“Iggy & the Stooges: Live in Detroit 2003″: Happy Birthday to proto-punk icon Iggy Pop!

By on April 21, 2017

Happy 70th Birthday today — Friday, April 21, 2017 — to proto-punk icon Iggy Pop, one of the last of the true punk godfathers still making music and a certifiable hero to those of us here at Night Flight HQ. To celebrate, we’ve recently added Iggy & the Stooges: Live in Detroit 2003 to our selection of Iggy Pop-related music documentaries, which you’ll find streaming over on Night Flight Plus!

Iggy & the Stooges: Live in Detroit 2003 features Iggy Pop and the original lineup of the Stooges — with Mike Watt subbing for the late Dave Alexander on bass — performing at their first Detroit concert nearly thirty years after they had last disbanded.

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Iggy Pop & the Stooges by Bob Gruen, NYC, 2003

Plans had been made to film their homecoming gig in Detroit on August 14, 2003, only to have that show postponed due to a widespread blackout in North America (what some have called a “freak” power outage).

The band would eventually come together again, eleven days later, and play at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, a 15,274-seat amphitheater located in Independence Township, Michigan, approximately 40 miles northwest of Detroit.

It’s a full concert of the best songs culled from the first two Stooges albums, including “Loose,” “Down On the Street,” “1969,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” “TV Eye,” “Dirt,” “Real Cool Time,” “No Fun,” “1970,” “Funhouse,” Not Right,” and “Little Doll,” with Iggy and the band closing out the show with the title track from their then-new 2003 release, Skull Ring.

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As it says on the back of the DVD release, in Iggy’s own words:

Here they are, the original Stooges, the band that never bit the weenie. A particular stiff-necked place and time spawned the undying attitude of refusal to compromise. This was Detroit, Michigan, in the late 1960s, when men were men and ears were ears. Now, we are here in the 21st Century, in a “music industry” that bores and annoys, persecutes and depresses. This concert, by the Stooges reunited, does not bore me. I love the groove. I love the songs. I love the vibe. I love the audience. I love this band, and I’m very proud of this high-quality product by the Stooges. ~ Iggy Pop

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You’d have to agree with us that Iggy Pop appears to be in pretty good shape for a sexy septuagenarian, and unlike many rock idols his age (those who have made it to their seventies), he’s managed to do it all without turning into a caricature of himself.

In some respects it’s amazing that the sometimes self-destructive Iggy Pop is still with us here on planet Earth, let alone the fact that he’s still performing, considering that over the years he’s earned a reputation for wild stage antics, including stage diving — he’s recognized as the first rocker to popularize the stage dive, a move he did for the first time at a concert in Detroit, Michigan, a full two decades before it became the norm — not to mention all those times he repeatedly slashed his chest and rolled around in broken glass.

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Thankfully, Iggy doesn’t fling himself into the front row throng any more, or mutilate himself like he used to, but even so, the sinewy and frequently shirtless Mr. Pop — writing and contorting as if reacting to electrical shocks — still manages to give his fans incredible, and sometimes unpredictable, two hour hard rockin’ performances every time he takes the stage, whether solo or in an occasional regrouping with his band, the Stooges, as you can see in this live concert documentary from 2003.

We also can’t think of too many men his age who have the confidence that one might need to wear extremely tight trousers and their long hair hanging down into their seventh decade of life (some 70-year olds haven’t had hair, short, long or otherwise, for decades).

Pop — who maintains his year-round tan by sunning himself at his home in Miami — says he keeps in shape by doing a series of daily exercises called qigong, which he says he learned from his former Korean tai chi master Don Ahn, who had a place in Soho (Pop says that it “just gives you a good energy, good flexibility and good circulation”).

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Anthony Bourdain and Iggy Pop

We presume that he’s also eating pretty healthy these days, based on the fact that a couple of years ago he sat down to a nice lunch with Anthony Bourdain for Bourdain’s CNN show Parts Unknown,” telling Bourdain that he’s enjoying life in Miami and also enjoying the fact that he’s alive, considering the alternative and more deadly route that so many other rockers have taken:

“Listen, if you just flamed out, you’re in — you know, you’re in such voluminous and undistinguished company, and then all your works will flame out quicker with you.”

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Nina Alu and Iggy Pop

We must also presume that his wife of more than fifteen years, Nina Alu — who is twenty-five years younger than him — also helps to keep Iggy young and active.

When asked by Rolling Stone magazine this past January how he was planning on celebrating his 70th birthday, Mr. Pop said:

“I’ll probably have dinner with my wife somewhere with low lighting where we can sit close to each other. And if I’m lucky, I’ll go to the beach that day. That’s my idea of a wild time.”

