Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Few Years Pass Like Nothing These Days...

Wow. I can't believe it's been so long since I've checked out my blog action, let alone added anything to it. "Absinthe makes the heart grow fatter"
Last year was a stressful time, and when it wasn't stressful, it was party time.
I work at a few jobs, and I have never lived such a "normal" life. I miss a few people and scenes but life has been flying by so fast...
So I want to give concert reviews another shot, if only to complement some of my radio show content, and perhaps feel less compelled to talk as much as I occasionally do on-air(!)
I am still hosting Veritable Infusion, heard Monday nights 8-10p.m. on CIUT 89.5 fm, and online any time at
Besides my radio show blog, all my other blogs are on ice until I figure out whether I want to get rid of them or fire them back up. One introductory blog should never have been posted, I just hadn't the time to go through a respectable amount to media to warrant much analysis and get that project underway. I still think it's a good idea.
My Flickr page is still at My Youtube page doesn't get much stuff, mostly songs I have shot live around town over the last few years, performed by everyone from P-Funk (natch) to Leroy Sibbles to Acid Mother's Temple. Sooner or later I'd like to attach these clips to show reviews contained in here, or at least pictures from the shows or other graphic elements to make this page worth coming to. Thanks for looking!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band; Monday, March 3/08 Copps Coliseum, Hamilton

If there is one Canadian city Bruce Springsteen has never visited, but should play at least once, it’s Hamilton, Ontario. The city shares many traits with American rust belt towns; places where too few employers wielded too much influence over an entire region, before leaving behind a trail of toxicity and unemployment lines.

Luckily for local fans tonight, scalpers were taking a big hit outside Copps Coliseum. The rain didn’t help them, nor did the fact that upcoming tour stops in Rochester and Buffalo kept many American fans at home tonight. This was to be a show for local fans, which was most promising, after a less than brilliant performance by Springsteen in Toronto last October. While Toronto has its share of Boss fans, we also have too many well connected people who end up attending big ticket concerts, only to talk through the show and spend more time coming and going with food and beer than actually watching the concert. While the alleged aloofness of Toronto audiences is overblown, quite a few music fans who regularly attend shows in other cities have described the A.C.C. as a cold place for concerts. Tonight, in Hamilton, the vibe would be different.

Copps Coliseum slowly filled up until the show began. The Boss led the temporarily reformed E Street Band on stage at about eight thirty. They kicked off with a one-two punch of “No Surrender” and “Radio Nowhere” which have been prominent on this “Magic and Loss” tour. “Magic” was sung with a subtle falsetto, reminiscent of Roy Orbison. This is usually performed as a duet with Patti Scialfa, but Springsteen’s wife and E Street back-up singer was absent on this stretch of the tour as was Danny Federici. Bruce explained Patti had to “make sure the house doesn’t burn down” and that Danny’s spot was being filled by keyboard player Charles Giordano. Giordano recorded and toured with Bruce for “The Seeger Sessions”, so he was naturally familiar with the material and a good fit with the band.

Bruce wailed on his harmonica introduction to the souped-up boogie of “Reason To Believe” which kept the crowd on it’s feet. A searing version of “Because The Night” followed, which featured some of the most intense guitar playing one still hears from Miami Steve and Nils Lofgren. Bruce is a fine guitar player too, but he doesn’t play those shredding assaults that he used to pull out. After “She’s the One”, Bruce introduced a new song, “Livin’ In The Future” with a few words about the rapid erosion of civil rights in the United States these days. The song itself borrows liberally from the classic “10th Avenue Freeze-Out” on the 1975 classic “Born To Run” album.

“The Promised Land” and the title track of Springsteen’s 1978 “Darkness At The Edge of Town” record followed. There were a few more vintage songs about disillusionment during hard times, which went over well in this crowd. Much of the audience kept sing along with tunes like “The Promised Land” and especially “Badlands” while they kept quieter for songs like “The River”. Bruce sang in his mournful falsetto for end of “The River”, to a great response from the audience.

