Shane taps into his musical passions in this review of Gimme Danger, a 2016 documentary about rock band The Stooges.
In the same year as the Summer of Love, Iggy Pop and a few of his communist pals decided to create a band that was more Push & Shove than Peace and Love.
By the Winter of Discontent (Or just 1978 if you aren’t a British industrial worker from the 70s), ‘The Stooges’ had become instrumental in creating Punk Rock, the most successful form of musical rebellion since Elvis started kids dancing on Sundays (punishable by death in 50s America, this law still lingered in more rural areas until Kevin Bacon had it repealed in Footloose).
Nearly 50 years after The Stooges formed, a film documenting their experience was released to hipster-filled Indie movie theatres all over the globe (Many thanks to Belfast’s QFT for my own hipster-filled theatre experience!).
Gimme Danger documents the rise of The Stooges in a manner, almost in complete contradiction to the band’s own reputation, it was cleanly-cut, well produced and such a comfortable viewing experience I can easily recommend to anyone. The Stooges’ music on the other hand, I’ll save for the select members of humanity I know are self-inflicting enough to enjoy their Raw Power (that works on at least two levels, google it).
The objective style of the movie is a great fit; I feel that when the story is as extreme and dramatic as the found in the turbulent years following the formation of the Stooges you only need to state the facts to leave the audience stunned in horror/amazement.
One thing that the movie really brought to the forefront for me was a method in the Iggy’s madness. Search through some of his back catalogue of interviews and you’ll see anything from wise-old Grandfather of Rock to toothless anarchist with as much respect for his own safety as he does for covering his nipples.
Stepping back before the final product of an animalistic stage, we see a well-read musicophile. Like many of the anti-establishment musical icons that were to follow in his footsteps, Iggy Pop’s anarchic rebellion against the formulaic, highly polished bands that reined the airwaves of his early 20s portrayed an artist that was making it up as he went along.
Having seen Jazz slip in to obscurity and rock’n’roll morph in to a soul-less, corporate bi-product of the music industry, The Stooges deceptively minimalistic stance on rock music allowed their fans to imagine that a group of talentless outcasts were able to go out, buy some instruments, and make records that were more listenable than whatever garbage bands like Herman’s Hermits churned out.
The band’s lack of polish was highly influential to the DIY ethos of Punk Rock, but little did those genuinely talentless punk rockers know, Iggy had actually honed his musicality playing drums for an assortment of blues artists in Chicago. While the production on Raw Power sounds like the work of a total amateur, that amateur was actually David Bowie so we’ll just call it ‘low-fi’.
One thing that I particularly enjoyed about the documentary was that it really was a documentary about The Stooges not Iggy Pop and the Stooges (a name that they would later be known as thanks to Iggy’s star power). Dedicated to the artists that were fundamental in making the records as great as they were, yes it was great seeing Iggy in his prime, rolling around in glass and inventing the stage dive, but hearing more about the roles of the other members brought a grounded tone to a very grass-roots band story.
My only issue is, the film may have spent a little too much time discussing the bands “reunification” in 2003, as much as it’s great for people of a later era to get their fix of bands long since past their sell-by-date, the less said about the cash-cow tours the better.
If you want to see the human side of a larger-than-life group, or even just an interesting perspective of the changes that occurred in American culture from Elvis Presley to Elvis Costello, this film is a great watch. If you think you would struggle sitting in a chair long enough to watch a feature-length documentary, try putting on Fun House, you might not be able to sit on the chair but you might be able to throw it!