Posts Tagged ‘Max’s Kansas City’

Bloody Iggy

A few days prior to their run of shows at Max’s Kansas City in July/August 1973,  The Stooges arrived in Manhattan to rehearse. The band’s label provided a practice space in midtown, and tapes were made so Iggy and the band could hear themselves. Years later, the recordings were released, and they were a revelation. Iggy was absolutely on fire during these rehearsals. There are moments when his vocals are even more violent and unhinged than anything heard on the band’s studio LPs or their infamous live album, “Metallic KO .” Though the practice tapes lack the fidelity of those seminal releases, the intensity comes through all the same.

After a long delay, The Stooges third album, “Raw Power   “ was finally released in May 1973. The previous March, after clashes with management came to head, James Williamson was forced out of the group, but after the company dropped Iggy and the Stooges, he was welcomed back into the fold. The band also added a new member, Scott Thurston, to play piano and harmonica.

A number of friends attended the Max’s rehearsals, which were held at a studio owned by CBS Records. Natalie Schlossman, former head of the Stooges fan club, was there, as was original bassist, Dave Alexander, amongst others. With the impending high-profile dates, and as so many were watching, The Stooges gave it their all. At one point, Iggy got on top of the studio’s grand piano to cut a rug.

The Stooges

Recordings of the Max’s rehearsals appear on a number of archival releases, beginning with Rubber Legs  ( 1987), the first in a string of quasi-legal albums comprised of previously unreleased Stooges tapes that flooded the market in the late ‘80s. In 2005, Easy Action Records put out the Stooges-approved boxed set of outtakes and such, Heavy Liquid an abridged version was produced for Record Store Day . One of the six discs contains the Max’s show, as well as seven recordings from the Max’s rehearsals. All of the songs pulled from the practice tape were, at the time, newly worked-up tunes that, in the end, wouldn’t be formally recorded by The Stooges.

Heavy Liquid

“Johanna” (later documented for the Kill City project) is particularly powerful. Said to be about a former girlfriend that got her kicks by playing mind games on the Stooges singer, the tape captures Iggy totally tortured, screaming his head off over a love he knows is toxic, but can’t quit.

The haunting ballad, “Open up and Bleed,” is another intense one. Iggy’s vocals are positively hair-raising here.  The second Max’s Kansas City gig is the one in which Iggy, as he was walking on tables in the club—with attendees including Wayne County, Lenny Kaye and Alice Cooper looking on—slipped and fell on a table full of glasses. When he stood up, his chest was covered in blood . Though thoroughly cut, he finished the show.

  • Iggy Pop – lead vocals
  • James Williamson – guitar
  • Ron Asheton – bass, backing vocals
  • Scott Asheton – drums
  • Scott Thurston – piano

In the New York punk scene of the mid-Seventies, it was important to pick a side. “Some people were Max’s people, some were CBGB people,” explains transgender proto-punker Jayne (formerly Wayne) County.

Whereas East Village landmark CBGB famously launched the careers of bands like the Ramones, Talking Heads and Television, Max’s located roughly a mile uptown at 213 Park Avenue South – was home to a freer, often campier strain of punk . There was a distinctive sound that was immortalized on Max’s Kansas City: 1976, a studio compilation showcasing the grit and glitz of the club with a cross section of talent ranging from arty noisemakers like Pere Ubu and Suicide to more theatrical fare from such underrated acts as the Fast and County’s own Backstreet Boys.

England’s Jungle Records has revamped and generously expanded the original album in the form of Max’s Kansas City: 1976 & Beyond. Released this May, the reissue adds 30 bonus tracks onto the initial LP, including rare studio cuts from such Max’s regulars as the New York Dolls, VON LMO, the Terrorists and the Stilettos along with exclusive live material by the likes of Iggy Pop; Nico; Sid Vicious with his short-lived group the Idols; and both of Johnny Thunders‘ post-Dolls outfits, Gang War and the Heartbreakers.

