musculature of the female body depicted on the front cover, almost as if to partially appropriate the chador worn by some Muslim women. Sure, the face, arms, feet and wings were exposed, but everything in between was blacked out.
This FASCINATES me. Just in the same way that the Russian copy of Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nationfascinates me. While said release is unofficial, the fact that the wizards over at Antrop whittled down the double LP to a single LP is shocking. The fact that, rather than depict the Gerhard Richter painting of a candle on the front cover and instead just put a picture of a candle, the cover is absolutely beautiful. In communist Russia, candle lights you! They didn’t have time to try and use the real cover. They just had to make do with the materials they had at hand. I love this approach.
The quest to track down a copy became a mission. With some help, I even had Diogenes_the_Fox on the case. Ultimately, a copy would show up on an eBay auction in March, paired with a Saudi cassette copy of Nirvana’s Nevermind as well. I put in an insane bid immediately. A few days later, I noticed a copy of the Saudi In Utero for sale on Discogs. A little bit cheaper than the starting price on the eBay auction, I figured “what the hell?” and just bought it outright. The auction was soon removed, and I was happy the search had only lasted me about six months.
Ben Blackwell with his record collectionPhoto by Eilon Paz for Dust & Grooves.
Until I did some digging and through saved screen grabs I was able to find out that the Saudi Arabian cassette of Nevermind (which did not have a Discogs entry at the time) actually has a DIAPER drawn on to cover the penis of the baby depicted as swimming on the album artwork.
Reached out to my Discogs seller and of course, he was the guy selling on eBay as well. I ended up paying MORE money that had I just gone through with the auction as I bid in the first place, but nevertheless, just shy of a month later I was happily in the possession of these two weird, quasi-unbelievable artifacts of one of my favorite bands and an authoritarian regime that isn’t SO bad as to completely ban or outlaw Western culture — but they’ll be damned if you get to see any naughty bits in the process.
Were it not for Discogs, I would have never even known these records EXISTED, let alone be able to track them down. That is both a blessing and a curse. I accept it happily.
Ben Blackwell with rare cassettes

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Lost and Found Playlist...

The kind folks at the Detroit Institute of Arts asked me if I could provide a soundtrack to their current Lost and Found exhibit, highlighting vernacular and found photography spanning from the 1860's through the 1970's. I decided to focus on lost and found recordings from the second half of the 20th century. From Detroit. That didn't get flagged by Soundcloud's content management filter.


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Future of Vinyl Discussion with Anthony Fantano...58 Excruciating Minutes of It

Seems like Fantano "The Internet's Busiest Music Nerd" has a bit of a following. Also seems like I need to figure out whether I need to look at MY picture or HIS picture when speaking on Skype. Apologies for my less-than-crystalline audio one told me I needed a fancy microphone.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

My Recommendations from 20 Years Ago Are Still Rock Solid...

Junior year of high school, Spring of 1998, a classmate named Al told me that he'd found a record store that sold local music. In one of the coolest questions ever asked of me, he said "What should I buy?"

Good thing the store was Car City Records, which basically served as my reason for being back then.

The scan above is the hand-written notes and recommendations I gave him back when I was still sixteen years old.

(Pay no attention to Ass Ponys, Mud Hunnie, Pestiside, Blood Rust, The Reble Rousers, Punk U, My Ass the Vampire, NoFX, KRS-One or Suicide Machines...he must've been getting info from some other punks who's tastes seem to not have aged as well.)

Al posted this on Instagram recently and I was shocked at how much I STILL stand by all of these claims and suggestions twenty years later. Either I'm extremely stunted, incredibly reliable, or a combination of the two.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

How A Letter From A Failing Independant Record Label Buoyed The Self-Esteem of a Clueless 15-year-old Virgin and Set Him on a Path of Vinyl Righteousness...

Pulled this one out of the basement recently and was shocked at how responsive, thoughtful and courteous the entire conversation was. When I emailed some of my friends at Sub Pop, their initial response was "Uh oh, how mean a reply was it?"

