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Chaos Reigns: Iggy Pop Spills His Guts in This Definitive Stooges Book

Hot on the heels of Jim Jarmusch's Stooges doc, Iggy drops this coffee table tome. A complete oral history, plus stacks of unseen artifacts.

by Emily McBride
Nov 15 2016, 7:25pm

When asked how he chose Iggy Pop and The Stooges as the subject of his next book, author Jeff Gold contends, "It kind of chose me." As Gold tells it, he never wanted to write, but sometimes the most fruitful paths in life are lucked upon. Although Gold has been in the music biz for the past 20 years, most notably as Executive Vice President/General Manager of Warner Brothers Records, and later Vice President at A&M Records, it wasn't until relatively recently that he turned to publishing. His first foray— 101 Essential Rock Records: The Golden Age of Vinyl from The Beatles to The Sex Pistols—came about thanks to his friend Bryan Ray Turkotte, who oversees boutique publishing house Kill Your Idols. While chatting about the success of Turkotte's own book,  Fucked Up + Photocopied (about the culture guerilla art in punk rock), he suggested that if Gold ever had an idea for a book, he would be interested in publishing it. Gold, an avid music collector who also runs the site RecordMecca, delivered a pitch on the spot, and by 2012, his book—self-described as "vinyl porn"—was available for purchase.

Now entering its fourth paperback printing, pulling together 101 Essential Rock Records… left Gold so depleted he swore his first book would also be his last. As it happens, fate and another nudge from a friend, fellow music historian Johan Kugelberg, once again intervened. Both are obsessive collectors of Stooges memorabilia ("probably bigger than anybody," claims Gold), but while the two had long discussed putting together a book about the iconic group, the prospect was still daunting.

"And then one day, I woke up with the low-impact way of doing this: we would pick 100 visuals from our collection—things people hadn't seen that told the story of The Stooges—and we'd show them to Iggy and record what he had to say and just juxtapose the images with Iggy's recollection," explains Gold. Iggy was immediately on board, and the final product is far more than a bunch of nostalgic pictures with pithy captions.

"About an hour into it, I thought, 'well, this guy is doing an oral history of The Stooges right here. This isn't just him reacting to these pictures we brought him,'" Gold says.  

As someone who struggles to remember what I did last Tuesday, I was frequently shocked by the detail in Iggy's stories. Gold enthusiastically agrees: "I know the guy, and [his memory] blew my mind. That's not even factoring in that he was a mega substance abuser for a long time. Iggy has by far the best recall of anybody I've ever met… and everything jived with all the research I did before and after."

Out today, via Jack White's Third Man Books,  TOTAL CHAOS: The Story of The Stooges, is a 350-page, four-pound coffee table book of images—a taster of which you can see exclusively below—alongside Iggy's extensive recollections, plus musings about the band from the likes of Johnny Marr, Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, Joan Jett, Jack White, and more.

 "I'm really glad I did it because, though it was a very intense amount of work, I feel like we really have made the final document on The Stooges. There have been a lot of books written where people are interviewing a lot of the people involved—the Asheton brothers and James Williamson—but Iggy hasn't talked that much about it in-depth, and once we did it, I thought, without wanting to sound pretentious, this is kind of an important historical document. I'm glad we've gotten the story down from the horse's mouth."

I spoke with Gold further about choosing which images to present to Iggy, debunking popular Stooges myths, and what the legacy of Iggy and The Stooges means. Below are excerpts and photos from the book.

Noisey: Your archives are immense.  How did you narrow down to the memorabilia you included?
Jeff Gold: Johan and I had scanned everything that we had.  And then we went through and tried to pick things that went along with some important part of The Stooges history and things that people hadn't seen before.  Everybody knows they were signed for $5,000, but here's the signature page and the first page of that contract, or we really were lucky to find through Ben Blackwell of Third Man and Robert Matthew who was our photo consultant—not only the picture of the four of them at one of their earliest gigs where Iggy is in white face which nobody had ever seen—but the same guy who had taken that had a picture of probably the same gig where Scott Asheton is playing a steel oil drum.  So that's a big part of the Stooges myth, and that's the only picture anybody has ever found of that.

When you asked Iggy if he read poetry before trying to write, he told you he hadn't, saying, "Like a lot of assholes, I was just excited to get out there and open my mouth." Along those lines, did you read a lot of interviews with artists to prep yourself before interviewing him?Everything I could find. There are a lot of things that people have written in books that get rewritten over and over again that just aren't true and that I was interested in his read on.  You know, people say, "How could Elektra drop The Stooges? They had no idea that they had this incredible band.  They were so stupid." And Iggy's perspective is, "We knew we were going to get dropped. We were completely strung out, and we had no songs. There was no chance we weren't going to get dropped, and we should have been dropped."  That's so not the conventional wisdom in anything that's ever been published about The Stooges.

