Fast Cars and Loud Music...
Dave Alexander was a normal kid. A little bit shy, a little bit isolated, and interested in the things normal kids like: fast cars, booze, and hanging out with his friends. His crew was Scott and Ron Asheton from his neighborhood in Ann Arbour, Michigan. Along with Jim Osterberg aka Iggy Pop, these kids from the suburbs would start a band, write and record a few songs, and lay the foundation for one of the most controversial and celebrated genres of music ever created.
Dave, Ron, Scott, and Iggy rejected the hippy idiom, and didn’t buy into the commercialized shallowness of the 1960s west coast sound. They felt it was created and produced by record company execs to sell albums and exploit youth culture. Years later Iggy explains their mistrust of the record industry. “Some of the biggest peace/love acts of the California 5 years of love were put together in meetings.” He sneers, “The stuff smells.” The fact that The Stooges released their first album the same year as Woodstock goes to show how far ahead of their time the band was, and how now almost 50 years later, they are still relevant and considered the pioneers of Punk Rock.
In 1967, while California was dancing into the Summer of Love, Dave and Ron dropped out of high school and formed a band called The Dirty Shames. It existed mostly in name, but eventually the determined young men got a break, opening for local heroes, MC5. They spent their evenings waiting outside the MC5 practice space and convinced the band they were a premier act. They changed their name to The Stooges, and lived up to it by their outlandish performances. Their frontman, Iggy Pop often performed in underwear and body paint, and would leap from the stage onto a crowd of revelers. The primitive driving rhythm section of Dave (bass) and Scott (drums) drove crowds into a frenzy of full contact dancing and a sweat induced euphoria.
Punk Rock is born.
The Stooges became known for their stage antics and high energy performances, and decided to leave the confines of suburban Detroit, and head to New York. Arriving early in 1969, they saw first hand the dirty streets, the creative freedom, and the undeniable climate of change that was sweeping through the country. They recorded their first album, The Stooges, with John Cage, of the famed Velvet Underground. It was raw and high powered. They played with their amps at full volume, much to the chagrin of their producer, but created wonderful rich tones of overdrive and distortion. It was simple, straightforward, and new. It was not overthought, or overproduced. It was unique.
Other bands latched onto this style, and started their own bands. Seminal punk acts such as the Buzzcocks and Richard Hell and the Voidoids credit the influence of The Stooges. Punk innovator, Johnny Ramone, claimed that the Ramones came together because they were “...the only kids in school that listened to The Stooges.”
The Sex Pistols, The Clash, as well as more contemporary acts such as Sonic Youth and Nirvana, all played versions of The Stooges’ songs, and channeled the energy and intensity that The Stooges embodied. The band's fearless attitude and destructive lifestyle culminated in an implosion at the Goose River Festival, where Dave was too high to play the set. Iggy was furious and after the show, fired Dave from the band. By all accounts, this was a devastating blow for Dave, and he never found another passion to keep him from the abyss. He drank without reserve, and died of pancreatic failure due to alcohol in 1975. The band recorded one more album before going separate ways and leaving The Stooges to fade away into the shadows of the record industry vaults.
The Story Continues...
The story does not end here. In the 1990s, bassist Mike Watt, of the band The Minutemen, put together a tribute to The Stooges and started playing shows consisting solely of their music. J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, and Peter DiStefano of Porno For Pyros all joined forces to bring these songs back to life. Eventually Ron, Scott and even Iggy got involved to recreate these influential tracks. In 2003, The Stooges reunited to headline the Coachella Music Festival. They played to thousands of multi-generational fans who had found The Stooges’ music over the years and couldn’t miss out on a chance to see the legendary ensemble. Watt, a scholar of punk music and true legend of the genre, performed Dave’s classic bass parts and even wore a Dave Alexander tee shirt on stage at the show. This was a fitting homage to a simple person who made an extraordinary contribution before he died. He was 27 years old.
The roots of punk rock are buried in nonconformity. Doing something that is different. Breaking the mold. The Stooges lived this ethic. To us, nonconformity has nothing to do with fashion. Mohawks and dog collars become conformity when one is trying to fit into a group. Nonconformity is a mindset. The only true way to nonconform is to be yourself. To be YOU. To follow your passion and inner voice.
It takes courage to nonconform.
This piece, cut from a discarded drum cymbal, holds different aspects of this concept. The maze leads one to the center reminding the wearer to ignore external pressures to be or act a certain way and to follow your own path. The path is yours. Everyone has their own. Make yours count. The roadblocks in the maze, as in life, just give you a reason to take a different direction, until you find your way to where you are supposed to be.