Saturday, July 3, 2010

THE TRUE STORY OF THE STOOGES' FIRST MAINSTREAM PRESS COVER FEATURE

May 21, 1970 Edition of Entertainment World magazine.
Cover photo (C) 1970 Kurt Ingham, The Stooges live, San Francisco, 1970

This was one of the first if not the first nation-wide cover stories on The Stooges seen in a mainstream multi-arts magazine, not just a regional, music-based one. This centerpiece article by John Mendelsohn featuring lots more natural stage light, live performance photos (which took great skill then and a close, personal relationship with a pro lab that would push film beyond recommended specs) by Kurt Ingham (AKA singer Mr. Twister) (and future Mr. Fastfilm) extolled Stooges virtues that we all now consider Gospel right as they happened for the first time. And back in the day, it took someone like Mendelsohn to spot the appeal and potential of The Stooges beyond Detroit.

Forty years ago, Mendelsohn was characterized as a rather prickly character by our late mutual friend Shelley B. However, he was a genius pop culture writer of witty style, full of himself and well-employed: a Los Angeles Times staff music writer in additional to Rolling Stone and Creem music reviewer (The Who and The Kinks were indebted to his efforts instrumental in their finally breaking the US market.) He mattered in the press, and didn't just like but loved the Stooges as kindred subversives. He trumpeted same to anyone who'd read or listen, particularly like-minded, quirky new friends such as visiting rookie musician David Bowie. (Here in L.A. as with most of the world in the pre-internet Pleistocene, absolutely no one beyond Midwestern zip codes had any prior Stooge exposure.)

(Fun factoid: Bowie's first trip to the USA during which Mendelsohn introduced the former to the Stooges' music (Paul Trynka's Iggy bio "Open Up and Bleed," pg. 148) found David without a work visa coming through. Consequently his only live performance was with Twister and John's bandmate's guitar, solo in a living room for assorted insiders. I wasn't one of them.)

Mendelsohn, a contrarian by hobby (just try engaging him in discourse on the Facebook Christopher Milk Fan Club) instantly had adored all the deliberate antagonism aspects of the Stooges, both musically and stagecraft-wise. Remember, all Iggy's then new in-your-faceness and Ron Asheton's snarky simplicity were years before punk.

John then incorporated rather a bit of it into his own band Christopher Milk with his sardonic between-song patter, and wanted lead singer Mr. Twister to attain more Iggy-esqueness. Twister liked the wild abandon aspect but not the mimicry, and opted to try more originality. After he photographed the Stooges 1970 gig in San Francisco for Entertainment World, espying that the Ig also ran around into the audience on table tops and biting people, Twister upped the ante by setting his own bare torso on fire onstage (with movie special effects chemicals.) This stunt wasn't repeated not due to Fire Dept. Safety intervention but because the band lacked a professional lighting system necessary to illuminate the flames atop his skin.


When the Stooges evolved musically with new guitarist James Williamson into the blast furnace aggression/ innovation/ nastiness/ speed of light musicality of "Raw Power," John, perhaps preferring any band's antagonism be more like his own verbal version, just wasn't as interested. He now spells his name with an additional "s" and blogs here at LINK Nepotism disclaimer: I know/ have met/ have worked with all of the people mentioned in this treatise, and forthwith now apologize both to them and all readers for any injustices perceived or merely abstractly inferred.


Photo at bottom right for the curious: Mr. Twister and John Mendelsohn in Christopher Milk 1970, photographer unknown

4 comments:

John Mendels(s)ohn said...

I am NOT a contrarian!

John Mendels(s)ohn said...

I am NOT a contrarian.

Fast Film said...

from Ralph Oswald, guitarist, Christopher Milk, all versions:

about Bowie`s lack of work visa, and the little party, our first meeting with him (J excepted) was on the A&M sound stage where we were allowed to practice. Bowie walked in and shortly was doing Stooges and Velvets with us. We were his friggin` band! This was very shortly before the party.

Fast Film said...

Thanks for logging in, Ralph and John. Wow, Stoogejammers with Bowie, I never knew!

Someone asked me how my own involvement with liking Stooge music right off the bat occurred since it wasn't known for being "chick music." Since it's relevant to this particular treatise, I'll expand herein.

In 1970, I was trying to interest my college roommate in various activities available around our new-to-her city so we wouldn't just be relegated to sitting in the dorm room all night getting loaded. We both loved music, so I hauled her to an off campus course on rock music conducted by John, then an already successful, famous rock writer and a recent alumnus of our university. He said he liked the fact that I wore a silver Lurex shirt (rather iconoclastic for that era of denim and paisley chiffons) and friendship ensued.

That first night of the course he played his recent favorites, most all of which were unknown or unavailable to late 60s/early 70s American music fans, like The Move or as yet unreleased Who. Then he played "No Fun." I had an inarticulate response mirroring same in the song, but something inside was stirred. (Everyone else in the class hated it.)

People nowadays forget that pre-internet dissemination of info was prone to delay, and the one Stooges gig in my berg so far from the Midwest had come and gone without my knowledge prior to that class. But thank to this introduction, my interest permanently was piqued. Later when all the frenzy, chaos and subversion innate to this enclave was ramped up beyond all measures known in the universe with "Raw Power" and Williamson's unique for the era and alltime blast furnace virtuosity, you betcha I was there to photograph the local 1973 Iggy and the Stooges' live offering!

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