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See Iggy Pop Transform From High School Debate King Into Stooges Wildman

Singer looks back on early years in new book ‘Total Chaos: The Story of the Stooges’

Iggy Pop, Excerpt

Iggy Pop recalls how the Stooges came together in a gallery taken from the new book 'Total Chaos: The Story of the Stooges.'

(c) Steve Bober

When the Stooges burst into the world consciousness in the late Sixties with their snarling riffs and peanut-butter–smearing antics, they seemed to have come out of nowhere. The truth was, though, frontman Iggy Pop and his bandmates had relatively normal(-ish) upbringings around Ann Arbor, Michigan.

A new book, Total Chaos: The Story of the Stooges, tells the band's revolutionary story through many never-before-published photos and extensive interviews that author Jeff Gold conducted with Pop. It also contains contributions from Johnny Marr, Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, Joan Jett and Jack White, among others.

The tome is set to come out on November 15th via White's Third Man Books. In anticipation of its release, the publisher has shared many rare photos with Rolling Stone, which are presented below with Pop's commentary from the book.

Don Swickerath Collection

School Daze

James "Iggy" Newell Osterberg Jr.'s photo from the 1965 Ann Arbor High School yearbook. "A typical good weekend for us by the time I was a late junior or senior in high school, during when school was in, would be [the Iguanas would] play Friday afternoon at what they called the TGIF (Thank God It's Friday)," Pop says in the book. "It'd be a keg of beer, a bunch of fraternity guys, four in the afternoon, one of the guys madly pumping the thing to get past the foam 'cause it's a few sorority girls hanging around like, 'What? Is this the party?' Right? And we'd play for two hours and a standard rate was about eighty bucks. We had no living expenses. We lived at home. And no upkeep for anything, you know."

Iggy Pop, Excerpt

Debate Team

Iggy (back row, third from left) was a member of the Ann Arbor High debate team in 1964. As the yearbook page says, "The topic for the 1963-1964 season was: Resolved that the Federal Government should provide essential medical care for all citizens at public expense. … The team took first place at the Flint Northern Invitational Debate Tournament and tied for first at the Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan Debate Tournaments."

Iggy Pop, Excerpt

Don Swickerath Collection

The Iguanas

The Iguanas formed when Iggy's school friend Jim McLaughlin got a guitar. It inspired him to buy a drum kit. "We practiced playing 'What'd I Say' by Ray Charles and something called 'Let There Be Drums' by Sandy Nelson, which was my idea because it was a drum solo, right?" Pop said. "And we played in the ninth grade talent show … the Megaton Two. I named it. I've always been into naming stuff. And immediately, y'know, I took a level up socially in my encounters in the hallways [laughs]. Yeah, the chicks were a little nicer and the guys were – 'Hey, that was pretty cool, Osterberg.'" By 1965, as pictured here, they had become a five-piece.

Iggy Pop, Excerpt

Michael Erlewine Collection

A Prime Mover

After the Iguanas, Iggy joined the Prime Movers, which he describes as an "older group of guys." Here, he's pictured with bassist Jack Dawson, who had replaced future Stooge Ron Asheton in the lineup. "The Prime Movers at one point, we played a gig and I decided I … I wanted to slide down the rope with a Superman cape on," Pop said. "[We did] things like that."

Iggy Pop, Excerpt

Barbara Kramer Collection

Iggy Pop With Sam Lay

"When I was in the Prime Movers, Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield came through a Detroit coffee house," Pop said. "We went to play for them to see if they could help us get connected. [Blues drummer] Sam Lay had been replaced in the group at that time: he was playing with James Cotton. And I said to Bloomfield, 'I would really like to go to Chicago and meet Sam,' so Bloomfield gave me his address. So I went to Chicago with my drums, and I had this address, and I ended up deep in the west side. … I loved it! I didn't know places that beautiful existed. Pink, blue, yellow, braids, African stuff, super fly people, and all of it packed in tight and teeming with life. 

