Sunday, 1 September 2013

Iggy Pop on Them

Here's Iggy Pop or James Newell Osterberg about the importance of Them on his early musical education.

I found out about music and groups from my friend in junior high school, Jim McLaughlin. He played me his Ray Charles records, and Elvis too. We formed a duo for the school talent show; I called it the Megaton 2. We played "What I'd Say" and "Let There Be Drums," which was a record I owned by Sandy Nelson. Later Jim and I started The Iguanas.
The radio in Detroit wasn't that great, but nowhere near as bad as it is now. You could hear the Beatles, Stones, Ronettes, Wailers, Booker T, early Motown, Jackie Wilson, the Kinks, and other good stuff on CKLW, the Detroit AM station, but you had to be patient and listen to lots of s--- like Peter and Gordon, Freddie and the Dreamers, Leslie Gore,
Frankie Avalon, etc. to hear what you liked.
When I later got a job at a record store, it really opened up my knowledge of music. The other people who worked there were experts in classical music, avant-garde, R&B and blues as well as rock, and I took it all in. The store was loosely organized, so when I wanted to hear a record, I just opened it up and played it right there.
I probably first heard Gloria by Them. When I bought the album, it was the American version of The Angry Young Them, the same album, but with a hideous ugly orange cover, and it just said "Them." Now I have a vinyl copy of the original. It still blows my mind. I would listen over and over and over to Mystic Eyes and One Two Brown Eyes. Those two cuts really influenced my ideas of what The Stooges could be.
At about that time I was listening to all the good English groups, plus Bob Dylan, plus anything that came from San Francisco, plus Love, plus tons of garage rock. Them was by far the most experimental, but also had a kind of doomed quality that I liked, because I could see that these guys weren't cute, didn't know how to dress and did not have a commercial touch except for the one hit, Gloria. Gloria at the time was completely inescapable all over the U of M (University of Michigan) campus and at any club, anywhere with live music. Every band covered it, including my own.  
I think the liner notes were really pathetic. What a great example of a repressed, apologetic, neurotic show-biz bullshitter. I never saw Them, but I saw Van play once at the Troubadour in LA. It was around the time of Moondance. He was very stern, and the group members all looked ill.
He was so cool, the best thing he did was pick up a chair with one hand and wave it over his head while he screamed. I saw him do the same thing on TV on American Bandstand. I guess it was his one stage move. I've always wondered where he got it. The way Van's voice ripped through the mic, and the simple arrangements and spirit of experiment, was a huge deal for me. I still listen to the record in the early mornings and when I want to get worked up.

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