What was your favorite thing you learned from this that you didn't know?
I really found it fascinating to find out that Iggy fully expected them to be dropped and saw that they had really no other option than that. But that Jac Holzman, who was the head of Elektra and who I know, had actually called him in and given him this parting gift of a Nikon camera.  You know, 20 years in the record business, I've never heard of anybody giving an artist they are dropping a parting gift or even having a final meeting, and that was such a great thing in how it enabled Iggy… he sold it, and he could travel a bit. That was really fascinating.  

Another one of the big myths is that, after they recorded their first album, Elektra didn't like it and didn't like John Cale's mix of it, so they took it away from them and went and messed with it to create an album they would be happy with. In fact, what happened was, Iggy didn't really know what he was doing, but kept hearing these songs and thinking, "Boy, I don't know.  Maybe I need to smoke another joint to get this."  And Jac Holzman calls him in and plays him the album and says, "Are you happy with this?" and Iggy says, "No." And Jac Holzman takes him through fixing it and completely in Iggy's mind improves it dramatically with Iggy's enthusiastic assent, and that's again just completely not the way it's written about.

Do you have a favorite piece of Iggy or Stooges memorabilia that you own?
An acetate turned up on eBay during the writing of the book of The Iguanas, Iggy's first band.  And it's their demo acetate, and I bought it for a lot of money because they probably only made one. Iggy doesn't have one, and I know Don [Swickerath], one of the other guys in the band, doesn't have one. one of the guys in the band sold it to somebody who sold it to somebody who sold it to me. I can hold that record and go, "This is literally the first time that Iggy was ever on a record, and I own it."

How did working with Iggy, especially during you're A&M days, inform the book?
You don't know how the person who walks through the door when you're having a business meeting with them comports to the person you've seen on stage.  And I was just blown away at what a nice, intelligent guy he was and how much he had to contribute to the marketing of his records, how creative he is, how willing to consider other people's opinions. But I was wholly unprepared for the depth of his recall and how into it he was.  

I think, and this is just one speculation, but Ron Asheton had died five or six years before that.  Scott Asheton died between the time he agreed to do it and when we interviewed—like a couple of months before we interviewed him—and I think he was thinking a lot about The Stooges, and I think he was in a really reflective place.  And he knew me, so I was not an unknown guy coming in who might not get the story right. A couple days before I showed up, I Fedexed him all of these images, and he was blown away.  Most of it he had never seen. We were the right guys, it was the right time.

You were obviously a fan before you met him, but I kind of find that—and maybe this is just me being really narcissistic and making it about myself—but when I meet a band and work with them or develop a relationship, I sometimes develop a stronger love for them as a listener.  It becomes more personal, I guess.  Did you find that?
In this case, yes. In a lot of cases, no. Because I worked at Warner Brothers and A&M, I worked with some artists that I really personally liked, and a lot of artists that I respected but didn't like, and some artists that I didn't really respect their work or like. But it was my job to do the best job I could for all of them, and in some cases working with people I really admired was very gratifying, and some cases not so much. But this was a case where, you know, it kind of hit it out of the park so much better than I could have hoped.

How did you choose what artists to talk to for the essays?
I had worked with Joan Jett at Warner Brothers, and I always thought she was really intelligent, and I wanted to get a woman's perspective. I knew she had worked with Iggy and really admired him, so I reached out to her. And in probably one of the boneheaded moves of my life, I did this incredible interview with her where she broke down crying once about how much Iggy meant to her. I mean, it was just incredible, and I recorded it on QuickTime.  And at the end of the interview I hung up and went, "Wow, it just doesn't get better than that," and I hit save, and my computer crashed.  I spent about two hours on the phone with a tech person, and there was no saving it.  I had to call her manager, who I'm friendly with, and go, "I feel like the biggest jerk in the world, but I lost the interview."  He spoke to Joan, and Joan said, "I'll do it again no problem," and I was like, "Oh my God."  I was mortified.  That's not how I chose her, but sidebar.

Josh Homme was easy, because when I spoke to him, I had just seen the Post Pop Depression Tour, and he was Iggy's most recent collaborator. Dave Grohl, I just think he's really a smart, interesting guy with a lot to say, and so I reached out to him and he was an instant yes.

His story blew my mind. [In Dave Grohl's musings, he reflects on a time that he was touring as a drummer with his pre-Nirvana band Scream in Toronto around 1990.  The band was set to play at 11:00 p.m., but their soundcheck at the venue was at noon.  While they were soundchecking, they found out that Iggy had an album release party for Brick By Brick before their show. Grohl and his bassist ended up getting recruited by Iggy to play the party with him.]
You can't believe how it blew my mind. You know, I spent probably two hours preparing for that interview, and I didn't see it anywhere, and it only exists... he only tells a 30-second or a minute version of it on YouTube before he plays a set.  So when he said, "Do you know about me and Iggy?" and he told me that, I was so shocked.  Such an amazing incredible story, and so I was so happy I spoke to him.