But this simple letter, along with some "Powered by Sub Pop" stickers, two Eric's Trip pins, something promotional for the Blue Rags (guitar picks? I can't exactly remember) was just the slightest nudge I needed to venture further into the world of independent record labels and mail order. I was 15 years old. I was already asking for classic albums on vinyl. I was salty that the address on the Foo Fighters first album never wrote back to me.  I thought I was clever telling Sub Pop they were "swell."

I can never remind myself enough, but the smallest gesture can sometimes have the largest, most unexpected impact. Deep down inside, I don't think I would be on the exact path I'm on today 21 years later had I not received such a caring letter from a record label I adored.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Dirtbombs Live, University of Toronto radio, July 31st, 1997

A garage rock time capsule to say the least.

Unheard since 1997, please relish in a time in the not-too-distant past where I was actually not a member of the Dirtbombs. The performance is the EXACT reason why I fell in love with the band and the interview with Mick is revelatory. I could go on and on, but just trust me when I say it's worth the listen. Much respect to Allyson Baker, the then-teenaged CIUT DJ (and now dear friend) who was able to convince these guys to do this performance and was smart enough to tape it! University of Toronto radio...hell yeah.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Beauty of La Vice and Company's "Two Sisters From Bagdad"

La Vice and Company  happily upload to YouTube if it happens.
La Vice and Company 
Two Sisters from Bagdad
Jazzman reissue, limited to 1000 numbered copies
Behold one of two or three LPs that I would actually pay more than $1000 for. This thing is deep in Detroit record collecting legend. Stories that folks have sent angry emails to Popsike asking them to remove completed auction listings so as not to obscure how rare it may or may not be. That hundreds of copies were destroyed in a basement flood. That it wasn’t really that good of a record.
The main driver behind the demand and apocrypha behind this record is the unparalleled funk of the track “Thoughs Were the Days” (sic). Featured on Numero Group’s “Good God” A Gospel Funk Hynmal” comp from 2006, that’s clearly how most folks became aware of this disc. But with literally no more than a handful of original copies known out there, even just getting to hear the rest of the album was a task, one even I was unable to accomplish until this straight full reissue landed in my lap. 
In the hubbub after the “Freedom at 21” flexi-disc had sold for $4000+ on eBay, I half-jokingly offered up a copy of said flexi as a straight trade for “Two Sisters From Bagdad” on the record nerd site Waxidermy. The response was “A one-tracker for a one-tracker.” Even just last week, a buddy deep and dear to this record said everything on this record except “Thoughs Were the Days” was “soft.”
So with the understated, repetitive opening of “Happy and Blessed” and I couldn’t help but feel frustratingly PISSED that I’d gone so long without hearing this. The variety on the album is wonderfully varied, slightly odd and the EXACT thing I imagine when I cannot sleep at night.
Background: this LP is the soundtrack accompaniment to a play of the same name that ran at Music Hall at Detroit’s Center for the Performing Arts for two weeks in August 1973. The production was a flop and the description below may explain why so few copies sold in the lobby of the performance…
“The play was the story of two sisters who met their earthly demise very early in life and were joined together in Heaven. But there was also a character named Jake, who was an agent from Hell whose job was to recruit people from Heaven because Hell was not getting the people they were used to receiving. Well, Jake got a little frisky with one of the sisters and it appeared that one of the sisters became pregnant and the two were kicked out of Heaven and had to go to Hell. Of course, the Devil took a liking to the other sisters while Jake was wrestling with this thing called LOVE.”
(quote from Ernest Garrison, composer/arranger for the album, brother-in-law to “Bagdad’s” playwright, La Vice Hendricks)
To me, odd, hodgepodge neighborhood productions, something only a couple hundred people ever saw, with no filmed evidence and (seemingly) no extant script…this is what I live for. Such a unique snapshot of a time and place, that no matter how in-depth liner notes may go, no matter how clear they explain the premise of a Hendrick’s “personal commitment to introduce non-racial comedy to a city that has been separated by crime, narcotic and racial differences” highlighted by an all-black ensemble…I will NEVER really know or understand what exactly it was like to witness the performance. It is the absolute definition of ephemeral. And honestly, I feel like the songs legitimately smoke and all those record nerds calling this a “one-tracker” are out of their minds. I STRONGLY urge to give this one a listen, even just to appreciate the industriousness of an endeavor, that while failed during its time, is beautiful and compelling near 45 years after its creation.
Side notes: 
- I think the drive behind my appreciation for this record is the same as my newfound and ever-spiraling appreciation for school band and church records. So many unexplored possibilities! So many flops! You’ll never know or find them all…that makes good collecting.
- My mother-in-law and her younger sister were literally “two sisters from Baghdad” (the production got the spelling wrong) living in Detroit in 1973. I oftentimes play fantastical feats of imagination and conspiracy theorist trying to make them the inspiration for this record.
- My grade school put on a production of a play I recall as named “Let’s Put on a Show” in the mid-Nineties. We did similar productions every year. Equal parts musical and spoken dialogue, I am DYING to know who in the hell actually wrote these things? How did they get into the hands of my music teacher? Was this a profitable endeavor for the composer? I believe my brother has a VHS copy of the entire show and I am DYING to see it, to go back and relive the awkwardness (each production had a token “rap” song that always received HUGE laughs from the largely white and moderately suburban parents that, even as a child, felt misguided). We never put on a production of ANYTHING that I’d heard of/seen ANYWHERE else. No “Annie”, no “Godspell”…just some random rinky-dink thing that I’d never hear/see again in my life…AND IT DRIVES ME CRAZY. I’ve gone on here before about the difficultly of a memory that has no outside corroboration…these things PAIN me. Bro is supposedly working on getting a transfer. I will happily upload to YouTube if it happens.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