"There was an old brownstone with some apartments in it, and I rang the bell, and this very lovely and dignified woman who was, is still with him," he continued. "I can't remember her first name. She came to the door, and I explained who I was, and she just said, 'Well, Sam's not here right now.' But apparently, I didn't remember this part. … His son says that I slept on the floor of his room. His son was about 6 years old. He remembers me sleeping on the floor there for a few nights. They were kind to me, and I have a picture here. I have my picture with Sam." Also pictured above are a trio of Pop's friends – Charlotte Wolter, Barbara Kramer and Vivian Shevitz – who accompanied him to Chicago.

Iggy Pop, Excerpt

Iggy’s “Psychedelic Stooges” Guitar

"We were taking drugs and role-playing, and we became named … [because] we'd been up all night on acid and Ron said, 'Well, we'll just be like the [Three] Stooges except psychedelic,'" Pop recalled. "'We'll be the Psychedelic Stooges!' And I thought that had a ring."

The group played its first gig on Halloween 1967, and Iggy Pop played a colorful Hawaiian guitar. "On that particular show, Scott Asheton beat on an oil barrel that I pulled outta that junkyard [by the house where they played] and I wired it up with little dollar-ninety-nine contact mics from Radio Shack and he was not playing a kit yet; he just had the oil drum standing there and I think I had gotten him what we call parade beaters," Pop said. "I don't believe he was actually hammering it with hammers, but he was using something called a parade beater which was basically a small club that was used often in marching bands – it's much harder hitting, makes a much bigger racket than a drum stick. So he had that that was his instrument, and Ron was playing a Gibson Firebird bass guitar, and they each had their own amp and my instrument was a $25 Hawaiian guitar – I believe it may have been a National – it's in the [Rock and Roll] Hall of Fame somehow."

Iggy Pop, Excerpt

(c) Steve Bober

Stooges, Circa 1968

The Stooges played the Ann Arbor Armory in April 1968 – a gig where Iggy wore "whiteface." "This looks like one of our very first shows in which I started fronting, and I've given Ron the guitar," Pop said, looking at the photo. "[I'm] barefoot. I had a perm gone wrong. I had long hair and I thought it would look more wild permed, but I didn't know that would shorten it. I had no eyebrows, which was a physical problem. And we had a little 20-minute set worked out."

Iggy Pop, Excerpt, Stooges

Robert Matheu Collection

Children of the Corn

"I don't know what you think, but that [picture] looks to me like Nirvana except it's 1968," Pop said of a shot of the Stooges in the cornfield behind their house. "It's the whole ethic, and not just the clothes but the whole attitude you know? And then the music, the Asheton brothers, those two wonderful people lived their whole lives in a trance. It's true, and they were trance musicians, and some of the trance music they made they came up with themselves, and after I capeeshed to it, some of it, I was able to write for them. And none of it would ever sound interesting at all unless they played it, you know. I have trance tendencies – a lot of musicians do – but those two, they really had it you know, you get those Asheton guys locking in a certain way and it will put you into a kind of trance."

Iggy Pop, Excerpt

(c) Leni Sinclair

Iggy Pop, September 1968

In the fall of 1968, around the time the picture here of Iggy Pop in a football jersey was taken, Elektra signed the Stooges. "I was running things, but in a deferential way," the singer said of his role in the group. "It would be like, 'We can't play until we're full and stoned.' I'd be the guy who actually scored the marijuana and went and picked up the food usually. But not totally. Ron was somewhat responsible. It went me, Ron, Scott, and Dave in the order of responsibility, I would say."

Iggy Pop, Excerpt, Stooges MC5 John Coltrane Tribute

Jeff Gold collection

The Day the Stooges’ Lives Changed

Elektra publicity director Danny Fields flew to Ann Arbor to see the MC5 and Stooges at a John Coltrane memorial gig. "I don't know if I was still wearing the white face and the dress at the time," Pop said of the show where the Stooges got noticed, at the Union Ballroom. "I might have been just a little more raucous, but I definitely was working the crowd. You're talking about a beautiful old ballroom, lovely old wooden ballroom of moderate size, a few hundred kids sitting cross-legged enjoying, I hope, a concert by a band on a stage about ye high – about 24 inches, 30 inches high – and playing so loud in this oaken room that's made to amplify the sound of a solo violin because it's Belle Époque mentality. … I remember it as, 'You're a star and I work for Elektra Records.' I'm like, 'Yeah right, he looks like a hustler to me.' But I guess he really did, and Ron tells that he said, 'You guys are stars.'"

