Thursday, August 13, 2009

WABX and the stooges

Lester Bangs once wrote of an epic Iggy & the Stooges gig at the Michigan Palace in Detroit, January of 1974. In response to taunting from a biker club called "the Scorpions" Iggy led the band in a 45-minute version of "Louie Louie" which mocked the bikers. The bikers then stomped Iggy's ass. Bangs described it succinctly.
"...So the Stooges played a forty-five minute version of 'Louie Louie,' including new lyrics improvised on the spot my the Pop on the spot consisting of "You can suck my ass / You biker faggot sissies, " etc. By now the hatred in the room is one huge livid wave, and Iggy singles out out heckler who has been particularly abusive... So Iggy jumps off the stage, runs through the crowd, and the guy beats the shit out of him, ending the evenings musical festivities by sending the lead singer back to his motel room and a doctor... "
So here comes the radio part. the next day the Scorpions phone 99.5 WABX-FM and promise to kill Iggy and the Stooges if they play the Michigan Palace the next night. In this era WABX was branded as "the Fox." This show was recorded and is known as the bootleg "Metallic K.O." More here.

It all seemed so apocryphal. But the book Iggy Pop by Paul Trynka sort of corroborates it. It's version of the event is slightly different. Trynka's version based on contemporary interviews has the Stooges threatening the bikers. Later interviews often contain a little revisionism but some of the story remains the same especially the events on WABX:
"...That didn't stop them from appearing on Detroit's WABX radio station and challenging the Scorpions: Unfortunately despite my interviewing WABX DJs including Mark Paranteau and Dennis Fawley, no one is certain whose show the Stooges warning was broadcast on."
The book Gimmie Danger by Joe Ambrose takes the same basic set of events and claims that Iggy got beat up, then they played the taunting version of Louie Louie. But still the WABX appearance is intact:
"The next show was at the Michigan Palace in Detroit. Iggy made one of his cavalier promotional appearances on WABX - Russ Gibb's station - where he challenged the entire Scorpions gang to come down to the Stooges gig at the Palace."
This was the last Iggy & the Stooges gig, and nobody at WABX wants to own up to their part in it. Today 99.5 in Detroit is WYCD , a CBS country Music station. They launched as WABX back in 1960, the perfect time to be a Detroit rocker. sadly they actually launched as a classical station and went MOR in 1964. In 1968 they went free form progressive rock and history was made. Over the 70s they went AOR and late in that decade they flipped to "Hot Rock." The playlist mixed rock and Top 40. By 1984 the jig was up. the station was sold, the format flipped to soft rock and the era that had begun so strongly .. was over. At the Stooges 2003 reunion the Scorpions couldn't be bothered to show up.