A couple years ago... who am I kiddin'... a couple decades ago, some time in the last century... my old rock n' roll cohort pal Heidi T. (yes, the same gal who would be sobbing at the sight of a hideously bloated Marc Bolan at the Agora several months later) sent over a yellowed newspaper clipping that she'd found in the attic, an ancient space ad for the one Cleveland rock n' roll show that altered the mental direction of every teenage monster in the audience. Mind you, it was Heidi who crossed Slade out in that audacious hot pink ink. I would never have done such a thing; I loved Slade, and still do. But it was the Stooges who blew our brains into perpetual orbit that January in 1974. As time would go by, it seemed that everybody in town who was involved in rock n' roll, then and later, would refer back to being at the Allen Theater that night. My sister Helen and I had purchased tickets as soon as they went on sale after Christmas 1973-- Helen was the original Stooges fan in our household, bringing home the first two albums to frighten our mother, and even our brother, who generally could handle just about anything. When I joined the Iggy & the Stooges Fan Club, I got the big fan club badge and I'd wear it wear it pinned to my shirt every day, like it granted me some sort of privilege. I believe both my sister and brother considered me to be a tad slow. They may have been right. But hey, I got a letter printed in their second fan club zine, and that was quite a thrill. Allow me to digress.
The two week wait for the show was intolerable. It was the worst of times. Really. The Worst. Helen and I had spent the past several months galavanting across the UK, only to return to the States to slave away at an automotive plant. I was a card-carrying teenage member of the UAW, working the midnight shift at a factory that made hoods for IH and Mack trucks. Helen and I both worked there, same shift for a while, then they split us up. It was crazy hot and itchy manual labor-- so loud, we had to wear earplugs 'round the clock in the plant, even when we dropped our masks to eat lunch. Lunch that tasted like plastic. Everything tasted like plastic, even after we got home. The foam rubber earplugs couldn't totally blunt the constant pounding of the presses, nothing could. So when I say sensory deprivation, I mean you couldn't hear to communicate. All you could hear, and you heard it incessantly, was the battering of hard resin shells slamming off the presses, and the sharp wail of saws and sanders and trimmers and tow motors and steel wheels on the train tracks and steam whistles and sirens going off at regular intervals to signal COMING THROUGH or BEHIND YOU or VAPOR LOCK. There was a strange crew of joyless workers there. Lifers with mouths formed into perpetual grimaces. There was no commeraderie. Hard-ass boozehounds and junkie types would disappear into the vacant train cars that pulled in twice a night for loading. What they did in there was anyone's guess. One of the women on our line took to regarding me as an SDS rabble rouser and cornered me one special day to spit out "I hope the Viet Cong comes here quick and shoves a bayonet up your ass!" I glued both eyes shut once and nobody ever heard me howling for assistance. I roaming around sightless until someone grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to the nurses office to get un-pasted. Another time I had cramps so bad I couldn't stand straight, and the nurse told me to go find a LOG and hang over it until I felt better. There was nothing that wasn't man-made within a mile in any direction, let alone a tree than might have had a nice big LOG sawed off it for me to dangle myself over. I got some god awful skin infection on my legs from glass fibers. Helen and I shared a room, and she said at night I was scratching my legs in my sleep so bad it sounded like somebody was peeling carrots. I'd wake up with my gams scratched raw. I got shipped off to Cleveland to some factory-recommended doc to get a treatment that required me to stand in in the dark in my undies with a Zorro-style mask on, while the doc shone a spotlight on me and occasionally told me to turn to the right. More . More. It seemed like he was taking Joel-Peter Wilkin type art photos. Either that or I was getting treated by some old school violet ray appliance. Regardless. The sensory deprivation -- gloves, masks, earplugs, and two pairs of pantyhose under our work jeans (to stop fibers from getting under our skin)- plus the fact that we worked all night and slept all day, resulted in the need for music of substance and magnitude, the louder, the better-- loud enough to quell the constant, maddening rumble in our skulls. Relief came in the form of Iggy and the Stooges, absolutely.
I was in high gear for both the Stooges and Slade. Helen was five years older, the class of '68. She was eye-rollingly tolerant of my teeny bopper love of they who had been the In Be-Tweens
And isn't that exactly what we've all come to crave-- "compellingly beaty, monotonously tuneless" music, music, music? But enough of Slade. By the time mid-January rolled around, I was glad all over to be heading to the first full-on double header of my life, while Helen had her bets solidly stacked in Iggy's corner. It was unseasonably warm for January. It went on record as the warmest January since 1953. It was about to get considerably warmer, like within the first few moments of the opening act hitting the stage at the Allen Theatre, a once fabulous movie house built by some rich Canadians in 1921 in the Italian Renaissance style. Big deal. We were not there to wax eternal over rotting architecture. We were there for RAW POWER. We'd not seen the Stooges in person before. Sure, all the photos of Iggy in various stages of undress, the crazy stories in Rock Scene, suggested something of interest, and the records, sure, the delivered in spades. But we were not prepared for what was to come. It's bizarre to me that this particular night hasn't been described in print before, to my knowledge. Am I breaking a code in revealing the fact that every aspiring little bandmeister in Northeast Ohio was present that evening, osmosing every iota of the personality-plus oozing from the stage at top volume? Every band I'd ever seen up until that night seemed to be at least somewhat interested in entertaining, dare I say pleasing we, the people. But here, Iggy and the Stooges gave the instant impression that they were not there for our measly amusement. Iggy came out shirtless, in tight white flares and a bowtie, with the band looking broody and intolerant and mean in the shadows.