After the sing-along blow-out of “Badlands”, Springsteen dedicated “The Girls In Their Summer Clothes” to the ladies of Ontario, although it’s been hard to imagine anybody wearing summer clothes around here, lately. We were treated to a rare performance of one of Bruce’s seminal finales from the old days; “Kitty’s Back”. The old time fans recognized the opening immediately, and those who were unfamiliar with this song caught on soon enough that this song is works really well in a live setting.

Baritone sax player Clarence Clemons, “The Big Man”, has kept a lower profile on recent tours, resulting in much speculation about his health. The man is 66 years old, but when he sauntered out to centre stage for jams like the middle part of “Kitty’s Back”, there was no doubt the man can still blow. Much of the “Wall of Sound” that people mention when describing the production and band sound of the “Born To Run” album borrows as much from the Motown sound as Phil Specter’s style. The follow-up to “Kitty’s Back”, “Born To Run” kept Clarence and the audience busy. While the days of three and four hour concerts are behind them, the E Street Band still brings an amazing amount of energy to the stage. They played encores of “Dancing In The Dark” and the tour’s finale “American Land” before the house lights came on. The show lasted almost two and a half hours, and the crowd was thrilled through out tonight’s concert. The E Street Band should come here more often. If only…

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Concert Review; George Clinton and P-Funk; Monday, February 25/08 Phoenix Theatre, Toronto

On a good night, nobody else playing on any stage can top these guys. Their off nights are usually pretty impressive as well. Unfortunately, George Clinton and P-Funk (also known as Parliament and Funkadelic and both, as a compound word) almost never visit Toronto, the city they once called home. Those who wanted to party Monday night and those who wanted to get knocked down by some deep funk all got together and filled the Phoenix for a long, hot and sweaty night.

Tonight was a special treat for die-hard fans. The band tore into a searing version of “Red Hot Mama” which was followed by an extended oldies jam of “You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks”, “I’ll Bet You” and “I Got A Thing”.

The horn section has been reduced to a section of one, but Greg Thomas makes the most of his moments in the spotlight. His playing was devastating through the James Brown tribute led by one of several back up singers, Gene “Poo Poo Man” Anderson. This was worked into “Up For The Down Stroke” which kept the house moving with the music. Kendra, one of the newer singers in the band, led the charge through “Bounce To This” and Belita Woods sang a couple of songs as well. Michael Clip Payne is still the master of ceremonies, introducing members as they came and went from the stage.

Michael Kidd Funkadelic Hampton took charge for a typically intense guitar blow out on “Maggot Brain” which George Clinton dedicated to The Hawk’s Nest, Ronnie Hawkins’ long gone Yonge Street bar where the band used to play when they lived here. Drummer Rico was on duty for “Maggot Brain”, and he stayed with Hampton for the duration. Rico is a great addition to drummer Kash Waddy, no slouch himself. Lige Curry still plays bass and sticks mostly in the background. The man isn’t always easily seen, but he could be heard loud and clear all night long. While many funk bass players get carried away with slapping and plucking like Les Claypool, Lige fills the bottom of the band’s already dense live sound. He doesn’t get in the way of the rest of the band, like a lot of bass players who too often sound like frustrated guitarists playing funk.

The 1978 hit “One Nation Under A Groove” started off as a slow a cappella number before the band kicked in and brought out the usual arrangement. One thing that helps the band’s stage longevity is their willingness to try different styles of playing old songs. They are acutely aware that they are certain to remain a bigger concert draw than a music-retailing powerhouse.

