Calling From The Fun House

"We didn’t ask what was in the bag, we just snorted it."

THE STOOGES, LIVE AT GOOSE LAKE, AUGUST 8, 1970

The Stooges were a whirling dervish, frenzy personified, an entity that was never going to be contained for very long. Listening to their records in modern times, it always makes me shake my head that they were, I dunno, allowed to exist. Except they… kind of weren’t, and imploded not long after takeoff. We had them for a brief shining minute and then they were gone.

So it is with abject joy that the tapes to this particular live event came to light. The Goose Lake International Music Festival is something you probably only know about if you are a music fan and lived in Michigan and/or have done any research around the music festivals that happened around the time of Woodstock. [I’m particularly fond of Alison Fensterstock’s piece on the 1971 Louisiana “Celebration of Life,” which I got to hear little bits of while she was doing the painstaking research to pull the information together.] Everybody went to Woodstock, but less people went to (or even heard about) the more local festivals, and not every festival had the massive level of coverage that Woodstock did, so you have to hunt through local media, and find people who actually went and who maybe remembered things 50 years later.

There were rumors about there being tapes from Goose Lake, but you never know with these things (ahem electric nebraska) what exists and what is a figment of someone’s imagination. Then I heard that tapes had been found, “buried in the basement of a Michigan farmhouse.” The truth, as it usually is, is somewhere inbetween, but still delightful, and Glorious Noise has that rundown. tl;dr, a local sound engineer was at the festival and recorded everyone, and the tapes floated around with the general family possessions in a box marked GOOSE LAKE for decades. One day, the engineer’s son decided to write to Third Man Records and see if they were interested.

This brings us to the record.

I was thrilled to open it up and have four album-sized pages of liner notes from CREEM veteran and awesome local music writer Jaan Ulhelszki. And this is why these liner notes thoroughly set the scene, tell the tales, debunk the myths, fact check it all, and put it in context! Yes! This is what liner notes are supposed to do, but too often they’re unreadable or written by someone who isn’t an expert. (And I can’t lie that I’m not thrilled that a woman got the assignment for a historical release!)

While there were no deaths, there was an epidemic of bad drugs, which led to many of the events that transpired.

Everyone was on drugs. This despite Iggy telling bassist Dave Alexander that he not indulge before this show, because it was going to be the band’s largest audience to date, as well as essentially the hometown gig for the release of Fun House. So at 10 o’clock that morning, Alexander, his girlfriend Esther, and Ron Asheton stop to pick up a 12-pack of beer, which they used to chase down some Tuinals. When they got to Goose Lake:

They were approached by an English roadie for one of the headliners carrying a clear plastic bag and holding a straw. He asked them if they wanted a hit. “We didn’t ask what was in the bag, we just snorted it.”

Iggy himself admits to being “unhinged on taking bad cocaine.” (pot. meet. kettle!)

The legend of Goose Lake was that Dave Alexander either wasn’t onstage or his bass was unplugged or that he was so fucked up he couldn’t play, and this is why Iggy fired him from the Stooges after this performance. Live at Goose Lake disproves, well, some of it. He was onstage, and he did play, but Iggy’s more recent recollection is that “Dave was in the wrong key.”

Now, if you listen to the recording, they… just sound like the Stooges! Which says everything. “Loose” is like a buzzsaw; “T.V. Eye” must have been frightening in the extreme; and everything spins up and devolves during “Fun House,” which, for the record, is what still happens during “Fun House” now. It was worth saving these tapes; it was worth putting this out; it is worth absolutely everything to have this last show with the original Stooges lineup restored as much as it possibly could be.

There’s video!

People actually at the show couldn’t tell that anything was wrong with anyone, much less Alexander; rumors that the promoter pulled the plug on the band are also probably exaggerated, given that they played their entire standard set at the time. If they were rushed off for any reason, it was because of the fact that the audience was going nuts and rushing the stage, despite the:

  1. Six foot high fence

  2. A moat

  3. Two mounted policemen in cowboy hats

Additionally, the promoters warned Iggy to NOT dive into the audience. Have you ever seen Iggy? Then you know how well he took to this particular situation, especially during “Down In The Street,” where he goes off on an extended riff about the wall, which is actually part of the song. But the stage at Goose Lake was one of those turntable stages that actually worked, so all they had to do was unplug the Stooges, turn the stage around, and the next band started playing.

There’s more, but you should buy the record to read the rest. You feel like you’re there; you can see the dust, feel the heat, smell the weed. To quote Iggy, “As for the local gossips they’re still gossiping.” And in this year of our lady 2020, Iggy Pop is still with us. Thank the deities for that.

stay safe.

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