I recently had the opportunity to see 'Gimme Danger', the new documentary on the Stooges. It gets two big thumbs up from ol' Russ, and I feel anyone reading this should definitely make effort to see it. I'd like to claim an adolescent allegiance to the Stooges proverbial "O Mind" and all its revelatory glory, but I caught up way late. The first time I heard the Stooges as a teenager, I didn't get it. I guess my teenaged suspicion of anything I perceived as "popular" tinted any first impressions with the prejudicial stain of contempt (and if I'm to be totally honest, it still does). I think the term willful ignorance is apt. Perhaps the constant praise and adulation The Stooges seemed to receive from all quarters caused my stubborn counter-reaction. I had been turned on to the MC5 and obviously the Stooges name was almost always tagged with their own. However upon first discovery, the '5's evangelical fire-and-brimstone boogie was more easily and readily digested than when I first heard the Stooges. The droning mantra 'We Will Fall' didn't help, either. So my initial reaction was "yeah, more boring hippy shit..."
So I foolishly dismissed the Stooges outta hand.
I've often argued that music isn't necessarily subjective. Quality will stand. It will penetrate and endure. There's a very real reason why something like the Ramones - once considered un-commercial at best, and anti-commercial at worst - is now used in commercials. This may seem like a trivial accomplishment, yet when you consider that advertisers spend large amounts of time and money in researching and analyzing their ability to maximize the widest and most effective range of attention, it says something pretty profound about our culture. Even when stymied by limited exposure or distorted by the tasteless appeal of contemporary standards, the good stuff will slowly seep into collective consciousness, informing and influencing the future. It never rests and never fades. Sooner or later, its gonna get got.
And sure enough, I inevitably and finally got the Stooges.
I was given a bunch of old cassettes by a friend, comps and collections of different things he thought was cool. Among them was a tape with the word 'FUNHOUSE' scrawled across it in big blue letters. It was on a rainy late night drive that I absentmindedly jammed the tape into my car stereo, completely unaware my life was gonna change. The music was abrasive and dark, but not in stereotypical Black Sabbath fashion. It also had a swagger and sneer, but not like the Rolling Stones. It didn't boogie, it didn't groove. It had dynamics but wasn't academic. Unstudied and unconscious, it drove on its own insistent beat; neither urgent nor relaxed. It was all at once rebellious, unifying, ugly, sexy, dark and blinding. It was crushing and direct. It said nothing yet meant everything. Nothing so bleak had been so beautiful. When the saxophone started to wail on '1970' I swear to god I got cold chills... It was an intensely personal experience the likes of which I've probably only had a handful times in my life.
The Stooges remain a blistering testament to the audacious power of Rock & Roll; what it meant and what it could mean. So much so it is almost painful. As a reminder how awful and irrelevant most music is, their legacy stands as a stubborn affront in the face of mainstream convention. Music created and performed by (and for) outsiders with little interest in politics, fashion or anything else. It is the sound of teen angst Saturday night dead: greasy hair, acne, sweaty t-shirts, dirty denim, Boone's Farm Wine, nowhere to go and nothing to do.
I can only wish I had discovered this music at an earlier age. I would like to believe that I would have readily recognized and appreciated its sense of liberation in self identity, but truthfully I was a misfit kid seeking acceptance and understanding. I was too young and immature to realize that beyond the space of my own two ears lay little promise or opportunity. And there are few things quite as daunting as confronting yourself. Perhaps if I had heard 'Dirt' when I was thirteen I may have advanced on the path a little more quickly. Not because I believe myself to be dirt, but I needed to recognize my own sense of self-worth however seemingly insignificant, which is exactly the point.
I like to believe my personal motivation to express myself musically is not far removed from that of the Stooges. The approach and method the Stooges took with their music validates and confirms the idea that for many of us, music isn't merely a simple pursuit of trivial entertainment or misguided ambition for fame and fortune. It's the vehicle of the broken and un-blessed, an avenue of self-fulfillment that transcends the boundaries of success, commercial appeal and appeasement. It's the voice of the disenfranchised and disillusioned, forever and ever outside the carefully policed parameters of a politically correct culture of "cool"....
We are looking forward to returning to the Local 506 in Chapel Hill on December 3rd. This is our only show this fall, so I'd encourage anyone and everyone to make effort to attend. We wont play again until 2017, so don't miss it. We've recently laid down some NEW tracks for inclusion on a split with the inimitable Malcolm Tent! We've recorded one of his tunes, entitled 'Do It Now'. Details and info on that will be forthcoming. Meanwhile just in time for X-Mess and before the clock ticks away on its 25th Anniversary, TKO is releasing the 'lost' unheard demos of 'Southern Hostility'!! I actually once had a copy and let me tell you - it's not something to miss. Limited to 500 copies, it is pressed on yellow vinyl and includes a large 19"x22" poster. I've been wishing and hoping this would see the light of day, and finally it has! We still have a limited amount of copies of our newest release, "WE'RE # ONE" available as well.
Get in on the action and get you some!!