P-Funk stayed on the late seventies tip for the rest of the set with the exception of George’s “Ludicrous” rap. “Knee Deep” featured all hands on deck, as Belita Woods came back out to sing “Sentimental Journey” before the guitars restarted their night-long duel. With Garry Shider taking over some of George Clinton’s stage directions, the band was still as funky as ever. George came and went from the stage while the band ran through “Bop Gun”, “Gamin’ On Ya” and “Undisco Kidd” and “Flashlight”. They wrapped it up with their regular “Atomic Dog” finale. This usually ends with a sizable portion of the crowd dancing on stage. Happily, most of the crowd stayed on the floor instead of crowding the stage. I wish George Clinton had faith in some of the band’s other material to pull out as their closing song blow-out. P-Funk were definitely having a good night, but “Atomic Dog” has become an almost anti-climactic ending for their shows; it’s one of their few songs which you know pretty much what to expect for the remainder of the gig. “Atomic Dog” sounded just fine, but if they segued into another tune, newbies and long time fans alike would certainly embrace the change. As it was, the concert left everyone in an exhausted, sweat-drenched state of funky euphoria. So few acts can still pull off three and a half hours of hard funk on stage, one can forget P-Funk are still such a hot act. Their last local appearances have been either three hours away at the Kee to Bala or the short set they delivered at the CNE a few years ago. Now that the Canadian dollar is hovering around par, one might hope there is now an incentive to bring up bands like P-Funk more often.


Pictures at;

Friday, March 7, 2008

Concert Review- New York Dolls; Monday, February 18, 2008- Phoenix Theatre, Toronto

Cashing in on a well-past-one’s-prime reunion tour used to be generally derided by serious rock fans, and punk fans in particular. These days, the Spice Girls can fill the A.C.C. night after night on their reunion tour, the Eagles' first reunion tour still deserves credit for pushing concert ticket prices through the roof, and one band after another has reunited to great acclaim. The New York Dolls started out trading on youthful exuberance more than on musical dexterity. Their songs were not as catchy as the Rolling Stones', but they were certainly as sloppy as the Stones ever were on stage. They tempered their Stones-clones approach with harder edged songs and took effeminate flamboyance to a whole new level for straight guys. This earned the Dolls a place in music history, by inspiring the seventies punk bands who would have been reluctant to have cited contemporary arena rockers like the Stones as an influence. The New York Dolls finally fell apart around 1975, but David Johanson and Sylvain Sylvain played together in the David Johanson Band after the Dolls were done. One could argue this is a David Johanson Band reunion as much as a Dolls reunion, now that three fifths of the band have passed on. One could not be faulted for having lo expectations of the reunited New York Dolls, especially after a lackluster performance from some British festival was released to an underwhelming response.

Tonight was the second time around for the current incarnation of the Dolls. Their last c.d. has one of the best titles for a reunion effort, the self deprecating “One Day It Will Please Us Even To Remember This”. As it happens, this is one reunion effort that has proven to be more solid than most; and the Dolls’ career in this millennium will have lasted longer and surely have made more money than the original band ever did. After all these years David Johanson still looks and moves like Mick Jagger, but given the historically campy nature of his stage persona, this is not a bad thing.

There were two surprises waiting upon entering the Phoenix tonight; first, the New York Dolls packed the place on a Monday night, and second, David Johanson’s voice has defied the odds and improved since the band first got back together. The band put on a surprisingly good show, and sounded tighter and better rehearsed than the original band ever did.

Sure, guitarist Steve Conte looks and acts like Johnny Thunders, but he can sure play those riffs. Sylvain Sylvain’s guitar playing still has its bite, and took a few opportunities to cut loose and play some of the Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?” along with other chunky rock nuggets. The band tore through Dolls favourites with energy that must have been feeding back and forth between them and the contingent of hard core fans in attendance tonight. They still do a good version of Bo Diddley’s “Pills”, and the show gathered momentum as they played “Subway Train”, “Jet Boy” and a particularly loud rendition of “Trash”. The “first finale” of “Dance Like a Monkey” proved the Dolls can still come up with a decent song (preferable to the ballad sung for Johnny Thunders) and when they came back out, they ran through a raucous take of “Personality Crisis”. Who’d have thought the ’08 Dolls would be so damn good?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Concert Review; Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings- November 2007 Phoenix Theatre, Toronto

A little after the fact, along with the next few reviews as I dig through my hard drive and upload some more...


