Monday, July 9, 2007
I Wanna Be Your Dog
Reprinted from shakinglikeamountain.com a brand spanking new online musical/literary rag referred to below in the prior posting. Please make the effort to check it out. Also, please, baby, please, check out the Igster here:
I Wanna Be Your Dog
It was during an infamous midnight record sale at the Beacon Shop on North Main St in Providence, Rhode Island, that I put my hard-earned teenage dough down and bought the Velvet’s Loaded and their first (Warhol Banana Cover) album and both Stooges records. All of it knocked me out, and turned me around, both the Velvet’s heady mix of avant sophistication and spooky irony and the Stooges assaulting, virtually infantile propulsion were like nothing I 'd ever heard before.
One song stood out, reached down and grabbed my adolescent testes and lyrically held me in a peculiar, hypnotic sway—strangely enough, it wasn’t the neo-literary songwriting I was slobbering about elsewhere in my ever-growing record collection. It was primitive, and simplistic, yet it seemed to resonate with meaning to me, a song filled to the brim with yearning, but bent over backwards in fury, kicked off by a psychedelic guitar flourish, bounced along by pounding piano keys, fueled by the unmistakable sound of a wah-wah pedal, and ridden by a singer whose half nude, writhing body I'd seen already, doing some sorta monkey stomp in magazine after magazine, with a voice that sounded like a teenage Eric Burdon, or Mick Jagger with added snarl, playing blue collar, dark-side-of town, high-school drop out to Jimbo Morrison’s hazy-eyed leather clad poet.
As years went by and the Stooges transformed to Iggy and the Stooges, then just solo Iggy. I found out his real name was James Osterberg, but that didn’t stop me from latching onto new faves—most of Raw Power, but especially “Search and Destroy,” “Kill City,” “Cry For Love,” “The Passenger,” “Lust for Life,” “China Girl,” ‘Five Foot 1,” “Candy,” “Cold Metal.” But somehow the 3:09 minutes of “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” stuck between the similarly themed and equally switchblade-like “1969,” “No Fun,” and “Real Cool Time,” came across as the ultimate male teenage wolf yelp, the unleashing of a monumentally churlish war whoop.
Iggy’s finest lyrics throughout his various line-ups and multiple labels have all followed the blueprint of his very first efforts: sing-songy, teen-like, highly tenebrous declarations of desolation, disconsolation, and self-immolation, often underscored by a savage wit lifted directly from the Beats but squeezed through the broken filters of industrialized Detroit, the false promise of the sixties, and a warped showbiz aura of inveterate nihilism.
As I caught various Iggy tours over the years, this after Iggy was somehow tagged the Godfather of Punk, again and again I noted the resolute demonstration of on-stage ferocity during the performance of this signature number (Iggy as indomitable laser-eyed preacher, festering with the onslaught of a Parkinson-like condition), perhaps even imagined or romanticized by me, sweating and alone, a hard fought few feet from the stage.
One of the highlights of my concert-going career was a hitchhiked trip to New Yawk with a roomy to see Iggy at the Palladium. We heard he'd be joined by the Thin White Duke, David Bowie. The actual sight of the ever effete Bowie banging the keyboards with his long thin fingers as Iggy spit out the lyrics as defiantly and mischievously as evuh, almost made me swoon with a strangely homoerotic fervor (“Now I wanna be your dog”), as fearful and transfixing a feeling I'd ever experienced during a rock performance. All of this without even focusing onto Iggy’s one concession to on-stage accoutrements, his highly special genital endowment, long known to his fans and even Mr. Osterberg himself as “Iggy’s Biggie.” (“Well c’mon!”). Even during some of the raggedy shows I witnessed as the years progressed, Iggy’s world and mine always appeared to right itself as he hurled himself into the song’s excruciatingly primal sonic wave.
And, yep, I’ve spun this song on vinyl, cassette and CD’s repeatedly, during moments of cowpoke drunkenness, teeth-rattling highness, and general personal breaches of temporary madness, stomach-churning defiance, and fingernail-stretching desperation. Hanging out with my retinue of real musician friends and band buddies during my period as a local rock scribe, I urged them all to do countless cool-daddy covers, but never got gone or stupid enough to suggest they take on the sacred “I wanna be your dog” text.
One of my longtime divining rods when it came to romantic connections, was a brief but thorough Iggy tolerance test, and if the girl of the moment couldn’t see Iggy’s essential coolness, pug ugly sexiness, or, quite simply, his position as anointed by me and a few other off-the-wall nitcrits and wacko fans, as an Absolute One-of-a-Kind-Rock-n'-Roll-Original, she was losing points from the start. Still, I never, that I can remember, got down and dirty to the song; it was far too special for that. It was an easy exercise in judgment, right outta the High Fidelity handbook, to divide females and even so-called music fans into three easily defined worlds: the pro-Igster, the anti-Igster, and the who-the-hell-is Igster? I had my own romance with Iggy, mostly hetero, I hoped, but tinged with that weird-assed sexual ambiguity that was at the heart of so many outré rock and roll gods and goddesses.
During Iggy’s recent reuniting with original stooges Ron and Scott Asheton, he’s come to perform the song twice during his show, once amidst the set, and once during the encore. Seeing him stride into the mic, with that wah-wah refrain filling the open spaces behind him, I see the song, my own strange, hard-to-explain, anthem, from yet another, possibly more mature, perspective.
At my fairly recent 50th birthday, my talented brother Mark guested with my musician pallies and delivered a take that was simultaneously strangled, threatening, and life affirming. When Iggy and the boys currently double up on the song he seems to wrestle maliciously through the first version, stretching it out as an iconic and somewhat ironic stage bit, complete with an audience participation chorus.
The encore version, on the other hand, comes across as decidedly more fierce, streamlined, and brutal, with him, the self-proclaimed “street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm,” the very own “runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb” unleashing it upon a world peopled with suckers and seekers, a child’s ditty fermented into an adult paean, a sly modernist attack-ballad, a cry for self, for love, for a brief moment of blood tingling clarity in a world gone amuck. It’s a magical invocation and a down and dirty invitation, a clarion call for lust, for poetry, an uncomplicated attempt to claw one’s way to a heightened state of consciousness, the kind of rock and roll number spun by a master primitivist that evokes time, space, and a whirligig of memories.