IGGY and the STOOGES – ” You Think You’re Bad Man: The Road Tapes ’73 – ’74 ” Cherry Red Box Set

Posted: January 21, 2021 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , , ,

In 1969, The Stooges were a truth serum, forcing hippiedom to belch up the reality that flowers and hope had become just another guise for hucksters and snake-oil salesmen to take advantage of the naïve. By 1973, however, The Stooges were no longer the mirror to an era’s hypocrisy. They were the representatives par excellence of desiccated overindulgence and self-destruction. Too many bad shows, too many blatantly underage groupies, too much booze, too high — way too high. While The Stooges’ noise-rotted nihilism, originality, and underrated musicianship have ensured their longevity, the final six months of the band, as captured on Cherry Red’s new box-set, “You Think You’re Bad Man: The Road Tapes ’73 – ’74” were a squalid and chemically-warped stagger toward total collapse.

The five live shows captured are all previously released, originally licensed by Tony DeFries’ MainMan management company to record labels like Revenge, Bomp!, and Jungle during the 1980s and 1990s. However, this box-set is a very welcome tidying up exercise with good packaging and liner notes, all at a fair price. For decades, delving into the vast quantity of Stooges deep-cuts meant investing in a chaotic mishmash of compilations, so the 21st century has been wonderful in terms of labels (Easy Action in particular) bringing professional curation to the Stooges output. This Cherry Red Records compilation is a part of that positive trend, and one can only hope they get a similar grip on the many studio demos still out there.

Going on tour with the defeated, newly label-less StoogesLos Angeles to Baltimore to New York, battered and defeated to their home, Detroit—via this Cherry Red box is akin to living through the hell of the worst tour ever, driving on Highway 1 with a cheap 1965 Chevy, low on gas, with its tires on fire and an incessant burning oil smell on your clothes. The car radio? Its speakers are blown, the perfect shredded tone for repeated, wired versions of “Search and Destroy,” the gothic “Gimme Danger,” and the stammering “I Got Nothin’.” The Cherry Red collection is the sound of brain-numbing, aggressive anger and disgust at a thousand nights of self-inflicted road food, drugs, and fucks tucked into a clamshell box.

It didn’t take long for The Stooges to acquire an afterlife. They played their final show in February 1974. In May 1975, Nick Kent wrote a multi-page feature for NME on the ups and downs of Iggy Pop and Co. In September 1975, Sounds reviewed a new album by the defunct band titled “Metallic KO”. One side of it was recorded at that final show.

“I’m a tasteless little bastard and I really enjoy it,” wrote Giovanni Dadomo of the wreckage captured on the vinyl. “It’s no great rock ‘n’ roll record per se. What I do believe is that it’s an astonishing piece of documentary work, revealing as it does the face of rock ‘n’ roll that few singers/musicians would ever be rude, angry, wrecked or impolite to reveal. Sure, it’s crass, conceited and unjustifiably vulgar plus a hell of a lot of other singularly ‘unpleasant things’, but still I like it. A record that quite literally has to be heard to be believed.”

“Metallic KO” began an apparently never-ending series of post-split Stooges releases. Few are essential – like the wonderful “Live at Goose Lake” August 8th, 1970, released earlier this year. Most are for the committed or completists. An intermittently great and handy one-stop collection collating various previously issued live releases, the new “You Think You’re Bad, Man? The Road Tapes 1973-74″ is in the latter camp.

A five-CD clamshell box with a booklet (its band pics and the cover shot are from 1972, not the period of what’s heard), You Think You’re Bad, Man? includes these shows: The Whisky a Go Go, L.A., 16th September 1973; Michigan Palace, Detroit, 10th October 1973; The Latin Casino, Baltimore (despite the credit it’s probably Cherry Hill, New Jersey), November 1973, The Academy of Music, New York (supporting Blue Öyster Cult. Kiss were also on the bill), 31st December 1973; Michigan Palace, Detroit 9th February 1974. The two Michigan Palace were filleted for Metallic KO.

It’s a bumpy ride, not just because of the spotty sound quality which ranges from a bootlegger’s “B” to “A-“. The Whisky gig is pretty tight, and its “Search and Destroy” and “Open Up and Bleed” are great; the best versions in the box. The New York show is a disorderly mess. The two Michigan Palace shows are well known, have been round the block many times and, of them, the final outing of the band is worse than a mess. The sound quality of the relatively disciplined Baltimore show is the poorest of them all, but it does have the box’s top run-through of “I Need Somebody”.

The Stooges of this period were in choppy waters. The Raw Power album had been released in February 1973 and guitarist James Williamson left in June. After a spell as a porn cinema projectionist, he returned to the band late that month with the proviso that a piano player came on board. First, that role was filled by Bob Scheff. Then, from late July, Scott Thurston joined. He appears throughout, with plinkity-plonk or barrelhouse playing which distracts. It is no fit with the band. The Stooges did not need Mrs Mills, or any piano player. Other wobbles came when the band’s management ditched them in August. Their label Columbia had already done so.

Nonetheless, there were snatches of the positive. In Raw Power’s wake the band had new songs and were clearly thinking of their future. A lot are heard on You Think You’re Bad, Man? “Open Up And Bleed” and “Head On” are the best. “Heavy Liquid” was good. “Cock in my Pocket”, “I Got Nothin’”, which prefigures The Stones’s “Fool to Cry”, and the puerile boogie rocker “Wet My Bed” are OK. The infantile, silly “Rich Bitch” is not alright. A new album could have been made. There was label interest too. In October 1973, Elton John wanted The Stooges for his Rocket Records imprint. But it all fell apart in February 1974. You Think You’re Bad, Man? is a series of bullet points in the narrative of the band’s collapse.

These are not the only post-Raw Power shows which have been released ). The 2010 Raw Power box included a scrappy October 1973 Atlanta gig with loads of the annoying piano – it was recorded off the sound desk though, so sounded fine. The 2005 Heavy Liquid set had one from Max’s in NYC from 30th July 1973 and another played in San Francisco in January 1974, as well the Whisky show.

This endless afterlife is further confirmed by another new release. Titled From K.O. To Chaos, it’s an 8-disc box set of random Iggy sniff-snaff. It includes Metallic KO on one disc, and its source shows on another two other discs – each of which is also collected on You Think You’re Bad, Man?

Although You Think You’re Bad, Man? The Road Tapes 1973-74 says nothing new, it neatly chronicles The Stooges in the wake of Raw Power’s release. The album was recorded in September and October 1972 and a year and more later, without a label and management, they had not given up. They could be dreadful. But they could also be impressive. It’s a disparity coursing through these five discs – five discs of shows which were originally never meant to be recorded and released, or even listened to.

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