Sharon Jones and her incredible back up band revisited Toronto back in October. They put on another excellent performance, steeped in the James Brown soul-funk tradition they have been reviving for most of this decade. Their live reputation has spread largely by word of mouth and the occasional t.v. appearance, but that was enough for Amy Winehouse to hire them for recordings and live dates. While the Dap Kings’ Lee’s Palace and Horseshoe concerts will surely be remembered as some of this city’s funkiest moments in recent years, Sharon Jones and company have ‘moved up’ (spatially, at least) to the Phoenix where they played to an enthusiastic house last time they were in town.

Adhering to the live Revue tradition, the band started things off with an instrumental, and Binky Griptite sang a slow groover before Sharon came on stage and kicked off her heels. Unfortunately, her microphone was turned off, and when the sound man did activate the microphone, it sounded terrible. Sharon made a joke about not being a rock singer, and asked him to change the sound. It took a while for the club to get their microphones working properly, but Sharon was good natured about it.

They performed a solid set which was heavy on new material and some of their earlier cuts, but for some reason they largely ignored their brilliant 2005 c.d. “Naturally”. The new material like the title track of “100 Days” is strong, but Sharon Jones and the band passed over much of their best-loved material tonight. There were certainly a few tried and true crowd pleasers like “How Do You Let A Good Man Down?” and “That’s the Way It’s Got To Be”. Altogether, it was an excellent performance, running almost two hours, including their standard encore set which usually includes a couple of James Brown nuggets. Tonight, we got “It’s A Man’s World” rolled into the encores, and Sharon delivered a blistering rendition. The audience put out a warm reception, and the band still seems to enjoy them selves in this city. Let’s hope Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings keep Toronto as a regular tour stop. If you like soul music, especially in the James Brown and Stax/ Memphis tradition, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings hold their own on stage and off, against many well loved and respected soul veterans.


Photos can be seen at-

Concert Review; Hugh Masekela and the Chissa All Stars- Friday, February 15, 2008; Phoenix Theatre, Toronto.

This is a special tour for Hugh Masekela, a man who has played tiny clubs and packed stadiums from Canada to South Africa. For a rather small number of dates in the States and in Toronto and Ottawa (his only Canadian stops) Hugh has brought along a few artists from his recently revived Chisa label, now with an extra ‘s’, forming the Chissa All Stars. Hugh has probably done more for South African music than any other single person. His hybrid of Township and American jazz sounds, swaying deep into each territory (and beyond) through his fifty year career, has inspired audiences and musicians around the world. Hugh’s accompaniment this time included an excellent horn player who took on some intense solos, and a violin player who added a new element to the band’s sound. There were also a couple of guest singers; Busi Moholgo and Kwaito singer Corlea, who proved to be an audience favourite. Often described as African hip hop, a lot of Kwaito music has more in common with modern R&B than any rap I ever listen to.

The most stunning of Hugh’s guests tonight was a lady he introduces as his sister, Sibongile Kuhmalo. She performed with Hugh at Harbourfront about eight years ago, and her voice is as powerful as ever. Her operatic style brought the house down with the sheer strength and control of her voice. She even seemed to have caught some of her band mates off guard, tonight.

The Phoenix was packed tight, and this was created by somebody’s plan to place seats across most of the club’s floor space, leaving only the perimeter of the room for standing. While the band was well received from the start, nobody encroached upon the bare patch of floor in front of the stage until Hugh invited the ladies in the house to do so. It was still pleasing to see such a strong turn out, especially after Hugh’s sparsely attended concerts at the Comfort Zone some years ago.

Hugh alternated between singing songs about his homeland, where he grew up in a Township shebeen (an illegal bar which are common in South African Townships which pay off the police to stay in business), and simply playing trumpet or flugelhorn or leaving the stage to let various Chissa All Stars take over. While they sounded unmistakably African, the band features decidedly western instruments including a giant bass guitar and a set of timbales in the back, near the drum kit.

