My ticket was lost during the melee that was this show, so thanks once again to Ms. P for providing me with a copy of hers.
014. Gimme Danger: Iggy Pop with Nash the Slash, Wonderland Gardens, London, Ontario, Canada, Wednesday October 27, 1982, $11, with Guest Contributor M. Zeppelin.
Wonderland Gardens was a dance hall in London, Ontario’s outer-west region. It opened in 1935 and hosted many key and regional orchestras of the big band era. The long, narrow building, hidden away from Wonderland Road by a thick nuzzling blanket of surrounding trees, was a beautiful vintage venue with sprung floors: all the better to absorb the shocks of jiving swing dancers during the Second World War years and the decades just beyond.
On this October night in 1982, the floors were absorbing shocks all right, but it wasn’t to the dulcet tones of homeboy Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. Wonderland Gardens had long been hosting rock shows in a venue that didn’t always have the greatest visibility when packed, owing to a rather low stage that was built for visiting orchestras, not fan-facing rock bands (I remember my siblings seeing Emerson, Lake & Palmer there in 1971, complaining that “we only got to see Keith Emerson for two minutes!”). But I am willing to bet that October 27, 1982 was one of the wilder nights that the walls of this venerated edifice had witnessed. For on this evening, Iggy Pop took the stage during the promotional tour for his then-recently issued album, Zombie Birdhouse.
I have seen Mr. Pop aka James Osterberg three times and have already written about his terrific set in 1981 at the inaugural Police Picnic — a real treat of a live introduction to an artist I had long wanted to see. Six years after this evening, I would go on to witness him give the Ultimate Iggy Performance (coming up as no. 48), whereas this evening was the ultimate Iggy Experience: aggressive, chaotic, cacophonous, confrontational, sloppy, and near-out of control.
And that was just the audience.
One could say the same thing about Iggy and his band.
It’s common knowledge now that he was going through a rough patch at this time, personally and professionally, with both imploding. Hindsight also allows us to realize what wasn’t then fully clear, namely that after 1977 Iggy was essentially finished as a truly revolutionary creative force in the recording studio. The trio of Stooges albums (The Stooges , Fun House , and Raw Power ) and his first two solo LPs (The Idiot and Lust For Life [both 1977]) remain inspirational, influential landmarks. They have only grown in stature over time, with seemingly some act from each successive generation name-dropping them/him, gaining continuing mileage from the Stooges’ sinister, visceral proto-punk excursions or The Idiot’s refracted Weimar decadence that would soon be domesticated as post-punk.
The Essential Iggy: the trio of Stooges albums (The Stooges , Fun House , and Raw Power ) and his first two solo LPs (The Idiot and Lust For Life [both 1977]). I love each of these discs, particularly Fun House/Raw Power/The Idiot — so much so that I would buy them lunch if I could.
When I put on Fun House and hear that drum and guitar wham that kicks off “Down On The Street,” it’s like a switch goes off in my head. And while I may not necessarily express it visually, demonstratively, I’m lost. It’s like a drug. It’s primordial.
It’s also dark, as all five of those LPs are, and that’s part of the appeal. I believe that we all have light and darkness within us — I’m quite comfortable with both — and some of those darker impulses can be put to great use by both artist and audience when applied to creative frameworks. Those Stooges albums shape-shift those dark energies within us into something instinctive and expressive, elementally sexual. And I return to them, again and again.
Of course this all morphed into punk by the decade’s mid-point. Just as folks were catching up, Iggy was on to the brooding Euro-textures of The Idiot, recorded with David Bowie in conjunction with his own biggest shape-shifter, his masterwork, Low. While embracing a new sound, stance and approach, Iggy also looked back via “Dum Dum Boys,” a song about The Stooges.
Dostoevsky Iggy: “Dum Dum Boys,” his wah-wah-on-downers frenzy of a lament for his former bandmates, from 1977’s The Idiot. Here’s a live version from Toronto, a few months after the Police Picnic.
Those albums heralded what was to come next in a larger music scene. Joy Division were certainly paying attention, initially calling themselves Warsaw after the track that was Low’s second-side opener. And, sadly and famously, a copy of The Idiot was found on Ian Curtis’ turntable when his hanged body was discovered.