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Here’s more:

RS: What do you hope to accomplish in your seventies?
Iggy Pop: I don’t expect to use the album form anytime soon, but I hope I can do some singing or talking or writing that appeals to me. I just want to continue working and reacting to the world around me and enjoying bearing witness to this beautiful Earth. I like the outdoors very much. And I hope to be of use to the people that depend on me.

RS: Do you fear extreme old age and death?
Iggy Pop: That’s the creepiest question of this whole interview! But yes, I fear extreme old age. There is the possibility of being overreliant on others. Also, the worst would be the inability to enjoy life. I don’t mind a little shit in my day, but I need some sugar on that.

RS: How old is too old to be shirtless in public?
Iggy Pop: There’s no age, and the public can kiss my sweet ass, bare.

Just last year, Iggy Pop released his last solo album, Post Pop Depression, which was a collaboration with Josh Homme and Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age and Matt Helders of Arctic Monkeys.

Pitchfork described the album — which arrived shortly after the death of David Bowie — as Iggy “grieving the recent loss of his long-time champion and career savior.”

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James Newell Osterberg, Jr. was born April 21, 1947, in Muskegon, Michigan, on the eastern shores of Lake Michigan, but he was raised in a trailer park in Ypsilanti, which is a suburb of Ann Arbor and home to Eastern Michigan University.

He was a smart kid, the son of a high school English teacher — at school, Pop was also voted as the student most likely to succeed — but by age fifteen he knew he wanted to be a rock musician, starting off as a drummer and vocalist in his first band, the Iguanas.

He dropped out of the University of Michigan in 1966 and went to Chicago, where he listened to urban blues on the South Side, and ended up playing the drums in a blues band, the Prime Movers.

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Everything changed when he saw a concert by the Doors in 1967 at the University of Michigan, witnessing what was apparently not one of Jim Morrison’s more memorable performances: the singer was so drunk and, according to Pop, “out of his head on acid,” that he walked on and off-stage several times during the concert, which lasted just 20 minutes, prompting the audience to throw things at Morrison and taunt him.

Pop loved Morrison’s confrontational frontman style, provoking and antagonizing the audience (Pop: “Part of me was like, ‘Wow, this is great. He’s really pissing people off and he’s lurching around making these guys angry'”).

Pop borrowed some of Morrison’s persona for his next band, the Psychedelic Stooges, with guitarist Ron Asheton, his brother Scott Asheton on drums, and Dave Alexander on bass. For the first time, Osterberg began using the name “Iggy Pop” (the “Iggy” alluded to his first band, the Iguanas), the name he’s continued to use ever since.

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They played their first show in 1968, at a Halloween party at the band’s communal house on State Street in Ann Arbor, and Iggy, who was by now 21 years old, took the stage in what has to be one of the craziest performances ever.

In his own words he says he dressed up in “a white face and an aluminium afro wig with a maternity dress and golf shoes,” and he rocked out on a Hawaiian guitar, with every string tuned to the same note, producing a simulated sitar drone, before going onto make experimental sounds with homemade instruments that included a vacuum cleaner and a household blender filled with water. Drummer Scott Asheton, meanwhile, pounded away with a ball-peen hammer on a set of oil drums.

That band — who, as we all know, later shortened their name to the Stooges — and their out-of-control experimental noise primitive-punk concerts eventually caught the attention of Elektra Records, the record label that the Doors had signed to years earlier (they were still Elektra’s biggest band at the time).

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The Stooges, 1969

The Stooges signed with Elektra by Danny Fields, who had come to Detroit to scout another band, the MC5 (Fields signed them too), and soon they began working with John Cale of the Velvet Underground, who produced tracks for their self-titled debut album.

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The Stooges and the band’s follow-up album, the Don Gallucci-produced Fun House (they’d added saxophonit Steve Mackay for those sessions) are today considered seminal punk classics, but they were poorly received by record-buying audiences and most rock critics, at the time, and Elektra wanted the band to strive to be more commercial instead of settling for moderate sales.

Despite the lack of sales and critical approval, Iggy’s unpredictable onstage antics were starting to overshadow the music, creating a lot of drama between band members, who would have to keep playing a song intro on and on while watching Iggy strip off his shirt and toss himself into the audience, crowd-surfing his way to becoming a rock legend.

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During one infamous concert in 1970, at the Cincinnati Pop Festival, Iggy launched himself into the crowd with a huge tub of peanut butter, smearing it on his bare chest before flinging it liberally into the crowd (it was revealed many years later that Stiv Bators, of the Dead Boys and Lords of the New Church, had handed the tub of peanut butter to Iggy after bringing it to the concert).

You can see a clip of this infamous performance in Jim Jarmusch’s documentary on the Stooges, Gimme Danger, which was released in 2016.

