Iggy & The Stooges – Born In A Trailer
New boxset subtitled The Session & Rehearsal Tapes ’72 – ’73, bringing together some of The Stooges’ lesser known tapes. The selection includes discs devoted to their 1972 Olympic Studios recordings and their Michigan, L.A. and New York rehearsal sessions. Ian Canty hears the best of a couple prime years of the iguana…
The Stooges were to all intents and purposes history by the summer of 1971. After Fun House’s poor showing commercially, Elektra backed away from any third album for the label and the band members began to spiral out of control. First to go was Dave Alexander, given his marching orders after turning up worse for wear for the band’s show at The Goose Lake Festival. Though it has to be said from the evidence that was made available last year when the gig was officially released, he seemed to be doing ok. Even so roadie Zeke Zettner replaced him, who was in turn usurped by Jimmy Recca. Another of the road crew Bill Cheatham joined on second guitar, but he didn’t last long and by the end of 1970 James Williamson was brought into the fold.
Although The Stooges had a new set of songs, but they had nowhere to go. After a gig at The Factory In St. Louis on 26th May 1971 it was really all over, though Recca and the Asheton brothers played in July of the same year where a member of the audience deputised for Iggy after a fashion. Just as it seemed everything had fizzled out, David Bowie and his management emerged to throw the band a lifeline. Williamson and Pop were whisked to the UK and when the local talent was found to lack the necessary zeal, Ron and Scott Asheton were drafted in as the rhythm section. Then the newly reformed and revitalised Iggy And The Stooges could now get down to work.
The first disc of Born In A Trailer captures the 1972 session at Olympic Studios in London. Among the songs they developed there was one of the truest precursors of punk, the incredible corrosive detonation of I Got A Right. This number was the opening gambit of the 1971 tour with Recca and became a genuine Stooge power anthem. It is heard here, if you count a couple of false starts, a whole thirteen times. It goes without saying that you really do need to like the song to get much out of this disc, but I found all of the takes (possible minus the first false start) worth hearing. Sometimes the alterations are relatively minor, like the “different drums” version which only seems to have a brief percussive roll that sets it apart. It should be noted that the guitar sound here is sometimes so distorted it occasionally sounds like a keyboard line was added! The “no Leslie” version is probably the most familiar due to its subsequent release on Siamese Records in 1977.
As well as the many I Got A Rights we get instrumental and vocal takes of Gimme Some Skin, the lyrically scathing and bitter warped psychedelic epic Sick Of You, Scene Of The Crime’s r&b punk jam style and a frenetic Tight Pants. I was also very pleased to hear for the first time The Stooges’ punky take of Barrett Strong’s Money and it is great that they start a cover of Louie Louie with a maniacal scoop of The Trashmen’s Surfin’ Bird. Overall I found this disc a total blast that captured the mayhem of The Stooges prior to Raw Power perfectly.
I Got A Right, Gimme Some Skin, Sick Of You and Scene Of The Crime all seeped out during the punk years that they no doubt predicted. But at the time only Tight Pants was judged to be worthy of a place on the next Iggy And The Stooges LP Raw Power, under the new title Shake Appeal. Counting the covers, that’s two thirds of an album that was discarded, but given the quality of the contents of that third Stooges collection, I think we can let that go.
Disc two finds the band back in Michigan after recording Raw Power and as a result a number of the album tracks turn up in these recorded rehearsals for a show at Detroit’s Ford Auditorium. Bob Sheff had joined the band by this point in time and his piano is much in evidence, pumping its way through the one successful attempt at the title track. The first Raw Power is basically a short bungled intro, despite what it may say in the sleeve note. Then they move on to Head On, which is another case of an elongated false start followed by a fuller version. A third take crops up later on this disc and in either format this is a really exciting and powerful number which would have surely been a shoe-in for any fourth long player by The Stooges.
The first version of I Need Somebody here breaks down mid-song and restarts a few times during its 18 minute duration. When the music staggers to a halt Iggy critiques and directs the musicians in typical fashion, making it clear he was the band leader in addition to being the singer. The stop-start riff of the song is stretched and contracted and Mr Pop adds some new lyrics, all of which provide the reason why the title is expanded here with Sweet Child and I Like The Way You Walk. A second, more concise version retains retains its juddering aggression and goes the distance.
Perhaps Raw Power’s key offering Search And Destroy is given a slightly longer intro and a fair splash of piano and a spirited and lengthy Gimme Danger shows up on this disc too. The other real wild card here though is a very brief take of Can’t Turn You Loose, an Otis Redding song from 1965 that hit the top of the US r&b charts. Iggy is barely audible here and the track breaks down quickly, but in the short while it is in action it does allow Williamson the chance to show his guitar pyrotechnics in all their glory.
