By Jennie Orton
VANCOUVER — There is a group of people, both larger than you expect and smaller than deserved, who cite The Stooges as the greatest rock band that ever existed. There are glossier entries into this title competition, but as Jim Jarmusch lovingly demonstrates in his rockumentary Gimme Danger, none as steadfast in their conviction to be themselves as this band.
In a candid and surprisingly soothing gravely delivery, a voice flavoured overtop of years of relentless vocal theatrics and bouts of substance courting, Iggy Pop details the long but refreshingly genuine tale of The Stooges and not only their many rises and falls, but the cultivation of their very self-aware presence in the rock pantheon.
Though the surviving founding members were present at time of filming and accounted for in one recorded documentation or another (guitarist Ron Asheton died of a heart attack in 2009, his brother drummer Scott Asheton died of a heart attack in 2014, and saxophone player Steve Mackay in 2015) they all begin to turn into dads before your eyes, while waxing romantic about the journey that both made them and broke them over the years. It is only Pop, who retains his appearance as a Velociraptor, who outlives the rest, both literally and figuratively, to tell the whole tale.
As a music documentary, this film does a somewhat orgasmically detailed job of chipping away at the sedimentary rock that is The Stooges’ growth as a musical entity: from Pop’s early influences of Soupy Sales and the “mega clang” of the metal puncher at a car manufacturing plant he visited on a school trip, to their decision to not follow John Sinclair and his disciples down the primrose path of white panther madness in the late sixties and the wild ride that was Ziggy Stardust’s ever pluming wake. But it is Jarmusch’s skill at finding the surprise in the story that mines the beauty out of this band’s relentless loyalty to not only each other but their roots (Iggy Pop, believe it or not, cites living in close proximity to his parents, who let him have their master bedroom for his drum set, as one of his early life gifts). Jarmusch succeeds where others have failed; those who tried to, as Pop puts it, “penetrate the tangled web of our career”, only to “drop out in horror”.
This is a tale from the ever topical front lines of Detroit, where people are made from steel wire, and music has a certain work ethic attached to it the dwarfs other venues. The Stooges may not be cited in the same annals of the likes of the Beatles or the Stones or even the Thin White Duke himself, but they knew how to shake shit up in a way that endures.
“I think I helped wipe out the ’60s,” Pop admits with a grin; the type of grin earned after years of inducing primal squirms from those just one inch away from total freedom.
Gimme Danger will be released October 28.BC, British Columbia, Gimme Danger, Iggy Pop, The Stooges