I finally got a chance to see Gimme Danger—the Stooges documentary by Jim Jarmusch. I can’t specifically recall the first time I heard the Stooges. I came of age on the punk rock that was inspired by them. But somehow it seems like they have always been in my subconscious—a kind of visceral, kinetic energy waiting to be unlocked. It’s hard to dispute their purity and power. And hard to argue with Jim Jarmusch’s thesis that the Stooges are “the greatest rock and roll band ever.” He says it in the first few moments of the film and proceeds to prove it over the next hour and a fourty-five minutes.
If you like Iggy Pop, if you are inspired by cultural creativity and innovation, if you’re a fan of music history, then this is a good film to experience.
Iggy, as always, has a way of cutting through the crap. There’s a point in the movie where he says “I don’t want to belong to the glam people, the alternative people, to any of them. I don’t want to be a punk. I just want to be.”
It’s hard for anyone to live in a way that aligns with personal purpose and values—to stay true to one’s self. There are demonstrations of this throughout the film. Like when Iggy talks about “cultural treason.” He’s referring to bands that try to sound like what’s already popular. A band like that is committing cultural treason.
That Stooges arrived in the late sixties—a period with many examples of cultural treason. When asked in an old interview clip if he influenced anybody, Iggy says: “I think I helped wipe out the sixties.” And he did. Five years after the Beatles sang “I want to hold your hand,” Iggy sang “I want to be your dog.” But I believe his idea of cultural treason is broader: It applies to all mediums. The ease of capitalizing on a trend, on momentum in the popular lexicon—rather than staying true to the uniqueness and wisdom that’s inside each of us. That is cultural treason.
I had the honor of interviewing Iggy back in 1994. We sent him our magazine and he liked it. That’s pretty much how we got the interview. In the pages of Plazm we always tried to do more with musicians than basic Q+A. So during the interview I asked if he would send us a rant or manifesto of some kind. He faxed a page from Warsaw to our offices that night. It’s scrawled on Delta Airlines letterhead. Nation of Midgets. Our Gods are Assholes. A revolution is coming, and in reaction a strongman will emerge. Indeed. We scanned it and published it as it arrived to us in the pages of Plazm #5. My interview is now online here.
Also, here’s a conversation between Jim Jarmusch and Iggy Pop at the Film Society at Lincoln Center on the making of the film.