James Williamson was on guitar-- impossibly gaunt, wearing a scowl and some sort of stretch sateen apparel so tight that it made the Raspberries signature satin pants look like baggy jodphurs by comparison. He was blasting so loudly and attitudinally that everyone in the audience was literally agape and agog, in total shock and awe from yes, immediate Raw Power dominance. Helen and I were right up against the stage, right, directly in front of James, and left of Iggy. Heidi and Mona and Becky were clutching the edge of the stage, chests heaving. These things I note, because there was nothing like this before, and nothing remotely like it afterward. If Helen, who was snapping photos like it was going out of style, Iggy staring right into her lens, had turned to take a photo of the audience, it would have revealed a roomful of zitty no-counts, each and every one of them with their mouths wide open, their eyes glittering with a weird light, and their hands tightly clutching either the rotty velvet seat back in front of them, or the arm of whoever was closest to them. It was as though spaceships were landing, or Christ was coming, finally, through the clouds. These things I know. We were staring at Williamson blaring away at some solo or another, unable to register clear thought or form words, when suddenly Iggy suddenly seemed to have lost his white flared jeans, reveling nothing more than a well honed hiney encased in what certainly appeared to be women's nylon undies. Nowadays, you may not bat an eyelash at the thought of gents opting for ladies wear, but speaking for myself, fresh from the boondocks and totally uninformed, my pea brain positively exploding with the unbelievably fantastic, super loud mess of class favorites blasting at us, combined with this guy Iggy, who was the most muy macho personage I'd ever set eyeballs on, despite the no-fly zone unmentionables, heck, I was ready to burst in flames right then and there and be toted home in an ash can. Right here! Right now! There was general mayhem when the curtain came down, we all looking at each other with new eyes. There was an intermission; some of the older kids went out to the lobby to drink, smoke, and rehash. I sat in the aisle feeling like I'd just finally grown up. Slade came on and entertained the people. They were wonderful, yes, but I was seeing things now, ten minutes later, through grown up eyeballs. I'd seen the future and it didn't conduct sing alongs.
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Helen's photos are fantastic and she has a mess of unpublished ones. Two got included in the great Sony packages. On the flip side of talent are my own crappy snapshots, taken with my Kodak Instamatic before the flashcubes went kablooey. Also, here's a response I got from James to a fan letter I wrote back when.
Post Script .... Iggy and the Stooges, with James Williamson on guitar, played a private Ray-Ban party in Brooklyn on May 12, doing Raw Power and so much more. Human Being Lawnmower editor Avi S tapped into the news-- we got in without a hitch, and long story short, positioned ourselves exactly in the same spot as I'd seen the Stooges in '74, to Iggy's left and directly in front of Williamson. I had to know if it was them or me, if their memorable majesty could possibly be the same this many years later... this was the penultimate, definitive fan moment... could they deliver.... It was kind of scary, the venue plastered with Ray-Ban Aviator this and that-- didn't they know that Iggy went for Foster Grant sunglasses, not Ray-Bans???? The party goers looking very much like business people out for good grub and free booze and a little entertainment. There was supposedly a bunch of movie stars there but you could have fooled me. It was kind of neat hearing that Lindsay Lohan had a crappy time. I can't name a single thing she's done, anyway. It's not like Carolyn Brandt got hassled by the cops or whatnot. There was no apparent fan frenzy. I was worried. The corporate crap was getting me down. It didnt' used to be like this-- stupid movie stars making the "scene"-- call me crazy, but that's unsettling. And then, the curtain went up and the whole thing went down. Raw Power. Holy cow. There he was, James Williamson, wailing away, a healthier specimen than he had been in '74, but with the same look of intent and the same defiance at the wheel. "Rock" Ashton bashed and the new bass guy did his job and lo! Here was original Stooges sax blaster Steve McKay blaring his brains out. Raw Power, Search And Destroy, Gimme Danger, Shake Appeal, 1970, 5 Foot 1, Your Pretty Face, I Got A Right, Dog, Open Up And Bleed.... unbelievable. Iggy flew off the stage, danced and pranced and sang like a big bad bird. Astonishing. He even got in a decent insult about "corporate assholes". Wonderful. I just pray that the next time I see him, he isn't wearing those ugly new style Aviators. Thank you Iggy and the Stooges, whom I revere, for your excellence and class and superpowers. Long may you reign. Your fan, Miriam