Post-’77, it seems as if Iggy has been searching for the new magic formula, with mixed results. Since then he’s had his ups and downs recording-wise while remaining a charismatic and electrifying performer.
He re-appeared in 1979 with the pretty-damn-good New Values, and then the patchy-with-moments Soldier (1980) and Party (1981). But with Zombie Birdhouse, Iggy had finally issued his first true studio dud.
Zombie Birdhouse, 1982
Zombie Birdhouse just didn’t work. Released on Animal Records, owned and operated by Blondie’s Chris Stein, it struck me as an awkward, clumsy collection that failed to sync. I will admit to not having heard the album in its entirety in many years but, based on what I recently sampled, it’s still no Raw Power. It’s not even New Values.
On this night, Wonderland Gardens was filled to the brim (it held about 1,000 people, I think). It contained many varieties of heavy inebriation for just about everyone present on both sides of the stage. An Iggy Pop show was never going to be an experience similar to, say, going to see a performance by the June Taylor Dancers.
Iggy ≠ The June Taylor Dancers (VA)
Once again, Lady Bump and Le Château were in tow. We had seen a very different kind of performance at the start of the month in the form of Joe Jackson, and this Iggy concert made for an unheard-of five shows in one year for me—for all three of us, actually. LB was certainly an Iggy fan too and LC came along for the ride.
The ticket says that Nash the Slash opened the show. He had played with Iggy on the bill at that first Police Picnic, but I had forgotten that he’d even been part of this night. Seeing his name on Ms. P’s ticket tweaked some vague fog of a memory byte of him being up there on that low-to-the-ground stage, and I’m pretty sure he went down well.
I had forgotten about Nash the Slash in general, unfortunately. He had been part of Canadian prog-rock group FM in the 1970s and then went solo with his new identity wherein he appeared like a be-suited phantom zombie wrapped in bandages, playing an electric violin through a myriad of devices, along with backing tapes and drum machines. He developed a sizeable following here and in the UK during the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, was original, good at what he did, instantly recognizable, and couldn’t quite be slotted, giving him a broader appeal.
While musically very different, most people in these parts who would have been listening to Iggy at that time would probably also have enjoyed Nash the Slash, hence why I am reckoning that he went down well. Sadly neither me nor my friends M. Zeppelin aka MZ or Ms. P can remember much about Nash’s set …
MZ: I only have vague memories of him from that night. Decades later, I would come to know Nash as an über-regular at my local pub and he in turn has become a fan of my huge poodle Larry. But that’s another story.
As I mentioned earlier regarding my siblings (not) seeing ELP at Wonderland, sightlines there simply weren’t great there during events of human abundance. To get a good view, one really needed to be up front and indeed we were: battling it out with everyone else in the crush to get near to the stage. From the moment Iggy and the band came on, the audience delved into a rugby scrimmage, with a good vantage point of Iggy as the ball. Everyone was firmly trying to hold their ground in the crush, elbowing forward and bouncing around, being made all the more difficult by the slippery mini-lake of beer beginning to rise around our feet (I think I ruined a good pair of red Chuck Taylors that night). I remember Lady Bump looking as if she wasn’t going to hold up in the crowd for much longer but hung in.
It was more like a scuffle with music than a concert — and a mess of fun as well. Pretty exhilarating, actually.
The band included Frank Infante of Blondie on guitar, and I spent most of the night about 10 feet away, between Pop and Infante. The Blondie-Iggy connection had been fused during an early 1977 tour for The Idiot that featured David Bowie on keyboards and Blondie as the hand-selected opening act. At the time, Debbie Harry and Co. were promoting their wonderful debut album, on their road to global success. This tour gave them considerable exposure and the Iggy/Blondie/Bowie bond between continued.
“Funtime” performed live on the Dinah Shore Show, early 1977, while promoting The Idiot. David Bowie is on keyboards. Mortified housewives not pictured.
Here, six years later, Blondie’s mega-success had just fizzled following their turgid final album, The Hunter, while the promise Iggy showed in 1977 never fully bore fruit either. Still, the Blondie guys had much more in terms of pull and resources and so they were able to return a favour.