By the third disc of this set we move on to rehearsal sessions in L.A. as well as Detroit. Search And Destroy, Gimme Danger and Raw Power remain in the setlist and Death Trip makes a showing, but otherwise the band were busy with writing new tunes and, ahem, their other habits less positive which were by now starting to take their toll. Even so there is plenty of promise here, given their dangerous lifestyle it is amazing how creative they still were. The sound here is naturally quite rough as these tapes were of course never intended meant for commercial release, just as a guide for the band themselves. A good deal of material included has been aired on many bootlegs and semi-official collections over the years.
This disc starts with a spirited Raw Power and a relatively restrained Head On. Wild Love is the first hint of the new, a likeable but pretty standard mid-paced Stooge rocker. If the freewheeling punk rock of Cock In My Pocket serves the purpose of showing Ig And The Stooges as one of the few acts that could transform being puerile into some sort of positive quality, Till The End Of The Night builds up well and relies on some sensitive guitar playing, before the Pop’s screams start to dominate and push towards the release of a crescendo.
Then come three Raw Power tunes Gimme Danger, a stinging Death Trip with no piano at all and Search And Destroy, before another another groovy newie How It Hurts aka Rubber Legs. The keys really power this one along, blending in perfectly as a real part of the band rather than the add-on they can appear on the Raw Power tracks. Johanna is like Iggy blues testifying around the matter of the defnitive love/hate relationship and the lyrics Open Up And Bleed seem autobiographical, a state of play address from someone clearly on the edge. It is hard not to see this song as a dire warning of what was to come.
The basic r&b jam of Born In A Trailer itself follows, similarly referencing Iggy’s past and bleak present situation, while Jesus Loves The Stooges struts with the dirty blues that was always at the heart of what they did, with Sheff’s piano firmly taking centre stage. Finally we have Untitled (Hey Baby), a pretty undistinguished jam and the more promising She Creatures Of The Hollywood Hills, a tune which exudes low-key bile.
As we reach the final chapter of Born In A Trailer, The Stooges are found working in New York and Detroit on new tunes with a new recruit on keyboards Scott Thurston. The entirety of this disc was previously released by Bomp as Wild Love nearly twenty years back. It kicks off with probably the best versions of Rubber Legs and Cock In My Pocket – together they prove an irresistible one-two of pure dirtbag proto-punk mayhem. The former crops up again later on this disc and is very agreeable too. Emphasising that the creative juices were still flowing in Stoogeland, in the three months between the L.A. rehearsals and this set, eight new offerings are present and all the older Raw Power material has been shunted aside.
Cry For Me/Pinpoint Eyes has an appealing jazz blues piano part, with Iggy directing operations (“I woke up this morning and I was flat on my ass”) and James showing how soulful he could wield a six string. The lurching, expansive I Came From Nowhere seems to pick up the thread from Born In A Trailer, with Iggy describing his roots and parlous current state.
Skip James’ I’m So Glad is covered by just Williamson’s guitar and Iggy drawing out a little psychedelia out of the song’s blues. Next comes Old King Live Forever, which seems at the very least semi-improvised, with wandering guitar harmonics and echo-laden vocals. An unfocussed effort really. This section of the disc is really the James and Iggy show – Thurston and the Asheton brothers are off duty here and if to ram the fact home Look So Sweet harnesses a drum machine, in what could appear as a vague precursor of The Idiot.
Their version of Elias McDaniel’s standby I’m A Man does capture the song’s intrinsic energy well enough and the band return for the short, shuffling instrumental Mellow Down Easy. But the duo are soon back to bluesy basics on Move Ass Baby. My Girl Hates My Heroin aka Wild Love ends Born In A Trailer with the band onboard again. It is a fiery enough way to go out on, though it has to be said after a good start disc four rather peters out with these pretty run of the mill blues guitar and vox thangs. I suppose the completist might dig them.
Born In A Trailer forms a good companion piece to the recent You Think You’re Bad, Man live collection (reviewed here). There is a bit of catch 22 element to this boxset though. I suspect the most fervent Iggy fans will have most of this anyway and looking at it from the other angle, it is far from the ideal place for a beginner to start. For my part, I lean far more towards the former description than the latter, but I did find more than a few things of value that I hadn’t heard before and was pleased to finally encounter.
Having said all that, it is good to have the majority of this stuff available in one place and the audio is at least reasonable. Any clued-in Stooges fan isn’t going to be expecting pristine. The first disc I thought was a real peach and practically justified the whole set for me. The rest provides some good pointers to how a fourth Iggy And The Stooges album may have panned out, if such a thing every came to pass. All things considered, this is a pretty decent attempt to make some rare material available. It houses the sound of a band that could throw away material of the stature of I Got A Right – yes they were that damn good.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here