By the start of the 1970s, three of the four stooges (not Ron Asheton), including Iggy Pop, had all become serious junkies (introduced to the band by their new manger), and there were all kinds of personnel issues besides the heroin use, which led to Dave Alexander departing August 1970 (he was replaced by a series of bass players).

The band also added a second guitarist, a role eventually filled by James Williamson, a childhood friend of the Ashetons and Alexander, but Iggy’s drug use had become so bad at one point that he wasn’t able to stand up onstage (by this time, he also abusing cocaine and LSD).

Elektra finally dropped the band from their roster, which brought about their breakup, formally announced on July 9, 1971.

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The breakup turned out to be a hiatus, and while Iggy was in New York, he met David Bowie on September 7, 1971, at Max’s Kansas City. The two icons would become fast friends, a friendship that would continue for many more decades, until they lost touch in 2002.

Just last year, in an interview with the New York Times shortly after Bowie’s death, Iggy says that David Bowie was “more of a benefactor than a friend in a way most people think of friendship.He went a bit out of his way to bestow some good karma on me.”

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Bowie “resurrected” Iggy’s career, and almost immediately got him a production deal with manager Tony DeFries’ company, MainMan, and a recording contract (for two albums) with Columbia Records, which led to Iggy re-forming the Stooges for their third album, 1973’s Raw Power, which was produced by Iggy Pop but mixed by David Bowie (Bowie’s song “Jean Genie,” on his 1973 album Aladdin Sane, is said to be about Iggy).

Raw Power — although critically well-received and highly influential — was also regarded as a commercial failure, due to its poor sales. The re-formed Stooges hit the road to promote it, but due to a dispute with Bowie’s manager, Tony DeFries, they had to do the tour without the benefit of having a manager by their side, leading to more drug use and the Stooges eventually disbanding again, in February 1974.

Iggy Pop spent much of the next two years sorting through various legal issues, and eventually had himself committed to a UCLA neuropsychiatric institute, hoping to get clean, or at least keep the narcs off his back for a while. While he was there, Bowie apparently brought his friend Iggy drugs, although his caretakers didn’t grant their approval and declined Bowie’s gift to their patient.

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In 1976 Bowie took Iggy with him on his European tour, after which they settled in Berlin for three years. As they attempted to wean themselves off drugs, the two returned to the studio, Bowie producing Iggy’s first two solo records for RCA, The Idiot and Lust for Life, producing some of the best music of Iggy Pop’s solo career, meditations on modern malaise and lost love, including Iggy’s co-written song “China Girl,” and one of his signature tunes, “The Passenger.”

You can read more about that period in this Night Flight post.

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Iggy Pop and David Bowie, circa 1977

In 1977, Iggy toured the U.S., with Bowie (unannounced) playing keyboards (Blondie was the opening act), and within a few years he’d have another recording contract, this time signing to Arista Records and releasing New Values in 1979.

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Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop onstage, photo by Alan Perry, 1980

Iggy wrote an autobiography, I Need More, during this period, as the next decade dawned, and in 1982, signed with Blondie guitarist Chris Stein’s Animal label, resulting with the release of Zombie Birdhouse.

In 1983, Iggy finally had a bit of financial stability when his friend David Bowie covered their co-written song “China Girl” on his EMI album Let’s Dance, leading to publishing royalties that helped keep Iggy Pop afloat through the rest of the decade.

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During that time, he turned to acting, accepting character roles in movies (Sid and Nancy, The Color of Money, John Waters’ Cry-Baby, the kids movie Snow Day, and Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man).

He released a series of albums over the next few decades — Instinct (1988); Brick by Brick (1990); American Caesar (1993); Naughty Little Doggie (1996) — and, in 1997, was paid tribute by some of the artists he’d influenced, including Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, on We Will Fall: The Iggy Pop Tribute.

Pop closed out the 1990’s with Avenue B, a moody record influenced by his fondness for Frank Sinatra (it features string arrangements!).

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In 2003, even though he said he’d never reunited with the men he memorably dubbed the Dum Dum Boys, Iggy Pop did get together with the surviving members of the Stooges, recording Skull Ring and touring extensively with his former band, who were finally inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

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In addition to Iggy & the Stooges: Live in Detroit 2003 — released on DVD in 2004 by Creem Magazine and distributed by our partner MVD — check out some of our other Iggy Pop-related documentaries, including Raw Power Live: In the Hands of the Fans – Iggy and the Stooges (featuring live versions of tracks from his 1973 Raw Power album, recorded at the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival back in 2010); Iggy Pop! – Live San Fran 1981; The Sacred Triangle: Bowie, Iggy & Lou 1971-1973 (focusing on all three 70s rock icons); and Ron Asheton: Tribute Concert with Iggy & the Stooges and Special Guests (recorded live at the Michigan Theater).

Check out all of our Iggy Pop-related and otherwise-related music documentaries, they’re all streaming over on Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.