Final Rating: 8/10
James Osterberg is not long for this world.
Talk about déjà vu. When I first heard the man more commonly known as Iggy Pop was doing an album with the much younger Josh Homme that would eventually become Post Pop Depression, the sinking feeling came to mind that Iggy doesn’t have a lot of time left. Justin Trudeau’s shirtless inspiration has seen both music contemporaries and close friends such as David Bowie drop like flies during this year of seemingly nonstop tragedy and Trumpisms. And that’s no joke.
Iggy Pop has a legacy to leave, one he clearly wants to do in his own words with new documentary Gimme Danger, which had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 14th. Not to fast forward to the Q and A that happened at the end, but the blazer-sporting Osterberg told me himself in no uncertain terms he requested director Jim Jarmusch to make a movie about him. Yeah, I’m wondering too how my head didn’t explode at the sold-out Ryerson Theatre after talking to Iggy directly.
Gimme Danger isn’t the most complex rock doc ever, telling the story of The Stooges in as linearly a method as possible through interspliced interviews with the Iggster, guitarist James Williamson, bassist Mike Watt, manger Danny Fields and Kathy Asheton, sibling to deceased brothers Ron and Scott who are featured archivally in addition to punk sax blower Steve Mackay. Rather than painstakingly agonize over everything that went wrong over the course of the sessions for The Stooges (1969), Fun House (1970) and 1973’s Raw Power, Jarmusch chooses to move the narrative along at a breakneck pace akin to legendary Stooges songs like “Search and Destroy”. Iggy in fact wears a “Street Walking Cheetah” T-shirt during one of his conversations with the “SQÜRL”-ly filmmaker.
Despite the evident condensing, we are given a virtual treasure trove of tidbits that will satisfy any rock history fan. Howdy Doody’s Clarabell the Clown, Soupy Sales and Detroit auto manufacturing equipment had as much to do with shaping the look and sound of Iggy’s music than groups that predated The Stooges (I’m thinking The Kingsmen, The Sonics and The Fabulous Wailers). MC5 get a lot of love in Gimme Danger, but then again, they’re freaking awesome. Oh, and Moe Howard apparently didn’t care what the Elektra Records-signed band called themselves, as long as it wasn’t “The $#@%ing Three Stooges”.
Iggy looks remarkably lucid while interviewed, and was awfully spry for a 69-year-old when introduced in Toronto. It’s not as if he tries to whitewash how drugs and other sundry vices played a major role in why The Stooges initially fell apart, to say nothing as to why original members Dave Alexander and the Ashetons are no longer with us. One way I found Gimme Danger unique from similar celluloid efforts was the montage of punkers The Damned, Sex Pistols and more covering Stooges classics, followed by a visual cascade of albums audibly influenced by The Stooges (I saw The Clash, The Cramps, and some two-piece duo I have a fondness for named The White Stripes).
I wasn’t necessarily surprised Jarmusch touched on what Iggy refers to as the Coachella “reunification” (even reusing crappy-coloured YouTube footage). There wasn’t a peep however about the two albums The Stooges did afterwards, The Weirdness (2007) and Ready to Die, which they toured behind until Riot Fest 2013. I consider myself very, very fortunate to have seen Iggy and the Stooges live, even if it was only their bleeping remains as Iggy eloquently put it at the time. Gimme Danger definitely lights the fuse with regard to the revolutionary potential the band possessed. Not to mention destructive, but Iggy is facing up to his actions as a sole survivor to set the record straight, before it’s too late. He doesn’t want to be remembered as glam, alternative or even punk; he just wants to “be”.
This is an easy ROCKmendation for anyone to see when it’s released widely on October 28th. What I’m looking forward to even more now is the tell-all book coming out from Jack White’s Third Man Books, Total Chaos: The Story of The Stooges / As Told by Iggy Pop. Author Jeff Gold promised me it is a no holds barred account of what really happened from the perspective of the guy who willed the Stooges into existence and kept them going through innumerable ups and downs. Who wants to get it for me as a Christmas gift?