I don’t normally buy off-label concert recordings. But when I saw Iggy Pop, Bookies Club 870 at my local record store, it immediately became a “must have” item, for you see, my friends, I was at that show. Or so I thought.
It is possible to forget a lot of things in the almost 39 years since September of 1980. One of those forgotten details was the fact that Iggy played a series of either six shows, from September 22 through the 27th, if you believe the concert poster, or eight shows from the 22nd until the 29th if you believe the liner notes.
As it turns out you shouldn’t believe either of them. Ivan Kral, who was part of Iggy’s band during that tour, says it was seven nights. It seems that six shows were scheduled, and one more was added due to popular demand. I was at one of those shows, but I can’t recall which one. There was a different local warm-up band each night, but that doesn’t help. I forget which warm-up band I saw. I do remember that Iggy put on a great show, whichever night it was.
This recording (available on vinyl and on CD) is the September 26 show. The Mutants opened, and the concert was broadcast over the radio on WABX. Had I been home that night and aware that it was being broadcast, I could have recorded that show on my own. Back in those days, before we were given the means to suck every note of music ever recorded off of the internet, many of us record collectors had cassette tape decks as part of our stereo systems. We used them to record our friends’ albums that we couldn’t afford to buy, and to record shows like this one-off of the radio. The trick for recording albums was to buy 90-minute tapes. They would generally hold one album per side. When you recorded concerts off of the radio, you had to be ready to flip the tape if necessary at that 45-minute mark. With any luck, it would be between songs.
Taping concerts off the radio was one way concerts were bootlegged and then traded among collectors. Besides radio broadcasts, there were also the surreptitious audience recordings. Audience members would sneak their portable tape recorders past the bouncers and tape the show; unless it was a Grateful Dead concert, in which case recording was required. To get into a Dead concert, you had to show the bouncers your tape recorder along with your ticket.
Over the years some of these bootlegs have shown up as legitimate releases. For example, The Velvet Underground’s “Live at Max’s Kansas City” was recorded on a cassette recorder by a friend of the band. It was released by Cotillion, the Velvet’s record company at the time. This was not a common record company practice back in 1972 when the record was released. Today you can buy the expanded double CD version. This is now a very common record company practice.
Due to the resurgence of vinyl lots of bootlegs of varied sound quality are being released on record and CD labels I’ve never heard of. The big record companies have even been getting into the game, while trying to sound dangerous and disreputable, by releasing previously unreleased live recordings and studio ephemera with “Bootleg” in the title, as with the Bob Dylan and Miles Davis bootleg series.
So we can look at this Iggy release as a bootleg, now legitimized. There is a lengthy interview in the liner notes with Iggy’s then band mate Ivan Kral, but not with Iggy. There are more interviews with Bookies’ denizens and former Iggy band mates, but not with Iggy. That made me wonder if this release was “Iggy approved,” but according to the Easy Action website, it is “Licenced from the artist.” The sound quality is not so great, but that’s not why anyone buys releases like this one. There is only so much commercially recorded Iggy …
The concert itself is quality Iggy. He plays his “hits”, and he is clearly giving it his all. At times he’s giving it to the audience. He gets mad when they won’t quiet down for his soft song, “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road),” which is actually a really good song. Iggy’s rendition is too, but Sinatra, he ain’t.
Iggy talks a bit about his Bookies run in Steve Miller’s Book, “Detroit Rock City,” which is the Detroit version of “Please Kill Me.” I highly recommend both books. But like Iggy was saying, “That was a time in my life that I was the most completely insane. . . And I was singing ‘One for my Baby,’ the blues jazz song . . . and people wouldn’t shut up. You know the trouble with people if they’re out having a good time. I stopped like five times saying, ‘Shut the fuck up!’ The whole tour was kind of like that . . .”
And Bookies was kind of like that. It was, at the time, a punk club. So, what do you expect? In the beginning, it was THE punk club. Other punk clubs opened, but Bookies remained the center of it all. Local bands played there as did rising bands like The Police, The Cramps, and The Romantics. Sometimes the place was packed. Sometimes it wasn’t. There were six of us in the audience for Snakefinger, and this was with Eric Drew Feldman playing keyboards.
Iggy survived the tour because Iggy is a survivor. Recall that he originally introduced himself to the music world as front man to the Stooges, but a front man the likes of which the music world had never seen. After the Stooges there was Iggy’s solo career, helped along by David Bowie and other admirers. Now he is an elder statesman of sorts, and he is treated by the mainstream with deference and respect.
Iggy had a huge resurgence with the reformed (minus Dave Alexander) Stooges in 2003. Through the magic of time and his own undeniable talent (and energy!) Iggy was now famous rather than infamous. The world had caught up to him. In addition to official releases of bootleg shows, the original Stooges albums have been lovingly rereleased in deluxe fashion; remastering, extra cuts, beautiful packaging, the whole deal. And he plays in front of larger crowds made up of old fans who followed him in the old days and new fans who wish they would have been alive to follow him in the old days.
Other Iggy bootlegs have been released sort of legitimately over the years. One of the more notorious is Metallic K.O., which came out back in the seventies and allegedly documents the final Stooges’ show at the Michigan Palace. It’s been subsequently rereleased over the years in other longer forms on vinyl and on CD, and if you’re interested in more grisly detail, it does have a Wikipedia entry. The main reason to buy this one is to hear Iggy insult some bikers and get cold cocked when he jumps into the audience to fight one of them.
Iggy is the last surviving member of the original Stooges, and clean living had nothing to do with it. He did his share of drugs, and probably my share, and the shares of a few dozen or a few hundred others. Check your stash. He may have done your share too. Based on his reckless stage antics and the long years of self-abuse, it’s obvious that Mr. Osterberg has an iron constitution. He will probably outlive Keith Richards.
In contrast to his stage persona, Iggy can be bright and thoughtful. I’ve seen some of those old TV interviews with Dick Cavett, Dinah Shore, Letterman, and others. And then there is his Peel Lecture. Watch it in-between listening to The Stooges and Funhouse. He may be insane, but he’s no dummy.
Listening to his stage banter on this disc, it’s clear that he demanded as much from his audience as they did from him. I don’t remember if he was as demanding the night I saw him. I did try to do my best as an audience member and I’m sure everyone else did that night as well. But, I wish this album were recorded the night I was there. As good as it is, that would have made it even better.