Scooting Around the Stage
Third Man Records unearths a new (old) Stooges live recording, and it is amazing!
At this point, even the most dedicated Stooges fanatic might roll their eyes at another new “previously unreleased” live Stooges document, given the increasingly murky quality of whatever $40 “Limited Edition” release pops up yearly.
Well eyes, I hate to slow your roll, but this new live Stooges record is as close to essential as any unearthed lost early Stooges recording will probably ever be.
Recorded at the infamous August 8, 1970, Goose Lake festival in Jackson, Michigan, it’s known as one of the last shows of the original Stooges lineup, right after Fun House came out, and right before they broke up. There is some fleeting live footage out there, but this is a ¼-inch, two-track soundboard recording of the full show – and according to Third Man, the only known soundboard recording of that initial, pre-first breakup lineup. And it is a blaster!
The sound is excellent – well, excellent if you have immersed your musical spirituality in the apocalyptic notion that the Stooges destroyed everything before them, and set up the world for more raucous rock’n’roll after, i.e., punk. My ears say one track is Iggy’s mic, and the other is some kind of band mix. Though as you’ll read in our interview with co-producer and Third Man honcho, Ben Blackwell, below, it’s anyone’s guess. Neverthless, the sound crawls and seethes and leaps and falls and leaps again like that “streetwalkin’ cheetah. Iggy is clearly getting tousled by audience members, instruments stabbing in and out, Iggy’s loudest howls sometimes completely drowning out the band at split-second intervals, and the crowd – no doubt confusingly hot and high – creep in increasingly louder, and by the end are as whipped up as the agitated Stooges.
Long-held stories of bassist Dave Alexander being f*cked up and not playing at all are proven untrue here (well, the not playing part at least). And while the band at a few moments does sound like they’re checking their watches (I know, I doubt the Stooges wore watches, but you get my drift), overall they prove to be in a post-album recording groove of vicious proportions. If this is the Stooges on about-to-break-up muscle memory, I will assume crowd members regularly spontaneously combusted at their “normal” shows.
AUDIO: The Stooges “1970 (I Feel Alright)” at Goose Lake
Okay, so the obvious question – how/who/where did you find these tapes? Who was hoarding them? Can you give me the general story of uncovering them, and Third Man’s decision to release it?
While I would love to be able to say that I tracked these recordings down through years of following clues and all that fun reissue lore, they literally just walked in through the front door. So the guy who recorded them, James Cassily, passed away a while ago, maybe like twenty years? I guess there’s a family farmhouse in Michigan that his widow, just a few years ago, decided to finally sell. So in the process, his son Joshua found a box of tapes in the basement that were labeled “Goose Lake.” There’s a bunch of other artists from the festival recorded, but for me, man, no brainer that the Stooges was where I was gonna put my efforts. So Joshua, through a friend of his, reached out to Third Man because they knew of our work, that we’d previously worked with Iggy on our TOTAL CHAOS book, and were just generally fans of the label. You know you’ve got it good when your reputation starts doing the hard work for you.
It’s mentioned in the press release that other “tasty analog artifacts” were in that buried treasure chest, too. Can you divulge any of them?
So from Goose Lake alone, it’s shit like 3rd Power, Peter Walker, Chicago, John Drake Shakedown, the Flock, James Gang, the Litter, Mitch Ryder, Mountain, Ram, Teegarden & Van Winkle. There’s some weird studio outtake MC5 stuff, seemingly from the High Time sessions or something close to them, but I just haven’t had the runway to really sit down and analyze them in depth.
AUDIO: Teegarden and Van Winkle “Autumn Flowers”
Whoa! So this James Cassily, he was a regional sound guy? Or – considering him having some MC5 outtakes – was he a studio engineer too, worked at a label, etc.? Had he recorded any albums we’d know?
No one seems to be really sure as to what exactly Cassily’s duty was at the festival. He was definitely a Michigan sound technician, did lots of work with Teegarden & Van Winkel. He mixed Bob Seger’s cover of “If I Were A Carpenter” as well as having engineered and produced some clutch early Detroit punk sessions by Flirt, the Mutants, and the Reruns all out of A2 Studios in Ann Arbor.
So to clear up any confusion, this was definitely the last show of that original lineup, right?
Goose Lake is 100% the last show of this line-up. Come a week or two later, Zeke Zettner was on bass and Billy Cheatham was playing second guitar. James Williamson would replace Cheatham late that year, his first show in the band taking place December 5th at Farmington High School. By early 1971, Zettner was replaced by Jimmy Recca.
Gotcha. So was this a laborious cleaning up process, or were the tapes in pretty good shape?
The tapes themselves were in solid shape, but the way they were recorded is just… odd. They’re two-track, but after we did the transfers, it’s not like a true stereo two-track. Something like 80 percent of the sound you’re hearing is coming from one track. We could not (and still cannot) figure out what in the hell this audio feed was exactly. It doesn’t sound like it was anything to do with the audio being pumped out to the crowd, or even the audio for the filming that was going on, so who knows? That being said, it’s so fortunate that the Stooges were such a simple set up. Listening to Chicago, you know, however many piece band, big horn section, it’s just not a good capture of what you’d hope they’d sound like.