For this evening, Iggy and the boys were surfin’ on an “elegantly wasted” vibe. Light on the “elegantly.”
To get a sense of their presence and performance …. you know how it is when you have those great nights out at a party: everything’s good, you’re with your people, in a place you like. Good music, good buzz, good chat and all that. And then, somewhere around 2 am, you’re running out of steam but want to keep going. Everyone’s toasty, a little burnt, but messily beaming and keeping it rolling against possibly better judgment. And they overreach. And there’s more energy needed for diminishing results. You’re fighting that fatigue, but you know you’re down for the count but can‘t let it stop. Well, Iggy and the band reverberated with that 2 am vibe — at 9:15 pm.
It wasn’t a great night, music-wise, though it was a good time. Sometimes, I just want to get my ya-ya’s out and live my id, particularly back then. Well, there’s no better place to do that than at an Iggy show. He has a unique ability to stir up an audience and push buttons. But, this time, unlike the 1981 gig or the exceptional set I will go on to see him play in 1988, the tunes and performance really weren’t there.
Still, Iggy’s a bit like pizza: even when he’s not great, he’s still pretty good.
MZ remembers the night and show thusly:
As Various has mentioned in his series, the drugs du jour were bennies. We were all fueled up for a night of thrashing and sweating. NO WONDER we were all so skinny back then. As for the musicians, I heard from some guy that Iggy was in the men’s can enjoying the proffered tributes of Peruvian marching powder. Apparently, this was during Iggy’s “druggie” phase. [VA: Just this period??]
I established my position up front, near a speaker as always (which is no doubt why I now have demonstrable hearing loss). It felt electric; people seemed weirder than ever. The air was heavy and a fight broke out in the audience.
Since he was promoting Zombie Birdhouse, a significant chunk of the show was given over to material from the album — most unfortunately. Far too much throwaway Osterberg for one serving. The two ZB numbers that stick out for me are “Run Like A Villain” and this other one — don’t know the name—where Iggy perched himself on the edge of the stage on top of one of the monitors, maniacally intoning and pointing out “… and there’s a girl over there, and a beer over here …” or something to that effect.
The second half of the set was an improvement, featuring some of the “hits.” The only three I really remember are accelerated, shambling takes on “Loose,” “Search & Destroy,” and “Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell.” I have since discovered that Zombie Birdhouse was reissued a few years back with a second, live disc recorded in Toronto on the night directly after this gig. I sampled a number of track segments and, sure enough, it sounds similar to the messy recollection that had been folded and put away in my memory drawers.
Iggy and the band’s Ottawa show at Barrymore’s, one of my favourite live venues there back in the day, four nights before their stop in London.
They came, they banged it out, Iggy did his “Iggy” thing, and all in the joint were saucer-eyed on this, that and what-not. Carnage ensued, everyone had a champion time, and then it was over. And there you have it.
After the gig, M. Zeppelin had some rather, er, “interesting” interactions with Iggy and his band. Take it away, MZ:
Following the gig, I looked around for a friend of mine who was going to give me a ride home. She was a really nice girl who dressed very much like Sue Catwoman with an S&M vibe. She also happened to be a stripper — with a heart of gold. For one of her “acts,” she would place a bowl of liver paté in a dog dish at the front of the stage, crawl up to it on her hands and knees and lap it up, accompanied by Iggy’s “Dog Food” on the speakers. This was in the days before stripper poles and the dancers put a bit more thought into their sets. It was an odd friendship as I was a repressed Catholic university art student.
Stripping favourite, Iggy Pop’s “Dog Food” from Soldier (1980)
I waited around for her at the front of the stage. As the venue started thinning out after the show, I started to fret. Since my friend was VERY distinctive, I asked a roadie if he had seen her and he said “yeah, she’s backstage with the band — go on through there.” So I did.
Backstage was the sweaty band, a ranting Iggy, a “handler,” some male fans, a handful of girls that I recognized as regulars from the downtown punk scene — including my friend — and the typical trays of soggy vegetables and dip and coolers of beer, to which I helped myself. We all just sat around while Iggy ranted and raved about what a crappy show it was and how they sucked. For some unknown reason, I piped up and said something to the effect of “What the fuck? The show was awesome. You guys were great. Quit being a princess.” Iggy muttered a retort back at me, the content of which I forget, but do remember the word “bitch” in the jumble of words.
