Metallic K.O.

Oct 7, 2009 at 12:00 am

"In 1969, most people said that the Stooges would never make it. In 2009, a few people still steadfastly refuse to recognize the monumental, enduring influence that the Stooges have had in the history of rock 'n' roll over the past forty years. Perhaps this book will make believers out of them." — Robert Matheu, from the book's introduction

By 1973, the Stooges were headed nowhere good. Raw Power was released in the spring of that year, with great hopes that the Stooges would ride the David Bowie/MainMan glam train to new heights of fabulousness. The Stooges played one show of the Raw Power material at Detroit’s Ford Auditorium in March 1973 before the deal with MainMan fell apart. "After that," Iggy told me in 2005, "any other live shows that you come across, you’re hearing a band left to its own devices."

With the band left to try to conquer the world on its own, Iggy’s performances began turning more tortured and weird. Lacking the good sense to just go away, the Stooges spent 1973 embarking on strange little tours, including runs of shows at Max’s Kansas City in New York and the Whisky a Go-Go in Hollywood. Meanwhile, the Stooges had turned into a circus sideshow, with Iggy the primary head-chomping geek.

"It was pretty wild and wooly on the personal side. I’ll leave that to your imagination," Iggy said. "On the musical side, we were still trying to forge ahead. In other words, we weren’t standing still for all the chitter-chatter about this band in that period. Listen, heroin wasn’t chic yet, unless you were the Rolling Stones. We were baaaaad fucking news, and people were scared to admit they knew us."

[On the album], Iggy heckles the audience, and they respond by hurling missiles — ice, eggs, bottles — which are audible on the recording. Finally, the act devolves into a profane rendition of "Louie, Louie," which Iggy honed years earlier playing Ann Arbor frat parties. "I never though it would come to this, baby," he says. In defeat, the Stooges planted the seeds for their own enduring legacy: The Stooges Are Dead! Long Live the Stooges! At the end of that final show, standing amidst the hurled debris from a bloodthirsty audience, Iggy says: "You nearly killed me, but you missed again so you have to keep trying next week."

"Next week" may have turned into three decades, but the Stooges did return, triumphant in their own strange way, with the knowledge that they were right to believe they were something special. And while Metallic K.O. spooked Iggy and marked the beginning of years in the wilderness, it electrified generations of listeners and assured them that it was OK for artists to put their ugliest emotions on public display. That it was OK to open up and bleed.