Iggy Pop, Excerpt

Jeff Gold and Johan Kugelberg Collections

Callin’ From the Fun House

At the end of 1968, the Stooges moved into a new home known alternately as "Stooge Manor" or the "Fun House." Pictured, is Pop's bedroom. "Between The Stooges and Fun House, I did get married briefly, and a girl came up there, very nice girl from a good family, and tried to clean it up," Pop said. "She tried to clean it up and put furniture in there, and she even brought a car with her. It was a hell of a dowry. I had a Firebird convertible, baby, but I just hated it. I couldn't take it because to me the idea was, for the person I was gonna be, I saw the order of life as a threat to the order of my music. That's what I thought 'cause I'm a fucking lunatic maybe or something, but that was what I thought."

Iggy Pop, Excerpt

(c) Leni Sinclair

The Stooges Sign Their Contract

On October 8th, 1968, the Stooges and the MC5 signed to Elektra. Pictured here are both bands and their respective crews on that momentous occasion. Pop, standing seventh from left in jeans, recalled feeling a sudden need to write new material. "The guy who really stepped up at that point was Ron Asheton, who came up with two riffs that you could start staking a career on," the singer said. "I knew that at the time when I heard 'Dog' and 'Fun,' and I think what he did was he mixed a little Velvets, a little Ravi Shankar, a little Who, and just a dab of Hendrix to get those. I know which Hendrix song he was fooling around with before he hit the riff on 'Dog,' … 'Highway Chile.' It's the same chords. But then he started playing it like the Who, but with the opens, he had like a Velvets or a raga record. I had been playing him a lot of raga. We both loved the Velvets, and he let the amp talk."

Iggy Pop, Excerpt, Stooges, Contract

Jeff Gold collection

Stooges’ Contract

The first and last pages of the Stooges' recording contract show that the group received a $5,000 advance. The MC5, who had put out singles, got $15,000. Before they officially signed as the Stooges (shortening it from the Psychedelic Stooges "to clean things up," according to Pop), Ron Asheton called the Three Stooges' Moe Howard to get permission to use the name. "In fact, Ron for quite a while visited [Stooge] Larry Fine, and he would bring Larry cigars and whiskey and stuff like that," Pop said. "[Moe] said, 'Yeah, [use the name] as long as you don't have a comedy group or something.'"

Iggy Pop, Excerpt

Jeff Gold Collection

Iggy Pop, Teen Idol

Elektra sent this glamour shot of Pop to 16 magazine. "I first had these silver gloves when I lived in the Midwest, before I started hanging out with glitter people and compete more in New York, and then internationally," Pop said of his glam transformation. "More glamour became necessary."

Iggy Pop, Excerpt

(c) Lisa Gottlieb

Glitter-Bombing the Electric Circus

The Stooges played the New York City venue the Electric Circus on October 23rd, 1970. "At the time it's not only glitter but the hair is done over with something called Nestle Streaks 'n Tips, which was a spray instant hair color that came in an aerosol can and you used to be able to buy it at Walgreens," Pop recalled. "And it was used, I'd assume, mostly by prostitutes. I would use the silver. You spray it on, it instantly gives you more body than you had, and you're bright silver. But it drips on your neck, if you touch it, it's on your hands, and it takes days to come off so wherever I slept after for days would be covered in it. 

"I started using it at that time because I was using too much dope, I was not eating right, I'd switched from eating macrobiotic with lots of reefer to everyday try to get some heroin and straight to the Dairy Queen to get a sugar rush," he continued. "Ice cream, ice cream. So I looked a bit off for what I wanted to do, so I'd take a small bottle of Johnson's baby oil, put it all over my body and my face then a small bottle of glitter. Pour that over that and then the Nestles. And that was a look! … From a distance, it looked pretty cool and it's cheap."