“Grazing In The Grass” turned into an extended jam that thrilled the crowd. I wish Hugh would perform “Riot”, his follow-up single, but the brass interplay through “Grazing In The Grass” was such a treat, that one can easily forgive Hugh for ignoring much of his late sixties output.

The African continent was well represented both on and off stage. As Hugh called out the home towns, countries and townships of each of the Chissa All Stars, some people in the crowd hollered back in recognition, every time.

Before announcing the encore “Bring Him Back Home”, Masekela’s 1987 tribute to Nelson Mandela, Hugh cited Toronto as a stronghold of anti-apartheid activism. Many in the audience sang along with this finale, and the crowd, at least those who weren’t still seated, danced one last time. Hugh Masekela doesn’t play here that often, making this night all the more special.

Pictures can be seen at;

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Book Review- Iggy Pop; Open Up and Bleed, by Paul Trynka

Warning; This is a rather lengthy book review. Paul Trynka wrote a lengthy, but well researched biography of Iggy Pop, a very influential performer. I had hoped to convince one of several music publications to run this review, but there were no takers. Ho hum. Anyhow, once upon a time, publications like Rolling Stone ran in-depth reviews of products associated with preferred artists. I don't want this review to sit in my hard drive forever, and the book is still rather current (summer 2007), so here is my review of Iggy Pop; Open Up and Bleed by Paul Trynka. I hope it isn't too long for a blog post.

Iggy Pop; Open Up and Bleed, By Paul Trynka. (Broadway Books)

Open Up and Bleed is the most extensive book written about the life of James Osterberg, better known as Iggy Pop. Previously, all fans had to go by were Iggy’s less than completely reliable 1983 autobiography I Need More and the excellent, but brief Per Nilsson book The Wild One. The English writer and Mojo Magazine editor Paul Trynka has, over the course of many years, managed to track down pretty much everyone from Iggy’s past who was willing to discuss their relationship with Iggy.

Indeed, the coverage of James’ Osterberg’s childhood is more thorough than that of his seventies concert tours. Former school mates and ex-girlfriends are consulted along with other people from Iggy’s Ann Arbor days.

Iggy Pop, or James Jewel Osterberg (named after his father James) was raised in a close knit, if uptight family where both parents worked and the preferred recreational father and son activity was golf. James, or Jim, as just about everybody in this book including its author calls Iggy when he’s in his “normal” persona, was an exceptional student as well as quite the social climber, while growing up. Interestingly, Iggy’s father was raised by a Jewish couple who adopted him, but Iggy would later make some rather anti-Semitic remarks on stage, as well as record most of his best music with a guitarist who had a Nazi fetish which included wearing SS outfits on stage. This incongruity is seldom addressed in Open Up and Bleed, but the author doesn’t gloss over or ignore Ron Asheton’s Nazi predilections, either. Trynka mentions Ron’s Nazi paraphernalia was still a fixture of life in his mother’s basement in Ann Arbor, where he was living in 1996 when the author stopped in for an interview.

One interesting observation that comes up early in the book is that being raised in a trailer park, Iggy’s stern school teacher father left no public misconceptions about his family’s social or economic status around affluent Ann Arbor. While trailer parks have long been associated with poverty and stereotyped as populated only by white trash, Jim lived in a solid community which was ultimately razed to make room for a highway.

Jim was apparently popular with the girls from a young age, which was presumably helped by his well built body and rather large penis which comes up, so to speak, through the course of the book. Suffice to say, even when he was a broke has-been, which happened several times in his remarkable career, Jim never had a problem finding girls, even if some of them were underage.

By the time The Stooges were formed with the thuggish Asheton brothers and the late Dave Alexander, playing Michigan clubs, their music was taken to be either avant-garde or merely bizarre. One early show was busted by the police who found a naked Iggy fronting a loud band. Thinking they had stumbled upon some illegal gay strip club, the cops had to promise not to beat up the naked singer before Iggy could be persuaded to emerge from hiding.

