Saturday, March 22, 2014

The End Of Something...Or The Beginning Of Something Else

I had to post something about the death last week of Scott Asheton. He became friends with this guy, Jimmy Osterberg in 1965 when Osterberg was working in a record store in Ann Arbor, MI. Jimmy played drums for a local A2 band called The Iguanas, but he had big ideas. Jimmy lived in a trailer, albeit a nice trailer outside of Ypsilanti. Osterberg was in love with my sisters best friends younger sister, Suzy (she was the inspiration for his mid 90's hit, Candy) so he was hanging around my neighborhood in Northwestern Detroit. Scott asked Jimmy to teach him how to play drums. Scott was a natural and his brother, Ron played guitar. Scott didn't even have a proper drum set...he kind of rigged up a set with industrial spackle drums and over time, he acquired more professional equipment. But the band I saw in 1967 which called itself, The Psychedelic Stooges, featured Scott on his jerry rigged drum kit, Ron playing a Woolworth's guitar full of useless push buttons through an over driven cheap amp which of course made the ugliest sound possible and Jimmy, who had become Iggy improvising incoherent lyrics and playing a primitive slide guitar that was more of an art project. In Detroit, or anywhere in 1967, this had very little relationship to anything that was happening anywhere else on the planet. This became the primal template, the original design. The touch stone that any musician who wanted to play raw crazy original music was inspired by. They became The Stooges. Iggy was a self contained totally original art project. He closed his eyes and walked off the edge of stages and his feet never touched the ground. He danced on the hands of the crowd. Many performers were inspired by him and wanted to become him, but no one could ever touch him. He was a surreal fantasy incarnate. And of course, he could actually sing and write. The first Stooges album was produced by John Cale in 1968. They were the ultimate power trio. With a bass player they leveled any venue they played in. Scott was the ultimate raw roots rock monster drummer. His brother Ron was the raw template that so many guitarists were inspired by. Nothing fancy, just raw power and what ever was required to get the job done. Yes, they lived through the excesses of the late 60's and by the early 70's had burnt themselves out gloriously. Ron became an alcoholic zombie back at his parents house. Scott was playing for the very brilliant Ann Arbor Art/Punk Ensemble, Destroy All Monsters. He also played for years with Fred Smith's unacclaimed but brilliant Michigan band, The Sonic Rendezvous...Fred died in the mid 90's after raising a family with another great artist, Patti Smith in East Detroit. The Asheton brothers were not really talking. Iggy had a pretty incredible career that took him to Berlin and Europe. He evolved as a vocalist and artist. He was always always his own personal art form. In 2000, the brilliant bassist, Mike Watt had the inspiration to reunite the Stooges. He had experienced his personal loss when his best friend, D. Boone, the guitarist of his band, The Minutemen died in a traffic accident. He worked in his own projects and produced and played on a lot of other peoples projects, but he became obsessed with reuniting the Stooges. He contacted the Ashton Brothers and began to play gigs with them around 2000. The brothers realized what they had and gradually, they were able to convince Iggy to put his toes in the pool...That did it.  Ron in spite of his massive weight gain, began to slim down and play like he had never stopped. Scott was the drummer he had always been. I think the force that was Jimmy Osterberg inspired them and made them excel. They released 3 albums over the next few years that proved they had lost nothing. In 2009, Ron died of a heart attack. They were touring constantly, as if the magic of the music and their world could keep them eternal. He was 60, but the idea of the Stooges kept on with James Williamson, who had been a member of the band in the 70's. They released their last recording in 2013, Ready To Die and played their last gig in September. On March 15. Scott died of a heart attack at age 64. I believe they were one of the most influential bands in modern rock. They were never "successful" but perhaps the most emulated fantasy figures that fueled the dreams of artists for the last 45 years. Jagger could never have been Iggy. David Bowie wanted to be Iggy. Lou Reed hated and loved Iggy. Iggy could never have really been Iggy with out the teen age shared fantasy of lower middle class kids in the hinterlands of Michigan.  As Mr. Osterberg said a few days ago, "I don't want to say that I'm done with the band. I would just say that I feel like the group has always included the Asheton brothers. When Ron passed away, Scott represented him. Nearly everything we play, Ron played on originally. I don't feel right now like there's any reason for me to go jumping out onstage in tight Levi's. What am I going to scream about?" Iggy is 66, but he can't stop. He has to keep on doing what he does...I've been connected to these guys for years. I kept running into them individually through out the decades. I have Iggy stories that I am a little wary of telling. We ended up being neighbors on Avenue B in the 90's. Their music is vary big part of what keeps me an eternal adolescent. I try to explain my musical tastes to my friends...I like everything, but there is a lot of stuff I really love that might sound to you like an incredibly horrific industrial catastrophe with a good beat.

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