Max’s Kansas City: 1976 was the brainchild of Peter Crowley, a New York punk impresario who booked Max’s during its mid-Seventies heyday. “Originally it was opened as a steakhouse and bar,” Crowley explains of the club, whose sign touted “steak, lobster, chick peas.”

Opened in 1965, the original incarnation of Max’s closed in 1974, but was quickly reopened in 1975 under the ownership of Tommy Dean Mills. Crowley was hired as the music director, and helped usher in a new age for the club as a haven for the growing NYC punk movement. He also convinced the new owner to allow him the expense to produce an album that would serve as an advertisement for the venue – one that would be issued on the in-house RAM imprint and distributed across the region. Their direct competition on the Bowery was quick to retaliate.

“CB’s wound up rushing out a live album, which was that double Live at CBGB’s around the same time,” explains Jimi LaLumia, whose band, the Psychotic Frogs, was a Max’s regular and whose infamous song “Death to Disco” appears on Max’s Kansas City: 1976 & Beyond. “But Peter put out an actual studio documentation, which is why I call Max’s Kansas City: 1976 the first ever studio compilation documenting the scene during its infancy. There was no other.”

What Crowley created with Max’s Kansas City: 1976 was nothing short of a Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets for the early New York City punk scene, and a showcase for the way that movement and glam were intersecting . You can hear the glitter in the dirt on songs like “Cream in My Jeans” and the rowdy, name-dropping title cut, both by County and her Backstreet Boys; the Patti Smith–meets–Bette Midler fire of “Shake Your Ashes” by Cherry Vanilla and Her Staten Island Band; and the confrontational camp of tracks by the John Collins Band and Harry Toledo.

“It was all due to the Dolls,” proclaims Walter Lure who co-led the Heartbreakers with Johnny Thunders and was a regular presence at Max’s as both a performer and a patron – of the signature Max’s sound. “I always consider the Dolls to be the grandmothers of punk, because they looked like glam but played like punk. They also came back to the three-minute song after rock had gotten so crazy with bands like Emerson Lake & Palmer 20-minute songs and shit. Rock had gotten so self-indulgent; it needed bands like the Dolls to bring it back.”

Image result for maxs kansas city

The free mingling of glam and punk that thrived at Max’s wasn’t always so welcome elsewhere. “There was a lot of competition between Max’s and CBGB’s,” County states. “I got along fine with people in both scenes. Though there was definitely a bit of homophobia running through the CB’s crowd. More of the gay community hung out at Max’s, but it wasn’t a gay place: It was a place for artists, and was accepting of all types of people. But CBGB was a place where everybody was trying to prove how tough and rough they were, yet really underneath you could throw a bug at them and they’d scream like little girls.”

The schism reached a violent peak with an onstage altercation between County and Dictators frontman “Handsome” Dick Manitoba during a CBGB performance by County’s Electric Chairs. A heated Handsome Dick jumped onto the stage to confront County, who retaliated by smashing him with her microphone stand, breaking his collarbone in the process.

“Things took a turn after the Manitoba/County thing,” proclaims LaLumia. “At that point, the city had changed. And in addition to the racist undertone, there was also a homophobic undertone as well. Which was funny, because it was a parade of big queens on the scene suddenly turning their backs on Max’s, because Dick picked a fight and he lost and then he tried to sue, just because he got clobbered over the head. They both take the blame for it now, but back then it made Jayne the villain. And for those who hated the LGBT end of the scene, it gave them a target. It gave people who wanted an excuse to hate on Max’s as ‘the gay place’ to keep people away from the club and away from the artists associated with it.”

“It wasn’t a gay place: It was a place for artists, and was accepting of all types of people.” –Jayne County

One act who commanded respect from both scenes was Suicide, featured twice on Max’s Kansas City: 1976 & Beyond. The comp includes both an early demo of the synth-punk duo’s tune “Rocket USA”  found on the original issue of the album – and an embryonic take on “Ghostrider.”

