fri 18/09/2020

Gimme Danger | reviews, news & interviews

Gimme Danger

Gimme Danger

Jarmusch comes to praise the Stooges, Iggy's ultimate punks

(c) Danny Fields, Gillian McCain; photos below are (c) Tom Copi, and Mike Barich

Jim Jarmusch has made a memorial to the Stooges, more than a celebration of their brutal prime. His Zen rhythms, which roll so movingly through the upcoming Paterson, aren’t entirely equipped for the blunt trauma of Ron Asheton’s guitar, or Iggy Pop’s penchant for sultry chaos.

Jim Jarmusch has made a memorial to the Stooges, more than a celebration of their brutal prime. His Zen rhythms, which roll so movingly through the upcoming Paterson, aren’t entirely equipped for the blunt trauma of Ron Asheton’s guitar, or Iggy Pop’s penchant for sultry chaos. He’s barely adequate journalistically on the band’s early years, but is on hand for their death, as hard living leaves almost no Stooge standing. This makes his documentary a proud headstone for punk’s founding fathers, and one of America’s greatest groups.

Ron Asheton died in 2009, before Jarmusch began filming, and his drummer brother Scott, who died in 2014, is a gaunt, baleful presence of few words here. Sister Kathy Asheton and the man who signed them to Elektra, Danny Fields, are the only other interviewees the film enlists around Iggy, who tells the Stooges’ story with objective fierceness, at a slight distance from the band he created, but not about to let anyone short-change them. This year has battered us with the knowledge that even rock’s once-youthful gods aren’t immortal, but at 69 Iggy looks undimmed. His blue eyes penetrate coolly, his frequent laughs not concealing that, like the Ashetons, he’s a loner still walking his own path.

The Stooges were born in Ann Arbor, more of a college town than Detroit, the neighbouring city they’d make synonymous with what became known as punk. Iggy remembers the influential anarchy of Fifties children’s TV, the sonically suggestive “mega-klang” of the River Rouge Pressing Plant, and the importance of living in a trailer, “in close quarters in a simple environment with my parents”. There’s “a little glimpse of a deeper life” playing as a teenager in black Chicago clubs. But Ron Asheton had meanwhile been to Britain and seen the likes of The Who first-hand. It was this hardcore R&B the Stooges were after, but the Ashetons were the opposite of Townshend and Moon’s windmill pyrotechnics, barely bothering to move. It was, Iggy recalls, his own chimp-like dancing which made them respond. “In the Ashetons, I found primitive man,” he declares. If he views himself with the superiority of a guiding intelligence, and sometimes treated the brothers as disposable henchmen, in rock’n’roll Ron was anyway a genius.

Jarmusch has access to rare footage, but only briefly puts the Stooges’ power over on-screen. He resorts to fast-forwarding them playing, reconstructing early incidents with clunky animation, and generally borrowing Julien Temple’s rock doc style. There are some nice yarns, as when Ron dutifully calls the Three Stooges’ Moe to okay their name This is never, though, the immersion in the Stooges you might have expected.

Gimme Danger’s virtue is that it understands what the Stooges mean, and has Iggy to explain it. “I think I helped wipe out the Sixties,” he drawls on some old chat show couch, and he still has contempt for the “corrupt performers” he calls out for “cultural treason”, then and now (here footage of Crosby, Stills and Nash warbling flashes up). “It smells,” he says of such carpetbaggers, drawing himself up with a touch of self-mockery, but meaning it. “It still smells.”

“Here I am sleeping on the floor. I guess it’s over,” Scott Asheton recalls of the band’s 1974 dissolution. The 2003 reunion provided redemption, fully explored here, till the Ashetons and saxophonist Steve Mackay joined original bassist Dave Alexander in the grave, and the Stooges’ troublesome corpse twitched no more. Jarmusch ends with their life flashing before our eyes as they play “I Wanna Be Your Dog”. They were some kind of band.

Gimme Danger’s virtue is that it understands what the Stooges mean, and has Iggy to explain it

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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