The Stooges, formed in Ann Arbor in 1967,
will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame on Mar. 15.
By STEVE SEYMOUR
Michigan band The Stooges, under-appreciated for decades, are heading to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Based in Ann Arbor, the Stooges recorded three albums, now regarded as influential, but which sold poorly at the time of their release.
The band was formed in 1967 by "Iggy Stooge," also known as "Iggy Pop" (lead vocals), Ron Asheton (guitar, bass), Dave Alexander (bass) and Scott Asheton (drums).
Born James Newell Osterberg, Jr. on April 21, 1947 in Muskegon, the group's singer became known as "Iggy," a reference to his high school band, the Iguanas.
Locally popular, the group merited a photograph in the 1965 edition of the "Omega," Ann Arbor High School's yearbook.
After Iggy graduated, the Iguanas became house band at Club Ponytail in Harbor Springs where they shared the stage with many national acts including the Four Tops ("I Can't Help Myself"), Kingsmen ("Louie Louie"), and Reflections ("[Just Like] Romeo and Juliet").
The Iguanas worked up a version of Bo Diddley's "Mona" as their theme song and cut that number and two originals at United Sound Recording Studio in Detroit.
Intrigued by the blues, Iggy left the Iguanas in 1966 for a drumming gig with the Prime Movers, a local blues outfit.
Enrolled at the University of Michigan, Iggy dropped out to move to Chicago where met legendary blues drummer Sam Lay and played drums in various blues clubs.
Returning to Michigan, Iggy attended a performance by The Doors ("Light My Fire") at the U. of M. on Friday, Oct. 20, 1967. Transfixed by charismatic frontman Jim Morrison, Iggy quickly assembled the group known at first as the Psychedelic Stooges.
After a one-off Halloween gig, the band began in earnest in early 1968 and quickly became known for its primitive sound. Iggy, who performed shirtless as a trademark, added outrageous stage antics to the mix.
Wasting no time, Elektra had the Stooges in the recording studio by April 1, 1969. They cut eight songs in four days for their self-titled debut album, released in August, 1969 just as the Woodstock Festival was grabbing the nation's attention.
The project was produced by John Cale, former bass player for New York's Velvet Underground, who had tons of street credibility in the emerging punk rock scene. The LP opened with the addictive "1969" and included "I Wanna Be Your Dog," issued as a single to little notice.
Michigan's Creem magazine called "1969," a song about boredom,"the perfect expression of the oldest complaint of rebellious anarcho/crazy youth."
Sax player Steve Mackay and guitarist Bill Cheatham were added for "Fun House," the group's second album. Issued in July, 1970 that album also failed to sell.
Still, the band's fortunes could have improved with their appearance at the Goose Lake International Music Festival near Jackson, held August 7-9, 1970. A crowd estimated at 200,000 attended the event.
The Stooges took the stage on Saturday, Aug. 8 and performed "1970 (I Feel Alright)" as well as other tracks from their two long-players.
Bassist Dave Alexander showed up drunk for what became the last appearance of the original band.
The musician was fired from the group and replaced by a number of bass players, but the Stooges disintegrated. (Suffering from alcoholism, the 27-year-old Alexander died on Feb. 10, 1975 of a pulmonary edema.)
Iggy and the Asheton brothers reconvened with David Bowie as producer, emerging in 1973 with "Raw Power," which also failed to catch on with the LP-buying public. This version of the band split in 1974.
By 1977, however, critics and rock fans were beginning to appreciate the Stooges. "1969," which they performed at the Cincinnati Pop Festival on June 13, 1970 was included in a compilation titled "Michigan Rocks" issued on Stems and Seeds Records, based in Clarkston.
Air-Wreck Genheimer paid tribute to Iggy and the Stooges in his liner notes: "Iggy crawled out from under the rocks on his parents' trailer park lawn in Ypsilanti to successfully share with us the very depths of his own tormented nightmares, even illuminating a few of our own, despite his self-proclaimed philosophical determination to fail at anything and everything he attempts to do."
Iggy's nightmares included heroin abuse, but he re-emerged in 1976 to began a solo career which continues to this day.
He co-wrote the Top Ten smash "China Girl" with David Bowie for the British star's 1983 "Let's Dance" album and dueted with Kate Pierson of the B-52s on "Candy" a hit in late 1990.
My wife Sue and I saw Iggy perform briefly a few years later during the Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame staged at Cleveland Municipal Stadium on Sept. 2, 1995. During the seven-hour show which featured many of rock's greatest stars, Iggy fronted the Minneapolis rock group Soul Asylum in a version of "Back Door Man." The Howlin' Wolf tune, written by Willie Dixon and Chester Burnett, was a stand-out track on the Doors' debut album.
Perhaps realizing their time had finally come, the Stooges reunited on April 27, 2003 to play for the first time in nearly 30 years at California's Coachella Festival. Years of touring followed.
They even released a new album, "The Weirdness," in 2007.
Tragically, Ron Asheton, 60, was found dead in his Ann Arbor home of an apparent heart attack in the early days of 2009 ending the the band's 21st century reincarnation. Iggy called Asheton "irreplaceable."
Still, in May, 2009 Iggy announced plans to tour with drummer Scott Asheton and other former members of the group as "Iggy and the Stooges."
From the beginning, the Stooges enjoyed cult status among some fans, especially in Michigan. Although their first three albums sold poorly, the recordings have endured over the years to influence punk, grunge and hard rock.
After being rejected seven times, the Stooges were finally voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2010. The Stooges will be inducted with Genesis, Abba, the Hollies and Jimmy Cliff. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is located in Cleveland, but the March 15 induction ceremony will take place at New York's famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
It took forty years for their contribution to rock 'n' roll to be acknowledged, but for the Stooges the honor is better late than never.