And Johnny Marr I know, and he had done an interview for my 101 Essential Rock Records book.  In that book I asked people to talk about vinyl records that were super important to them, and he said Raw Power.  Absolutely wanted to talk about Raw Power, and I know he is obsessed with that album. So I asked him, and he instantly said yes, and he's been really supportive. So it was all just kind of intuition, and I think I got really lucky. But that Dave Grohl story was just freaky how great that is. And to think that Josh Homme bought Raw Power when he was 11. Incredible.

You asked Iggy in the end what the legacy of The Stooges is.  What is your take on that?
I think they invented punk. I mean, they made three insanely great albums that I listen to all the time, and not because I'm working on this book. In fact, that's why I'm working on this book, because I love those records so much. And I think that their style of performance was completely unprecedented, their records were unprecedented. I think it's the music and the live presentation were both unprecedented and super influential.  And my first book is about 101 records that kind of hit the same mark, were innovative and influential. I think The Stooges are one of the most innovative and influential bands there are.

On a more personal level, you asked Josh Homme what the legacy means to him and what Iggy means specifically to him. Same question.
You know, we did this event last Tuesday at Third Man in Detroit, and they had the premiere of the [Stooges documentary Gimme Danger] that night. Then we had my event, and I'm sitting on stage with Iggy doing an interview with him, and I keep going back and forth between, "This is going great" and "I can't believe I actually know this guy."  I'm sitting on a stage having written this book, and it's like I know all of this is happening, but I'm still such a fanboy that it's kind of a dissociative experience on some level. The legacy for me is, this stuff is still so vital that here you've got Jim Jarmusch—in my mind one of the best directors there is—making a documentary about The Stooges, and clearly doing it out of love not because it's a get rich quick scheme. You've got Iggy at age 69 having, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the biggest year of his career with his highest charting album of his career, the biggest tour of his career, a film about The Stooges, a book about The Stooges, a show opening at the Brooklyn Museum where a well-known artist drafted 20 other artists to do life drawings of Iggy nude and a few other things. I mean, it's just incredible to see this.  And a guy getting the acclaim he so richly deserves while he can enjoy it.  It's just fantastic.

Total Chaos: The Story of The Stooges is out now.

While recording Fun House, Elektra exec Danny Fields turned Iggy onto cocaine, and the next day Iggy broke into the Fields' motel room to steal his stash.  
"Here's what happened. I tried coke for the first time on that trip. Danny Fields gave me some at the hotel and then I was one of those people, I'm so bad with drugs that I was like, 'I don't feel anything! Blahlahlahlahlah.' And I'm speed rapping and then, no, it did nothing to me and three days later—I'm a very agile person, or I was then—so I climbed in through the bathroom window of his suite, ransacked his room and I stole his coke and he was so mad. 'Man you stole my coke! Why would you do something like that?'

Iggy got high with Chubby Checker, during Chubby's attempted psychedelic comeback 
"Chubby Checker was, at the time, trying to reinvent himself as a psychedelic guy, so he cruised me and I couldn't get out of it. People started saying, "Chubby wants to meet you Chubby wants to talk to you".  And we were in this inn and Chubby wanted to come up to my room, so Chubby comes up Chubby's wearing a two-piece velour sky blue leisure suit with a great big medallion on a gold chain, right, and he had his hair in a very neat afro and he wanted to smoke dope with me and talk and you know what? He was just so nice I liked him so much."  

Iggy painted his hair silver with a drug store spray used by prostitutes 
"The hair is done over with something called Nestle Streaks 'n Tips, which was a spray instant hair color that came in an aerosol can and you used to be able to buy it at Walgreens And it was used, I'd assume, mostly by prostitutes I would use the silver. You spray it on, it instantly gives you more body than you had, and you're bright silver. But it drips on your neck, if you touch it, it's on your hands, and it takes days to come off, so wherever I slept after for days would be covered in it. I started using it at that time because I was using too much dope, I was not eating right, I'd switched from eating macrobiotic with lots of reefer to everyday try to get some heroin and straight to the Dairy Queen to get a sugar rush Ice cream, ice cream. So I looked a bit for what I wanted to do, so I'd take a small bottle of Johnson's baby oil, put it all over my body and my face then a small bottle of glitter. Pour that over that and then the Nestles And that was a look! Lisa Robinson mentions it in one of her things, and from a distance, it looked pretty cool and it's cheap.)

Iggy was watching a movie when David Bowie first wanted to meet him, and almost didn't go as he hadn't heard of Bowie, though Bowie had recently named Iggy his favorite vocalist in Melody Maker.
"Yeah, it's possible that first Lisa might have called Danny and Danny went down and I said, 'Oh, I'll come later,' or whatever and he might have called But Danny definitely called at least twice The first time, I'm saying, 'Look, I'm watching this movie and he's so sincere! He's cleaning up! I don't wanna go down there!' And then he called back, he said, 'Look, you could do yourself some good. These people could help you.' He's just giving a sensible little nudge there, so I went down there."

Iggy Pop
The Stooges
total chaos
Jeff Gold