Various lingering debates among Iggy fans over such matters as how much input came from the respective producers of the three Stooges albums are discussed at some length in Open Up and Bleed. Over the years, Iggy and the Stooges have lamented the production on all of their records, especially the first and third releases. An early and long time champion of the band, Danny Fields (who got them signed to Elektra Records with the MC 5 in 1968) managed to get the well respected John Cale to produce the Stooges debut, and regardless of Jim’s comments about Cale and his input, it would seem the producer was indeed an active and effective producer for The Stooges. The 1973 classic record “Raw Power” was produced by David Bowie. He was later referred to as “that fucking carrot top” who destroyed a brilliant recording by Iggy and the rest of the band. The Stooges used to describe their mix as heavier, and without the yelping sound on the original record. Unfortunately for the Stooges, their preferred mixes have been well distributed among fans and sold by bootleggers over the years, and the record as produced by Bowie sounds undeniably livelier.

In any case, David Bowie would prove to be Jim Osterberg’s best friend for many years. David suggests they grew apart in the nineties after Jim was sick of discussing David Bowie in every single interview. Paul Trynka asserts the both Jim and David recorded much of their best work collaboratively over their time living and recording in Berlin in the mid-seventies, and he has a point. In fact, many long time fans probably feel the 1978 album “Lust For Life” is Iggy’s last great record.

David Bowie came to Jim’s aid several times before their retreat to Berlin. In 1972, Bowie got Jim signed to his MainMan management company and despite what became of MainMan, David was clearly looking out for Jim. He would repeat the favour a couple of years later, and even after their time in Berlin, the two would work together again in the late 1980’s.

In 1972, the original Stooges had blown apart. MainMan saw Iggy as a solo artist rather than the Stooges as a group. The afore-mentioned Danny Fields, is one of the book’s most engaging raconteurs. He described the Stooges highs and lows from that brief two year period when they looked to be poised for success. Iggy himself was a big hit with the trendy regulars at Max’s Kansas City during several visits to the New York City night spot, and Danny Fields had the presence of mind to have recorded a few of the New York Stooges performances for posterity. Whether these include the recently discovered 1970 recording from Ungano’s, a New York City club, is not mentioned, but Danny’s perspective is interesting.

Danny also introduced Jim to cocaine in Los Angeles during the “Fun House” recording sessions in 1969. Jim, or perhaps more accurately Iggy, would have problems with coke and other drugs for almost two decades. Nonetheless, this unfortunate introduction was bound to happen, as cocaine suddenly appeared all over Ann Arbor when Jim returned from L.A. Paul Trynka blames President Nixon’s 1969 crackdown on marijuana for the rise in cocaine use at this time. Apparently, Michigan stoners first had to content themselves with opium-laced hash from Canada, then cocaine made a splash, and heroin came on the scene. By the fall of 1970, the author described heroin as “flooding” Detroit. The Stooges, like many other Detroit musicians, ended up strung out on junk before long, and by 1971 they were often getting paid in cocaine or heroin. Danny Fields described a double bill featuring Alice Cooper and The Stooges, and each act was getting paid 1500$. Danny saw Alice Cooper’s band getting ready with their make up and wigs while he pulled a needle out of Iggy’s arm, squirting blood on his face. It was obvious at the moment, he said, that one of the two bands in the room was on the verge of stardom while the other was heading for the bathroom floor.

In 1971, Iggy and MC 5 guitarist Wayne Kramer even had a heroin selling business, which seemed to involve Iggy steering clients for Wayne who had a good heroin supplier in Detroit. The partnership was terminated at gunpoint by Kramer, who returned from an MC 5 tour to find no money or dope or Iggy- he had been hospitalized for an overdose.