“We had a basement, which was a cooperative art gallery called the Museum of Living Arts,” explains the group’s surviving member Martin Rev. “It was also where Alan [Vega] was at the time living. It was in a small, little storage part he used as a flat for something to sleep on and a place for his stuff. No roof on it or anything, it was just part of the basement. And we would rehearse there, and because he was staying there he said we could keep some of our equipment down there. Somewhere we found this 2-track tape recorder. And we started using these five-inch reels, so every time we’d do a rehearsal in his room we ran the tape recorder. So when Peter asked us to do a track, we just ran down there and cut those two songs and gave him the reel.”

Toward the end of the Seventies, as groups like Television, Blondie (whose singer Debbie Harry was once a waitress at Max’s), the Dead Boys and the Ramones would begin to grow too large for the CBGB stage and move on to larger rooms like the Ritz, the Palladium and Irving Plaza, that club would hit a serious lull in its booking before the local hardcore groups began taking over at the turn of the decade. Yet Max’s, which would remain open until 1981, continued to be a vital conduit for both veteran and emerging punk acts in the New York metro area.

For Crowley, the enduring nature of the scene he caught on wax with Max’s Kansas City: 1976 is a testament to the energy of the artists, famous and otherwise, who made the club a haven for an emerging movement.

Max's Kansas City: 1976 & Beyond


MAX S KANSAS CITY 1973 – Early Radio Broadcast from NEW YORK S most iconic venue. Bruce Springsteen a regular performer there during his early days would be an understatement; indeed, he played a staggering 17 shows at the venue in 1973 alone. This CD contains one such occasion captured on 31st January that year. Having just released his debut, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., Columbia Records had arranged a simultaneous radio broadcast to help promote the album. Featuring a host of early favourites, including Does This Bus Go To 82nd Street? and Spirit In The Night – along with several primitive versions of songs that would later appear on his sophomore record, The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, plus a number of other rarities – this collection is a fascinating artefact of the roots of one of rock music s most enduring talents

Heartbreakers Max's Kansas City RSD LP

A Record Store Day release on multi-coloured vinyl of the classic live album, with the rarely heard Volume 2 added for the first time on vinyl.

Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan formed the Heartbreakers out of the ashes of the New York Dolls in 1975.  Gaining infamy in London touring with the Sex Pistols on the Anarchy tour of ’76, they went on to produce just one album, the classic L.A.M.F. in 1977.

The Heartbreakers split up When Track Records folded early in 1978.  But in the fall of ’78, Johnny Thunders,Billy Rath and Walter Lure found themselves in New York and decided to do a couple of gigs for ‘old times sake’ and some ‘chump change’. Jerry had moved on to play with The Idols and Sid Vicious, so they got together with drummer Ty Styx for some farewell gigs at Max’s Kansas City.  The resulting album was issued in 1979 on Max’s Kansas City Records in the US and Beggars Banquet in the UK.

It sold well, so Max’s Tommy Dean and Peter Crowley decided to record a Volume 2. A long weekend of shows was booked, this time with original drummer Jerry Nolan, but ‘chemical imbalances’ ruined all but half of the last show.  Beggars turned down the tapes, and Volume 2 remained unreleased, appearing only briefly on CD in the mid-90’s.  

Now for the first time, both volumes are brought together on double-vinyl, in a Record Store Day release of limited, spattered red, yellow & black double vinyl.  Disc 1 is the original 1978 live album and Disc 2 is Volume 2 recorded 1979 but unreleased until 1995 and never before on vinyl.  The album comes in a gatefold sleeve with the original artwork, together with an insert with notes by Johnny Thunders’ biographer Nina Antonia.

VOLUME 1:  Side One  Intro, Milk Me, Chinese Rocks, Get Off The Phone, London, Take A Chance, One Track Mind.  Side Two  All By Myself, Let Go, I Love You, Can’t Keep My Eyes On You, I Wanna Be Loved, Do You Love Me.   
VOLUME 2:  Side Three  All By Myself, Pirate Love, Too Much Junkie Business.   Side Four  Don’t Mess With Cupid, So Alone.