15 Years Later I Can Reveal...Ben Blackwell is Nick Zinner

     Just shy of 15 years ago, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs did a quick West Coast tour opening for the White Stripes. Towards the end of the trek, Nick of the YYY's was scheduled to do an interview with a magazine about hearse culture called Night Doings. Nick did not want to do the interview. So being up for the challenge, I subbed for him. It was a crackly 2003 cell phone, but even then I felt like the interviewer thought something was up. I clearly remember standing on the loading dock for the RIMAC Arena in San Diego. I also distinctly remember Nick saying to me afterwards something along the lines of "Wow, you really seemed to know what you're talking about."

     For YEARS I never thought this zine ever came out, but bored googling a few years back actually turned up a webpage with a still-active PayPal button that I excitedly clicked on to buy this issue. The publisher wrote back, confused, saying "I don't even know how you were able to send me money." Nevertheless, a copy was dug out and sent my way.

     I only feel slightly bad about this now. I'm still kinda proud of it.

Monday, January 01, 2018

How Michigan is the Fifth Member of the Stooges – OR – A Cultural Cycling Through Three-Hundred Years of Bullshit Historical Anecdotes and Arbitrary Facts to Argue that Geographic Demarcation Can Be Personified as a the Embodiment of a Musician

Regardless of my job, I was asked to write an essay for the "Total Chaos" book with the suggested topic of "How Detroit Was the Fifth Member of the Stooges." I quickly clarified with main author Jeff Gold if I could change "Detroit" to "Michigan", he concurred, and it was with great excitement and sense of accomplishment I completed the piece below. It was the SECOND essay I had published in a book about the Stooges, an honor that is not lost on me.

At the party celebrating the release of the book, Iggy told me two things...

1) That I looked EXACTLY like the guy that threw a bottle (pie?) in his face at some show in Michigan back in the day.

2) That I'm a good writer

That's all I needed to hear. Enjoy.