Some artsy-looking guy into the area and started showing Iggy some of his little drawings and/or paintings. Why anyone would bring fine art to a concert is beyond me. Iggy seemed to think they were cool and started pleading with his “handler” if he could acquire some, possibly to be used as an album cover. I found that rather pathetic.
There was one girl (a local scenester) across the room who caught Iggy’s eye. “Red! You’re with me tonight,” he bellowed at her. She seemed very pleased with herself while her skanky companion looked disappointed. I had always wondered how rock stars and groupies hooked up, and now I had a front-row seat. I was surprised at the direct reparté.
Frank Infante started taking a shine to my friend, who also fronted her own band—I think EVERYBODY had their own band at this time. The Gardens’ management tried to shoo the troupe out of the area, and so Frank invited my friend and her pals back to the hotel to par-tay. They were staying at the beeyooteeful Holiday Inn in downtown London, Ontario. My stripper friend, her friend (another stripper, I think) and a beautiful blond gay boy and myself drove to the hotel. The only problem was that we didn’t know what room they were in.
As luck would have it, I knew one of the people on the front desk and told him my plight. He rang up Iggy’s room and surprisingly, Iggy answered it — even though he was entertaining “Red” and her pal. He did not sound amused. I said, “Sorry to bug you, but Frank invited us to party.” “Whatever — they have their own room. I’m busy here.” SLAM!
We traipsed up to a hotel room with two double beds and there were Blondie’s Frank Infante, Chris Stein and Clem Burke. The latter two ignored us completely as they sat on the edge of one of the beds, playing with some electronic devices. I think Frank wanted my friend to go to a quieter place with him and “listen to his tunes.” Instead, she wanted to talk about her music and punk rock in general.
Soon, a heated debate about the taxonomy of punk rock ensued, with the typical UK vs USA influences being pointed out. I took the side of the Sex Pistols. Frank, of course, argued for the heavy influence of the Stooges, saying that I would not be dressed the way I was if it weren’t for Iggy (I was wearing a stunning black vintage form-fitting cocktail dress with beaded fringe, a black leather dog-collar with studs [!?] and shit-kickin’ boots).
I took exception to this, thinking that, as all young people do, I was making a unique fashion statement that I had arrived at all on my own. In hindsight, he was partially correct, although I still maintain that Vivienne Westwood informed much of the typical punk rock wardrobe.
As the band had to play the next night in Toronto and time was ticking, we finally departed. Some time later — maybe months, maybe a year — I learned from someone that a complaint was made to the record rep about the chicks in London and how they “didn’t wanna fuck — they just wanted to talk about music.” I was rather chuffed to hear that, fancying myself more as an intellectual than a tart.
Thanks kindly, MZ. First off, I don’t even recall Stein and Burke being there although it makes sense because it was Stein’s label and I know that Burke backed Iggy on a number of occasions. I definitely remember the Sue Catwoman Stripper friend — she was fun!
As for your sartorial choices on that night, perhaps you could revive them as your New Look for ’11!
Iggy retired for a period shortly after this tour, realizing that things had bottomed out. Pal and former co-conspirator David Bowie covered The Idiot‘s “China Girl” on his 1983 blockbuster Let’s Dance, giving Iggy financial stability and allowing him to take some time to consider his next move.
Stay tuned for what happens next when I see Iggy again, several years down the road.
As for Wonderland Gardens, I’ll be returning many times in the years ahead. In fact, I am heading back there next to kick off a busy, concert-going 1983.
And, finally, just how did MZ find the hotel room? …
In order to find out the band’s room number, I rang Iggy up again. “Well what’s the fuckin’ room number?” I can’t believe what a cheeky little prat I was. “It’s room number (whatever). DON’T CALL ME AGAIN!” “I have no intention of it, ya goof!” and then I slammed the phone down on Iggy. Oh my.
Contact Iggy a further time? Gimme danger, indeed!
“Gimme Danger” from Raw Power, 1973.
Next On Stage –> It’s early 1983, marking not only a new year but a new chapter in my life as well …
© 2011 VariousArtists/MZ