By the time David Bowie visited Jim in rehab in 1975, the singer’s post-Stooges L.A. accommodations ran the gamut, from living off rich girls to sharing a garage floor with some male hustler to a forced stay in a mental hospital. The following year, he was invited to join Bowie’s “Station to Station” tour, and a year later the two would be recording the Iggy Pop “comeback” album, “The Idiot.”

There are a few topics which are covered all too briefly in Open Up and Bleed and Iggy’s 1970’s live career is one of them. While Paul Trynka talked to Michael Tippin, who recorded some of the Stooges Detroit concerts, including the notorious final show at Michigan Palace, the final Stooges tour is written off as a doomed waste of time. “There were no good shows” is one quote used, but there was surely more that could have been written about this period of Jim’s life. The 1977 tour is barely discussed at all; this was Jim’s triumphant come-back tour, the shows were often very well received, and the up and coming band Blondie shared the bill. Debbie Harry discusses this tour more in her book than Trynka’s scant coverage here. In fact, she describes Iggy and some of the Blondie members playing an after-show in Seattle, where Iggy sang Doors and MC 5 covers for a few lucky fans. There were also other events on this tour, like Jim jamming with old friends in Ann Arbor. Given he would later share a tour with Wayne Kramer, last seen robbing Jim for revenge in 1971, there must have been a few interesting tales left out of the book. The subsequent “Lust For Life” tour receives little coverage, and when the topic of Jim’s stage work does come up, the author suggests Jim’s constant touring from 1979-82 did more harm than good for his creativity and his career.

I have to disagree with this assessment, especially in the case of singers like Iggy Pop, who’s reputation comes from his live appearances more than his records. “New Values,” “Soldier” and “Party” are described as being mediocre to dreadful records, in descending order. Road-testing new material would have quite likely saved Jim the trouble of recording some of the turkeys he released in the early eighties. Iggy Pop was a steady live draw, and it was his concerts (and definitely not his new records) that kept his fans around during those years. Touring was also the only way for Jim to make any money; his records were expensive to record, and kept tanking. The expenses of studio bills and a cocaine habit took a lot of road work, and Jim was living night to night.

The author proposes “Lust For Life” should have been a strong seller, having made the English charts upon release, but at this time, in the summer of 1977, Elvis Presley died. This meant RCA Records virtually shelved all non-Elvis projects, and went into overdrive rush-releasing Elvis product through the rest of the year. Once the first pressing of “Lust For Life” sold out in the U.K. there were no subsequent pressings, and the l.p. disappeared from stores. This notion hasn’t been brought up before, but it would be interesting to see what other well-regarded records fell off the radar over the years due to circumstances that had nothing to do with the artist.

Paul Trynka gives the reader a stronger appreciation for Jim’s backing bands over the years. The Stooges, for all their perceived incompetence, were one of the most adventurous sounding groups to emerge from the musical hotbed of the Motor City, and later players included the famous Sales brothers (bass and guitar), Ivan Kral from Patti Smith’s band, Fred Sonic Smith, Carlos Alomar from David Bowie’s group, and many others. For all the debauchery and antics of an Iggy Pop performance, the band’s playing was usually tight, and surely helped Iggy Pop get repeat bookings when album sales might have suggested it wasn’t worth bringing Iggy Pop to one’s town.

After bottoming out again in 1983, Iggy pulled himself together and apparently quit cocaine again. Quitting such a destructive drug was obviously a sound move, but the influence cocaine on Jim’s studio work is unclear; if coke helped ruin albums like “Party”, suggests Trynka, then it must have helped during the equally coke-infused “Lust For Life” sessions, or it might not have had much effect on Jim’s recording sessions. The author also paraphrases the photographer Robert Matheu on the topic of being “clean”; “drug-free simply meant that it was not cool to share your cocaine anymore; instead, everyone snorted in private.”