The borders of Michigan are arbitrary…the survey lines of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, a southeasterly adjustment for a bloodless war with Ohio for the desirable international port of Toledo (the loss of which Michigan got its Upper Peninsula as compensation) and a veritable shit-ton of lakes cut a cute geographic form that can equally be called America’s high-five or America’s hand-job.

Despite this, the entire state of Michigan is incredibly average. There’s nothing of note that really makes it any different from Ohio or Wisconsin or just about any other boring state that doesn’t have mountains or an ocean or hieroglyphs or any sort of cultural accelerant.

So, too, with Ron, Scott, Iggy and Dave. They all came from an entirely average, middle class world. That is the only place from which they could emanate. To be more specific, Michigan is the only place a cultural roundhouse kick like the Stooges could ever be birthed.

As the birthplace to both Domino’s and Little Ceasar’s pizza chains (two of the top four pizza dispensaries in the world, both raking in BILLIONS of dollars every year), it is the unique incubator of Michigan that has a knack for taking what may have been considered low-brow or intended for the edges of society in the mid-1900s and perfecting it, simplifying it (the $5 Hot’n’Ready is marvel of modern economics) and making it understandable for a widespread global audience. As some of the first Western records pressed in the newly opened Russia after the fall of communism in 1991, the hand-illustrated, Cyrillic-bedecked covers of the band’s first two albums are proof positive that this is exactly what Iggy and the Stooges did with their brand of juvenile delinquent-inspired rock and roll. Which coincidentally, goes hand-in-hand with pizza.

And being birthed in Ann Arbor is fitting. With the University of Michigan looming large over the entirety of the town, everything in that city has an air of elitist self-importance. The classic joke goes, “How do you know someone went to the University of Michigan? Let ‘em talk for five seconds...they’ll tell you!” Coupled with the town’s overwhelming left-leaning politics (the Stooges were close friends with folks who bombed a CIA office in the city in 1968) and it’s clear the only place to birth the Stooges, wholly unconcerned with politics or elitism, is a town boiling over in it.

The Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, was educated at U of M, leaving the institution in late 1967. The possibility of him crossing paths with Iggy are nil, but it’s not too big a stretch to correlate that the anarcho-primitivism argued in Industrial Society and Its Future (“The Unabomber Manifesto”) is in some bizarre way in concert with the precisely sparse lyricism and uncluttered instrumentation of the Stooges’ self-titled album. That’s not to say “I Wanna Be Your Dog” is tantamount to serial killing...more like the absolute inverse. As Kaczynski and Iggy are on completely opposite ends of the spectrum, but both so completely laser-focused, so singular, so undistracted by the noise clouding around them that it’s clear the environment had to be somewhat instrumental in fostering those traits.

Jack Kevorkian went to U of M too, but I can’t find the connection there.

This cannot happen in socially-conscious San Francisco of the same era. It would not happen in the fading Village folk scene in NYC as it slowly transformed into glam and punk. Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the rural abuts with the avant-garde on a daily basis, was the only incubator that could birth these bozo geniuses. Michigan is not just where important and relevant moments of this band and its story happened to take place, it is a driving factor and overbearing presence throughout their existence, whatever the locale may be.

You see, Michigan is not a state where anything happens. Outside of Detroit, and a much lesser extent Ann Arbor, it’s all ho-hum humdrum non-descript bullshit. So of course, leave it to Halloween night, 1967, at a house party in Ann Arbor to be the moment this wrecking ball descends into public consciousness. Of course this primitive shit music is taking place at an “invite only” party. Of course John Sinclair and the MC5 (both already important leaders in the countercultural underground of the time) are there. Of course joints are being passed around liberally. Of course it sounded like the Melvins, (as Iggy himself would claim decades later). Of course, of course, of course. Because all roads of all these variables intersect in Michigan.

