They were like nothing anyone had heard before, but not, as director Jim Jarmusch calls them, “the greatest rock and roll band ever.” That designation, as with anything in arts, is subjective.
Music fans who are not hardcore Iggy Pop and The Stooges fans can decide for themselves when Powell River Film Festival screens the documentary Gimme Danger; super-fan Jarmusch’s “love letter” to The Stooges.
Iggy Pop and The Stooges are as definitively independent in the American music scene as Jarmusch is attributed to in the American independent film movement. The Stooges have often been credited as influencing the origins of punk, alternative, heavy metal and rock music. The original band was Iggy Pop, guitarist Ron Asheton, drummer Scott Asheton and bassist Dave Alexander.
At the film festival screening of Gimme Danger, Powell River Women’s Punk Rock Choir will do a short performance to introduce the film.
“The choir is really excited to be part of this year’s film festival,” said choir member Karen Skadsheim, “and we are plotting a fitting tribute to an incredible band that had a profound impact on music.”
It’s hard to pin down The Stooges sound, but there is no disputing they launched a jackhammer attack on rock when they came out of the Detroit scene in the ’60s.
Its most successful album of four that the band put out was Raw Power in 1973, mixed by David Bowie, according to the rock-encyclopedic mind of Mark Lemna, owner of Powell River’s Roxy Records.
“It’s a loud, noisy album, which is a good representation of what The Stooges were like,” said Lemna.
Artist and musician Colin MacRae, who was a member of Victoria punk band Pigment Vehicle before he moved to Powell River and became owner of Base Camp, remembers hearing Iggy 30 years ago.
“I had a friend that I lived with for a while who ran a record store and he had a huge collection of vinyl,” said MacRae. “He was a big Iggy fan, so I pulled some of his music out and listened to it back then.”
When the original Stooges began breaking up in the ’70s, Iggy and Bowie began a working relationship that would last for decades.
As a frontperson, Iggy, who is now 69 years old, was out of control; one of the first guys to stage dive, according to Lemna.
The Stooges played raw and raucous concerts, but Lemna said rock and roll has a soft spot for the band and particularly Iggy.
“He really enjoyed provoking the audience at the time,” said Lemna. “Provoking was an easy thing for them to do, because they were on the outside of popularity. It was predetermined that they were going to piss off any authority.”
In Jarmusch’s film, Iggy talks about the influence of the sounds he heard growing up in Detroit. They were not the influences of other bands, but the sounds of the giant auto-manufacturing plants pounding big, huge, slamming metal sounds before those plants were silenced and went to rust.
“He grew up in Detroit,” said Lemna. “Those were the sounds The Stooges wanted to create.”
Lemna did not see the original Stooges before Alexander died in 1975 or when they reformed in 2004.
“My list of people who I really want to see is pretty short at this point,” he said. “Iggy is certainly at the top of it.”
Lemna will be seeing Iggy and The Stooges, at least on film, when Gimme Danger plays the upcoming Powell River Film Festival on Friday, February 17, at 9 pm.
For more information, go to prfilmfestival.ca.