Regardless, Jim’s relative good health was matched by David Bowie’s when they got together to record “Blah Blah Blah.” This was described by many fans and critics as the best 1980’s record that Bowie never made, and clearly his influence is all over the poppy album. “Blah Blah Blah” was the best selling Iggy Pop album in many years, and his cover of “Real Wild Child” was a hit in England, where Iggy records always sold better than they did Stateside. The record is described as a pristine, crisp recording, and the author seems to quite like the record. Many long-time fans certainly found it too slick and watered down, but they were waiting for him when Iggy hit the road again in 1986. This is cited as a particularly strong tour, but despite the longer sets, the energy level seemed to wane a little with all the synthesizers and sound effects that characterized these shows.

The follow-up “Instinct” record and tour is decried by Trynka as corporate rock, and lamented Iggy’s going on tour with a “hair band”, but only one “hairy” newcomer was on that tour. It was also hailed by a lot of fans as Iggy’s return to hard rock, after drifting dangerously far into Bowie-territory over the previous two years. Of course, the quality of Iggy Pop records and tours is as debatable as any esthetic argument, but almost everyone was surprised when the follow-up record, “Brick By Brick” became the best selling Iggy release to date. In fact, the nineties were Jim’s most prosperous decade ever; his old songs suddenly became hip, as one popular new artist after another insisted on singing Iggy’s praises. The smash hit movie “Trainspotting” featured a generous helping of Iggy music in the soundtrack, and “Lust For Life” enjoyed a second life as a hit song and a third life as a catchy jingle, minus the “liquor and drugs” reference (at least until the song is licensed by some private rehab-clinic). A string of increasingly predictable releases followed, but once again it was the live performances (as well as “Lust For Life” by this point) that kept Iggy in demand. One drawback with Iggy Pop recording sessions for many years now has been the steadfast desire for one record company after another to hook him up with a hot-shot producer-du-jour who was expected to get a commercial success out of the work. One would have thought this unreliable method would have lost favour by now, but perhaps the need for record company staff to cover themselves for slow sellers requires they only release the most commercial sounding music they can.

Trynka suggests Iggy’s constant touring was an attempt to make up for wasting so much time, blowing off potential work right through the early and mid-seventies. It could well be the case, as Iggy is hardly desperate for cash, as he was on those early eighties tours.

Finally, in 2003, twenty years after publishing his often petty autobiography, the impossible finally happened; the Stooges reunited. They played on some of Iggy’s c.d. “Skull Ring” and even performed a few dates together. The shows presumably went well, because The Stooges have been playing on and off ever since. Earlier this year they recorded a new c.d. together called “The Weirdness.” Open Up and Bleed is nothing if not up to date.

Overall, this huge undertaking has paid off in an enjoyable and informative read. Anyone interested in this book is presumably an Iggy fan already, but there Paul Trynka adds plenty to the already well known facts about Iggy Pop. There are a few points where the author might have dug a little deeper, most notably on Iggy Pop’s live career. There are plenty of bootlegs and other live recordings, as well as other people’s accounts of those shows. Similarly, the infamous Skydog label is barely discussed, and erroneously cited as beginning operations in 1973 with the release of a Flamin’ Groovies album. In fact, Skydog released a (terrible) performance of Jimi Hendrix with Jim Morrison in 1970, as well as the first Velvet Underground bootleg, using Brigid Polk’s Sony cassette recording that was later used for the “Live at Max’s Kansas City” set. There was a lot of controversy over the “Metallic K.O.” Skydog release in 1976; it was by all accounts a bootleg, and Iggy claimed the label’s owner Marc Zermati never had permission to release the set. “Metallic K.O.” must be one of the most influential rock albums of the seventies, and the controversy surrounding it surely contributed to its punk cache. In fact, a complete discography of The Stooges that included the bootleg and quasi-legitimate releases through the seventies and eighties would have been an excellent addition, and it has after all been almost twenty years since Per Nilsson’s book (with it’s extensive discography and listing of available recordings) book came out. More pictures would have been most welcome as well. That said, there is a decent collection of pictures featured, covering Jim’s entire life on and off stage. Open Up and Bleed is one of the more ambitious recent books about any rock star, and the research is complemented by some particularly well informed interviews.