With the Grande Ballroom in Detroit acting as the de facto Fillmore Midwest, every major rock group of the era stopped in town. Out of sheer stubbornness, dumb luck, or not knowing any better, the Stooges (in tandem with the MC5) were able to act as the unofficial house band for 1968-1969, opening for just about anyone and everyone...Butterfield Blues Band, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Sly and the Family Stone, The Fugs, Blue Cheer, Love, Cream, the James Gang, John Mayall, BB King, The Who, Frank Zappa and on and on and on. No need for U of M, that’s a college education right there. You learn how to perform. Day in, day out. A working band. Imagine that.

Not only did the Stooges figure out how to play, while on stage, in front of a crowd, but also had an almost weekly opportunity to glean from whatever hot-shit or shit shit touring act was coming through town at that moment. The Stooges are not a band that made their bones on tour. They were by no means even “reliable” at home. Old-timers in Detroit took pride in relaying stories of HOW BAD the band actually was saying things like, “we would purposefully show up LATE to the Grande so as to AVOID seeing the Stooges for the umpteenth time.” Only in Michigan would you have the greatest band in the world playing weekly and folks bragging about avoiding it.

So for Iggy to expose his dick (purposefully or not) onstage in Romeo, bumfuck of a town if there ever was one, population just shy of 4,000 back in boggles the mind. This is a town known for a Peach Festival and being the home of Kid Rock. Nothing happens there and nothing will continue to happen here until the end of time. It’s the kind of town where someone would make the trip to the police station to let them know the lead singer’s dick is hanging out. Only in Michigan.

The Goose Lake International Music Festival of August 1970 took place in Jackson, Michigan a burg fittingly known for being the longtime home of the state penitentiary and the birthplace of the Republican Party. Before a crowd of upwards of 200,000 people, Dave Alexander fails to play a single note on stage. Be it because of nerves, chemicals, a combination of the’s irrelevant. This would be the biggest crowd the Stooges would see in any iteration (including reunions) and they utterly blew it. Dave was fired, probably rightfully so, but the fact that barely two years prior merely thirty miles down the road these guys were playing their first show in a living room with no prepared material...these guys traversed the entire gamut of a show business career, a musical lifetime, in the span of time it takes to potty-train a child, across a space that’d render as a speck on a map of the United States, Earth or the Universe. All self-contained in Michigan.

Sadness reigns outward from Alexander’s exit. Roadies, also rans and ne’er do wells filter through the ranks, pathetically culminating in a show at Wampler’s Lake Pavilion in Onsted, Michigan, population 555. In an embarrassing adherence to the contractually obligating dictum “the show must go on,” Ron, Scott and Jimmy Recca play the gig without Iggy or James Williamson. A fan (Steve Richards) sings with them for a portion of the night. There are recordings to evidence this. The jams are actually not totally shit. What happens in Onsted doesn’t necessarily need to stay in Onsted.

And Metallic K.O.? What a glorious implosion, swiftly aided by the menacing pressure of local biker gang the Scorpions, at where else...the Michigan Palace, the same spot in Detroit where Henry Ford built his first car back in 1896. It’s captured on tape and does kinda sound like shit. But beer bottles breaking against guitar strings is an apropos sound/image in a coincidental building at a time where the city and region are falling apart, as the domestic auto industry begins its freefall in the thick of the Oil Crisis.

Nigh-on three decades would need to pass for the band to wholly prove themselves to their Michigan brethren. In a way that belied maturity or progress, the Stooges performance at DTE Energy Music Theater (I die a little just from having to type such a bummer of a name) was proof-positive that the band had their shit together. One wouldn’t want them to become cerebral or philosophical and thankfully, the band understood that.

As my first live experience of about half a dozen with the band, it was not only the best performance I’d ever see from the Stooges, it is still the best performance I’ve seen by anyone in my thirty-four plus years. Sure, the show takes place in a huge embarrassingly-named shed, too far out into the exurbs to feel culturally like anything other than a blob of land, with $15 beers (watered down) and $10 parking (clusterfuck), but all the corporate grabby-ness of dollars could not sully the metaphorical boot mark the Stooges imprinted across the entire state of Michigan. America’s high-five has appropriately been met with a swift kick and it’ll never be quite the same.