And you’ve said this is the only known soundboard live recording of that original lineup, right?
Yeah, I’m unaware of any other board tapes of the original Stooges line-up. Crazy that in hindsight we kind of think of the Stooges and MC5 on a level playing field, but damn, in regards to recorded artifacts left behind, MC5 outnumber the Stooges something like 10 to 1.
Did Iggy consult for this project?
Yes, Iggy was involved, signed off on everything, all that good stuff.
It’s ¼-inch two-track tape, right? I like how the sound from Iggy’s mic – I’m assuming, though from what you just explained, maybe not – it really makes you feel like you’re scooting around the stage and into the crowd with him, his voice and other instruments dropping out, crashing back in…
Yeah, 1/4 two-track, but that might sound deceivingly better than it truly is. As to your description, scooting around the stage and all that, I mean, that’s the beauty of the Fun House album, isn’t it? That Iggy’s just running around the studio singing through a SM58, all kinds of bleed, his vocals just blaring through monitors. That’s the only reason that the Complete Fun House Sessions is even worth a damn, is that it was done live in the studio. There’re vocals on every take!
Yeah, crazy! Tell me about the art for the album, what photos were used, who put it together, etc.
For as big as this show was, there’re remarkably few photos of the Stooges performance. Charlie Aueringer, who was a staff photog at Creem at the time, has four mediocre shots of Iggy onstage, nothing of the rest of the band members. There’s the film footage, but that’s pretty grainy and also doesn’t really capture anyone besides Iggy. Fortuitously, right before we were about to put together the art for the record, I found a poster on eBay that was this photo collage of all these snapshots taken at Goose Lake. All seemingly Woodstock inspired stuff – you know, the topless girl, close up of the American flag, signs offering drugs for sale. Good shit. And wouldn’t you know it, smack dab in the middle of this poster, the biggest image in the whole damn collage, is this blurry pic of all four Stooges on stage. But with all the searching we’ve done, we cannot for the life of us find who shot this photo. So, I’m hoping someone gets ahold of me with negatives or prints or some sort of proof that they took the picture so I can properly compensate them for it. Shit, I even had the head librarian for the state of Michigan on the hunt, but we came up empty-handed. No credits or anything on the original poster. Just this mysterious poster that we are unable to connect to anyone.
From there, we had our in-house design team, helmed by Jordan Williams, get the “render” of that photo just right. I certainly think that the black background on the cover ties in with the vibe of the evening.
The film footage from that show, I’ve seen clips on YouTube, but was that ever released officially, on DVD or what have you?
The Goose Lake documentary was never properly released, but it seems like bootleg DVDs of it have been around for at least 15 years or so. When Jim Jarmusch did the Gimme Danger documentary, they licensed the footage so they could officially use it.
I really like how you guys kept a lot of the in between song stuff in there, even when there’s not much happening, as it really gives a sense of the weird cloud over the show, the confused crowd, and then the agitated playing of the band as it goes on.
I’m so glad you picked up on that. We actually had an explicit conversation at Third Man about this. I was all in, I want to hear exactly how the evening progressed, everything. From how Ron tunes up, how much dead air there is, whatever little in-between fills Scott throws in to just break up the silence. But then the folks here who are better versed on all the commercial aspects pointed out to me that the extra two minutes of nothing on some of these songs means they’re absolutely just dead and untouchable for playlists. Something I would have never considered. So the compromise was that our announcement release of “TV Eye” eliminates all the non-song that’s on the track.
How much other editing had to be done? Were any songs left off?
I think the only edit is between the introduction and the band starting, as it took a minute for them to get it together. But that might not have even been necessary. I’m not entirely sure we did the edit now that I think of it. Worth noting, the Stooges went on right after the Flying Burrito Brothers. The reel actually starts with the last 2:23 of their cover of Creedence’s “Lodi.” But even then, from the time the Burritos finish to the time the Stooges start “Loose” is literally sixty seconds. Gotta give ‘em credit, that revolving stage set-up truly worked!
VIDEO: 1970 Goose Lake Festival documentary
What would you call your official job title for this album? And what is your official title at Third Man?
As for my title in regards to this whole project, I am the producer. Not gonna lie, it feels a little odd to even have my name on there as I have never, in having released almost 800 records, put my name on a release. But on this one, I felt like the work I put into it all – wrangling all these disparate parts over three years, and pulling ‘em all together – warranted it. Honestly, I wasn’t so sure to credit myself in the first place, but I asked Ben Swank (Third Man co-owner/co-founder) and he basically said, “Fuck yeah, you better put your name on this one!” And like Swank, my title at Third Man is co-founder/co-owner. As to what do I actually do…little bits of everything.
What are some upcoming archival projects that Third Man is cooking up?
Shit, we’re always got our hands in something. I’m pretty stoked on all the archival White Stripes live recordings we’ve been making available on Nugs.net. As the guy who was lugging around a tape deck and making sure the gigs got recorded, it’s kind of amazing to now share them with the world. In the back of my mind I always thought they’d be shared somehow, but I never thought I’d ever get to put out Stooges live recordings!
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